Divorced parents sometimes make mistakes, and there are several ways to do this. They stay married too long, even though they knew their marriage was over many years ago. They think they’re doing the right thing for the kids by staying together. They sometimes make their kids feel as if they are trapped in the middle of their bitterness. Divorced parents might not mean to make so many parenting mistakes, but it’s easy to do when emotions run high and feelings are hurt.
If you’re in the middle of a divorce or you’re considering one, it’s important to remember you must always put your kids first. Even if you’re upset, mad, bitter, and angry with your future-ex, you must remember to put your kids first. Divorce can easily cause psychological effects on your kids, and you might not make effects better with your own behavior.
Here is the one rule you must remember when you divorce your spouse, which is sometimes the best decision for your entire family; you might not have any positive feelings for your spouse anymore, but your children are still made up of half of that person.
Effects of Divorce on Children
Divorce has many effects on children, but divorced parents are often the biggest cause of any psychological effects children suffer through your divorce. Divorce is a big change for anyone, but it can overwhelm kids. They’re entering a world where they will no longer see both of their parents every day, and that’s difficult. Kids thrive on routine and knowing what comes next, and divorce is terrifying. Emotional stress is common through a divorce, which means your kids might experience some of these effects:
There is no one-size fits all emotional reaction to divorce. Your kids might handle it like champs, or they might crumble and fall to pieces during your divorce. Your kids need you to be strong for them, which is difficult at your weakest moment. Kids might feel that your divorce is their fault. They might feel uncomfortable being with one parent when the other says negative things about them. They might feel they are being pulled in two different directions.
Sometimes, however, kids feel relieved. That might make them feel guilty. When you announce your marriage is over and they feel happy that the fighting, the stress, the tension, and the unhappiness in which they live is over, they might feel guilty. Guilty because they want you to divorce. Guilty because they’d rather see one parent at a time than live in an unhappy home. Kids can feel anything during a divorce, and your job as a parent is to be there for them.
Mistakes Divorced Parents Often Make and Should Avoid
Divorced parents make a lot of mistakes, but so does everyone. You are only human, which means you’re imperfect. Mistakes are okay as long as you learn a lesson from them and grow as a person. It’s also helpful to remember that as divorced parents, you can avoid making these mistakes as you go through the most difficult trial of your life.
Mistake: Fighting in Front of the Kids
You don’t want to be married anymore, so you will fight. You both harbor anger, resentment, sadness, and probably a myriad of other emotions you struggle with every day. Your kids know you don’t agree with one another every single time you speak; but you cannot fight. You can disagree in a constructive manner, but don’t fight. It harms your kids in unimaginable ways.
Mistake: You Don’t Remind Your Kids This Is Not Their Fault
Kids feel guilt when your marriage ends. You must tell them this is not their fault. Don’t say things like, “Marriage is hard enough, and having kids just makes it harder,” even if it’s the truth. Your kids hear things like that and feel they are personally responsible for the downfall of your marriage. Remind them they are not to blame and remind them of this regularly.
Mistake: You Share All the Dirty Details
Your kids need not know anything about your divorce other than it’s happening. You can share with them you no longer feel in love with one another, happy with one another, or that you can live together. However, you cannot tell your kids that someone was unfaithful, or that someone is a narcissist, or the other real reason behind your divorce. Your kids are not your friends. They are your children, and your job is to protect them.
Mistake: You Make Your Kids Feel As If They Need to Choose Sides
You say negative things about the other parent. You make snide comments about what your kids did when they were with your ex. For example, your kids come home from a weekend with their other parent and tell you they went to Disney World for the weekend, and you say, “Oh, how nice. Now he wants to be a good father so I look like a bad mom because I can’t afford to take you to Disney World” or something similar.
Your kids should never feel bad about having fun with one parent. They should never feel guilty about having fun with either of you. They should never feel bad about talking about how much they love or enjoy their time with the other parent. Instead of saying something negative or disparaging, your comment about their fun-filled weekend should be encouraging. Try saying, “I’m so glad you had so much fun with your dad this weekend! It’s so nice you could have quality time with him!”
