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10 Crucial Mistakes Parents Make During Divorce

Here are the most common mistakes divorced parents do. You may find yourself in one or the other mistake listed below.  Nevertheless, have fun reading. It’ll take about 6 minutes.

Niels Klement, Child of Divorce

When my parents divorced, I was confronted with many of the mistakes we talk about today. These mistakes are things that many freshly separated parents do without realizing it is pressuring their child.

Even though you as the parent just want the best for your child, it is often hard to tell whether and how much some of your actions or words hurt your them.

So to avoid hurting your child, I put together this list of things and mistakes that many divorced parents do unknowingly, which pressure their child besides the ”normal” separation sorrows.

Talking bad about co-parent

Think about this in a child’s view. Even though you might have developed bad feelings for your ex and now co-parents, your child has not. When one parent is talking bad about the other one, a child feels torn between both parties.

He may feel torn back and forth about agreeing with you or defending your co-parent, still, he does not want to hurt either, which he would as soon as he stands up for one of you.

Don’t get your child in this emotional dilemma.

Bad custody arrangements

Even though I am not a lawyer and do not really know how much judicial custody arrangements are relevant to this topic, I still can say something about how a bad custody sharing affects children and how yours should look like to avoid hurting them in any way.

Ideally, you should create a regular schedule your child can hold onto. Back in the day, my parents handled it like this:
I lived at my dad’s place and visited my Mom every other week, which seems to be one of the most popular ways of custody arrangements.

Keep in mind, having to switch houses too often is not good at all for the child. There has to be ONE solid environment, which is the one the children live in, and one that’s more seen as a visited place.

If you are interested in this topic, feel free to check out this post about how to go about child custody, and get my free individual time sharing guidelines.

Giving a child info about court

Even though my parents did not tell me on purpose, I caught some information about judicial matters in some conversations.

I started thinking, and so will your child as soon as he’ll find something out about it. For children, having too much extra background information just leads to unnecessary pressure you could easily avoid.

Talking about money-discussions you and your co-parent have, is also a thing that relates to court information.

Letting children decide where to live

You might think that this is a great Idea because your child can freely decide where he wants to live and where he likes it best. I have to tell you, you are wrong. At least when it comes to younger children. A 16-year-old child is totally capable of deciding where he wants to live. According to law, children are allowed to decide where they want to live at the age of 14. Still, it is up to you if you think your child is ready to make such a decision.

When you and your co-parent confront your child with where it wants to live as soon as mommy and daddy are separated, it creates (what else) extra pressure your child has to deal with. He feels torn between both parents because he does not want to hurt anyone of you.

Wanting your child to decide where to live creates, like already mentioned above, a kind of dilemma, which is going to give your child a hard time.

You as the parents have to decide what’s best for the child in this situation and then come to a decision.
Maybe mom always cared for the child at home when dad was at work. In this case, I would say that it is better for the child to stay with the mom because of the strengthened relation the child has developed to her.

You as the parents have to decide what’s best for the child in this situation and then come to a decision.
Maybe mom always cared for the child at home when dad was at work. In this case, I would say that it is better for the child to stay with the mom because of the strengthened relation the child has developed to her.

Making your child a messaging service

I have to say I did not experience this myself. Nevertheless, I had a great talk with my former therapist Dr. Stevens about this topic. “If you can find yourself doing that as a divorced parent, it is okay. After an emotional breakup with ups and downs (probably more downs), it’s normal that you don’t want to talk to your ex.”, he said.

 What you should keep in mind is that you as a parent should never, and I mean really never, put your child in an uncomfortable or pressuring situation to make it easier for you.
Think about it when a similar situation comes up the next time.

Thinking child doesn’t get what’s wrong

Do not treat your child as he or she is not old enough to be part of the conversation. Of course, there are many things young and even more grown children don’t really understand or just would be too pressured much if they would know them in a matter of divorce.

Still, you should never reject them if they have questions or even when they confront you with something they witnessed, for example on a phone call of you and your lawyer. For a child, feeling underestimated or not involved, even though they play a big role in this process, can be really discouraging.

Always try to give your child a feeling of mattering, although the topic is not for their ears.

Refusing to work as a team with the co-parent

This is clearly relatable to mistake #5 on this list because using your child as a messenger is a consequence of not wanting to cooperate with your co-parent. Doing this will just increase the level of a hard time a child has during a divorce. More stress more pressure.

When my parents divorced, it was exactly like this. They refused to sit at a table together and even, later on, talking to each other, which really made me feel responsible for their communication.

With all the struggle I already had by being a child of divorce, my parents pressured me some more by letting me bear the burden. It is the same principle as in point No. 5. Parents should never, and I mean really never, put their child in an uncomfortable or pressuring situation to make it easier for themselves.

Refusing to work as a team with the co-parent

Many parents think they are doing good to their child by creating a totally carefree and “get everything you want” environment after experiencing the struggles of divorce. And there is nothing wrong with that because the child will always enjoy such a parenting method. That means, in the short-term, yes, you are doing good to your child. But in the long-term, it is a bit more difficult.

What children are not comprehending at this moment, is that you are not helping them overcome the pain, you are helping them suppress it by creating this now carefree environment.

Furthermore, after a short amount of time (some) kids will use the adversity they have gone through as an excuse for anything as soon as they get that you feel so sorry for them.

Keep in mind, that adversity also creates a great development path for children, for example, expanding their empathetic understanding or their perception of the things they have and how grateful they should feel for them.

In my case, I would say that I have learned so many things throughout this time and got out of it stronger than before.

Keep in mind, that adversity also creates a great development path for children, for example, expanding their empathetic understanding or their perception of the things they have and how grateful they should feel for them.

Refusing to work as a team with the co-parent

Doing this can affect the whole upbringing education process a child gets mediated throughout their life.

For example, one party forbids the child to eat sweets for a week as a consequence. Now, if the other party, mostly the parent who sees the child less, lets him eat whatever and whenever he wants, it creates the feeling for the child that he always can go to the other parent when something is wrong.

In some cases, this might not be that bad, for example when an extreme dispute is happening at one home. Your child should always feel comfortable and safe in both households.

But on the other hand, some children might think that they can leave, whenever a little problem appears, which creates, in turn, a character trait that you actually want to avoid. Children should learn to face problems and fears in order to overcome them.

Furthermore, many parents use overcompensating for the other party to offend them. If you can relate to that, I want you to think about it, if you really want to protect your child.

CONCLUSION

As you can see, there are quite many things to consider when going through a divorce with a child. If you are new to this situation, it is totally normal that you found yourself doing one or more things I named above. For the future, try to avoid those mistakes to make your child having the best time possible during divorce.

If you want to learn more about it, download my Cheatsheet to getting a child through a divorce without hurting it.

As always, feel free to share.

Cheers!

Niels

Hi! I'm Niels.

Born in Germany and a child of divorce. I’ve built this Blog in cooperation with two great kids therapists (including the one I had to visit for years) to give you proven resources about how to lead children through the process of divorce without getting them emotionally and psychologically hurt like I had to experience.

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The MKD Cheatsheet covers various topics from how to tell your child about divorce to how to help him overcome emotional issues.

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1 Comment

  1. Niels

    Did you recognize the new Layout? 😛

    Reply

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