Relationship Solutions: Children of Divorce
Consequences of Separation © Martyn Carruthers
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During separation and divorce, some partners ignore their children, or use them to hurt or manipulate each other (parental alienation and child abuse). They may use their children as bargaining chips as they divide assets. If so, they may burden children with learning disabilities, emotional issues and (future) relationship problems.
Some couples say that they stay together for the benefit of their children, which often hides emotional problems and financial concerns. If a couple announce this lie to their family, or if they convince their children that the children are the reason for their unhappiness, one or more children may respond with psychosomatic symptoms.
Divorce and Your Children
How will divorce affect your children? Your children may feel abandoned by a parent, show anger to whomever they blame most, feel sadness about what they lose, and feel guilt for having to choose between parents. Depending on your attitude, they will express or hide their emotions about losing their home or family. The emotions that they hide may emerge later as emotional disorders or learning disabilities.
Few children want to leave their friends and move to a different home. If their desires are ignored, they may feel humiliated, with lowered sense of self worth. They may feel guilt and self hatred if they were told that they somehow caused the divorce. Much depends on the maturity of the parents and the support from the extended family.
It is tragic when immature parents reject their children, due to jealousy, disinterest or some other reason. This sometimes happens during divorce, especially following parental alienation. Such children often repeat their parents’ drama later in life.
Many parents favor special children. Often a father favors the youngest daughter (Daddy’s Princess), while a mother may prefer the eldest son (Little Prince). During a marital separation or divorce, a favored child may react more than the other children – perhaps believing that he or she somehow caused the separation.
We can help each partner clarify their own emotions, for example anger, sadness, fear and guilt. We can help each partner stay mature and resourceful. If they do not, the children will may take the parent’s hidden emotions upon themselves.
(If the couple owns a business, employees may be enmeshed into a conflict of allegiance, and staff may feel and act like confused children. Our corporate coaching can help clarify and heal such staff infections.)
We help parents prevent or alleviate many toxic situations:
- If a parent acts guilty, children may try to express the parent’s guilt
- If a parent acts like a failure, children may respond with chronic fear
- If a parent acts resourceless, children may try to grow up too quickly
- If a parent acts like a victim, children may respond with chronic anger
- If a parent make children take sides, children may respond with conflict
- If a parent is dead or missing, children may respond with chronic sadness
Help children communicate to both parents – regardless of circumstances. Otherwise children can develop emotional scars that they may carry for years. Hurt children will likely fight against their parents’ separation, attempt to sabotage their parents’ new relationships, and strive to leave their parents’ homes.
As you support your children – who supports you? Can you build relationships based on strength and courage rather than on dependence. perhaps we can help with single parent coaching or child coaching?
Separation & Divorce Coaching
We usually suggest that both parents have individual coaching first, to manage individual emotional issues, and then sessions together, to manage partnership issues. We do not take sides – we coach both partners understand, appreciate and accept each other’s perspectives, motivations and goals. Some guidelines are:
1. Respect the other parent
Following separation, parents may stop acting like partners and their only mutual project may be to co-parent their children. Talk to your children about a former partner with respect – and praise whatever can be praised, even if – or especially if – the other parent is missing, alcoholic, dead or hates you. Each child is 50% of their other parent. If you reject your child’s other parent – you reject half of your child!
2. Love your children
Your children may feel unloved and forgotten during separation and divorce. Express love to them, regardless of whether they are well behaved, have tidy bedrooms or eat their broccoli. (Most children spell LOVE as T-I-M-E)! Ask your children HOW they want to spend their time and what increases their feelings of wellbeing and happiness.
3. Your children need both of you
Many children of divorce feel forced to take sides between Mom and Dad. Sometimes one parent may incite a child to hate the other (Parent Alienation Syndrome or PAS). Instead, repeatedly reassure your children that they do not have to choose one parent as being in any way better than the other.
4. Do not blame children
Immature parents may blame their children for their own lack of parenting skills. If your children come to believe that they caused your marriage to break up, they may try to keep you and your partner together – perhaps by learning disabilities or disease. Explain to your children, repeatedly that your separation is not their fault – and that they cannot bring Mom and Dad back together. See Adopted Children.
5. Fight fair! Fight away from your children
Divorce is an intense time. Avoid fighting anywhere near your children – or any children. Organize a time and place, away from the children, that is convenient for both parents to discuss and resolve conflicts. If a fight erupts, reschedule your meeting.
6. Minimize change
Although divorce will create many changes for your children, continuity is important. Make your children’s environment as familiar as possible, including their favorite things, photographs, toys, blankets, etc. Create home in each place that your children stay.
7. Encourage meetings
Discuss how your children can have maximum benefit and happiness when they are with the other parent. Avoid asking children to deliver messages, to spy for you or to obtain information from an ex-partner.
8. Get mature support
Divorce is a difficult time for everybody. Parents need mature emotional support from family, friends, relationship coaches, clergy, etc. Avoid asking your children to support or guide you – or the other parent. Guide and support your children.
9. Talk about feelings
During stressful times your children may may misbehave, they may act much younger or they may try to grow up quickly and act overly mature. Ask your children how they feel, and what they think or imagine is going on. Help your children express THEIR negative emotions. Please don’t complain to them about your feelings!
10. Remain mature
Avoid asking children – even teenagers and young adults – for advice about your partnership, or about financial, custody or legal issues. Reassure your children that your decisions are for their best interest. Assure older children that although final decisions will be made by their parents, that their opinions are important and will be considered.
Contact us to solve relationship problems and negative emotions.
We also help new partners co-parent and merge their blended families.