Mistake: You Ask Your Kids For Details about Your Ex’s Life
Do not ask your kids personal information about your ex. Do not ask them to tell you what his new girlfriend is like, where they went, what he’s doing, how he seems, or anything like that. They are not your messengers, spies, or personal information providers.
Mistake: You Ask Your Children to Choose
If you and your ex disagree about something such as how to split up your time during the vacations, do not ask the children to decide for you. It might seem like a good idea, but your kids don’t want to make that decision because they know it will hurt someone’s feeling. You must make these decisions, and you must agree to work together as divorced parents.
Divorced Parents' Frequently Asked Questions
Divorced parents are overwhelmed. Not only is the marriage you thought you’d enjoy forever over for good, but this also affects your kids. You probably feel guilt, anger, resentment, and upset. It’s normal. There’s nothing wrong with the way you are feeling. You need time to process these changes in your own life, to accept the hurt and pain you’re feeling, and to move on. However, you probably have several questions about being divorced parents. It’s a new role, and you need to learn how to navigate this life change.
Is It Better to Stay Together for the Child?
Happily divorced parents are far better for kids than unhappy married parents. Staying married for the kids is never a wise decision when your marriage is over. If you can say you’ve truly tried to make your marriage work and you cannot make that happen, get divorced. Do not stay together. Your kids learn from what they see, and they will not learn to make their own healthy relationship choices if they see their parents living in a house in which there is anger, resentment, a lack of affection, a lack of mutual respect, and so many other negative emotions.
How Do I Tell My Child We Are Getting Divorced?
You should try to tell your kids together. Present your divorce to the kids as a united front. Just because you no longer want to be married to one another does not mean you will not spend the rest of your lives parenting these kids together. Telling them together can soften the blow.
How Can I Help My Child Cope after the Divorce?
Helping your children cope as divorced parents is easy as being there for them and leaving them out of the divorce. You should listen to them, be there to talk to them when they need someone to listen, and reassure them you both love them. You can also help them cope by finding someone for them to speak with if they seem to need that kind of outside help.
How Does Parental Separation Affect a Child?
Your separation will affect your kids, but precisely how is unknown. Your children might not handle your separation in the same way other kids do. It depends on how your marriage was in the past. Some kids are relieved their parents are no longer together. Some kids are terrified. Your kids will suffer some from your separation, but they will overcome it. Change is always difficult for kids.
How Should I Answer When My Child Asks Why We Divorced and Why We Don’t Get Back Together?
Most kids ask this question, and you should be honest without being detailed. Your kids need to know that this is not their fault, but they also need to know you and your ex do not love one another in the way you need to love someone to live together. Tell them that while you no longer want to live together, you still want to raise them together. If they ask you why you didn’t get back together, tell them you tried to work things out and it didn’t work. Hopefully, you did try to make it work before you ended your marriage.
What Is Co-Parenting and How Do You Co-Parent?
Co-parenting is simple in theory. You might not be married, but you still work together to raise your kids. You are a united front when it comes to your kids. Good co-parents speak with one another before making any major decisions. For example, if your 16-year-old daughter wants to go on a spring break trip with her friends, you don’t just say yes or no because you are the parent who has her most of the time.
You tell her you will speak to your ex, and then you tell her together why you decided this is a poor idea. All of your parenting decisions are made together. You are co-parents, which means you share equal responsibility even if you do not live together.
How to co-parent is where things get a little trickier for divorced parents. It means you must find a way to speak to one another even if your animosity is strong. It requires you put aside your differences and feelings for one another and put your kids first. It’s not always easy, but it does get easier the more you do it and the longer you do it. Deciding to co-parent as divorced parents is the single most important and healthiest decision you can make for your kids.
Divorced parents make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect, but try harder to make this transition easier on the kids. If nothing else, try to remember you need not share the intimate and dirty details of your marriage and divorce with your kids and you must work together to raise them. They need you both even if you are not both in their lives every day. You are parents, and your kids are half of both of you. When you speak ill of their other parent, you are speaking ill of half of their genetic makeup. It’s unhealthy, and it can have long-lasting negative effects on their self-esteem and confidence.