Every divorcing parent should make it their top priority to keep their children from getting caught in the middle of the conflict of their divorce. The following tips and thoughts are from James Roberts, RSW, a licensed social worker in Missouri and Kansas and family therapist in Kansas. Mr. Roberts practices with Madison Avenue Psychological Services in Kansas City Missouri.
Parents who are either in the middle of a divorce, thinking about divorce, or already divorced should pay careful attention to the following ways that parents put their children directly in the middle of the conflict, and do their best to avoid them!
1. Bad Mouthing
One of the most hurtful things a divorce parent can do to a child is to criticize the child’s other parent in the child’s presence. Statements such as "Your father caused our divorce", or "if it weren’t for your mother, we’d still be a family," are common examples of "bad-mouthing"
2. Forcing a Child To Choose
It is harmful to pressure a child to "take sides" in a dispute between the divorced parents. Children have a right to their own thoughts and feelings about the divorce and deserve to know they will be loved by both parents regardless of the opinions and feelings they have. If parents are in conflict over custody and children are facing a decision about which home to live in outside professionals should be called upon for help.
A parent who asks a child questions about the other parent’s personal life is asking that child to become involved in the parents’ conflicts. Children in this situation may end up feeling they have betrayed a parent they love.
4. Making the Child the Messenger
Parents make their children do a parent’s job when they ask their children to carry messages to the other parent. Children learn indirect ways to communicate when asked to be messengers and may feel guilt over having to assume adult responsibilities for their parents’ communication
The remainder of James Robert’s list will be posted to this blog in two future articles.