As a person who works with parents going through divorce, the tough part is seeing how a parent’s anger and need for vengeance takes precedence over her children’s wellbeing or his child’s welfare.
There will never, ever be a time in a child’s life where it will be ok to put them in situations where mental anguish and emotional distress become part of his or her day.
Yet you would be surprised how many divorcing parents do this to their children over and over again because they have lost focus, become distracted and blinded by anger, hurt and revenge so much so that they begin running an agenda at the expense of their child who is then left to pick up the tab.
LOSING FOCUS OF THE CHILDREN DURING DIVORCE? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS
- When you hate your ex more than you love your children so expose them to anything and everythingthat will purportedly hurt him/her with your children being taken as collateral damage.
- When you chose to interrupt your child’s relationship with the other parent by keeping the two apart, sometimes, very, sadly for the rest of their childhood forgetting that one day, one day, this little child is going to grow up and you will have to answer to them and explain why they had to grow up without a daddy. You’d better have a really good response.
If this is something you’re doing at the moment, you may think you’re winning because you have the children and that you’re succeeding in hurting him, but keep in mind that your children will resent you for that one day. The backlash on you is definitely looming.
- When you involve your children in adult matters that they neither have the ability to comprehend nor do anything about. Children who are sent to school, dropped off at the gate and told to have a good day, after being informed that on that very day, there was going to be a court hearing to decide who his/her is going to live with. Or the child who knows exactly how much money is being paid towards maintenance and when this isn’t forthcoming they not only hear about it over and over again, but they live through it and suffer the consequences of something they really have no business knowing.
- We wouldn’t allow anyone to inflict harm on our children, in fact, I know many parents who would rather die or be imprisoned than watch their children being harmed, mentally, emotionally or physically, yet, here they are doing the same thing to their children because…they are angry with the ex!
- When your insidious curiosity about what is going on in the other home drags your children into the role of spy and reporter. “Who was there? What did you do? How long did they stay?”
- When your unwillingness to communicate with your partner turns your children into messengers and go intermediaries, commonly seen when it comes to telephone conversations. Your child picks up the phone and says, “Daddy would like to speak with you.” You don’t want to so you say, “Ask him what he wants.” And on it goes. During this time, all your child is feeling is fear, frustration and anxiety. He doesn’t want to be there but you have both put him there. Or you drop off your child with a message for your ex, “Tell mummy I can’t make it next weekend. I’m going out of town.” And off you drive, leaving your child to pass on a charged message. Right there you’ve used your child as a buffer.
- When your unwillingness to get on and communicate turns your child into the mediator and all they do is try to appease the situation between the two adults in the room.
- When you decide that the stress you’re going through right now with visitation and contact is more important than seeing your own children so you decide you “cannot take it anymore” and you cut off contact without explanation, notice nor reason. Many years down the line, you try and explain to your child that you couldn’t take the stress and then listen to him telling you what it was like growing up without a father or mother.
- When you allow your child to become your carer. That they look after you, make sure that you are ok. When you turn to them to tell them of your woes, worries and suffering since their other parent left. When you tell them, in not so many words, that you cannot cope when they are not there, when they have gone off with their other parent which in turn means that even when they are away, they are concerned about you instead of just being children.
Divorce is hard. I know that. I have been through it twice so I do know and understand, but like I said right at the beginning, there will never, ever be a time when your own needs preceed those of your children’s wellbeing, welfare and happiness. If it means putting up with your ex to make sure that your children are thriving between two households, then so be it.
If you’re finding it hard to cope because your ex is determined to make your life hell, then find or create your own support system, see a therapist if that’s what it takes. She or he will be able to provide you with coping skills that can help you now and in the long run.
Soila is the founder of The Divorce Magazine and creator of the online course – Helping Children Cope with Divorce
Soila is Graduate Member of the British Psychological Society.