The experience of going through a divorce can be emotionally trying for
all members of a family. It’s typical for parents going through
a divorce to get swept up in feelings of anger and resentment toward each
other, often leading to negative emotional and societal impacts on their
children. Consciously choosing to put the children’s needs first
can work to lessen those detrimental effects.
Parents going through a divorce need to be particularly attuned to the
impact their behavior has on the children. Maintaining a respectful relationship
between parents is key to mitigating the damage of divorce. Too often
quarreling parents place children in the middle of their dispute, exposing
the kids to disparaging comments about each other. This leads to children
feeling put in a position where they are asked to choose sides, and experience
corresponding feelings of guilt, anxiety, confusion and hurt.
During divorce, parents should focus on maintaining a parental relationship
with their children. It’s tempting for a parent to appeal to their
child’s material wants in an attempt to salve their own guilt. Alternatively,
divorcing parents often feel inclined to share overly mature, inappropriate
details of the divorce, seeking their child’s sympathy and allegiance,
or their own emotional support. In both cases, the parent-child relationship
is being sacrificed at a time when children need it the most.
Finally, parents must communicate to their children that they are in no
way responsible for the separation. To that end, family therapy can be
a useful way for all members of the family to have a meaningful, open
conversation about their feelings in a neutral, non-combative environment
during a difficult time.
For more, read David MacMillan’s article, “
Strategies for Living: 9 Biggest Mistakes Divorcing Parents Make”.