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I honestly don't think people are intending to mess up their children when going through divorce and certainly if you are reading this then I applaud you for wanting to make the best out of a bad situation for your kids. However, 9 times out of 10, people mess up and the children are the ones who get the brunt of it. Here are some basic no-no's to avoid.
1. Don't bad mouth your ex to your children - Remember the divorce is happening between you and your ex, not you children. Yes, you may be angry and hurt and yes they may be behaving like a right idiot (because they are also angry and hurt) but when you bad mouth the other parent to your children, you are bad mouthing part of them. Your child will experience it personally.
2. Don't use your children as confidents - Your children are your children. They are not your best friend, agony aunt, shoulder to cry on. They are your children and you are their parent. This never stops. It also doesn't matter how 'mature' they are, how 'well' you think they are handling it, this does not justify you from offloading your emotional baggage to them. Where do you think that they can put it?
3. Don't brag about your new life? - when people have come out of difficult relationships, they often experience an epiphany of how great life can be. They walk around with a 'buzz', happy and excited about what life can offer. However, your children may not be feeling like this. Their parents splitting will be devastating. Watching one or both parents in emotional pain is very confusing so just because 'you' are having a great time, your ex may not be. How do you think a child will experience one 'ecstatic' parent and one 'devastated' parent?
4. Don't leave them behind emotionally - Children become very lonely when parents' divorce. They experience a whole raft of emotions - relief (if the atmosphere was bad), then guilt (for feeling relieved), anger (because of the situation), sad (because they will no longer live with one parent), guilt (because of only living with one parent), sadness (for the parent that they don't live with), happy (that parents seem better off) and then a conflicted sense of responsibility about which parent to see at Christmas and birthdays. Add into this emotion that they will feel if you are still arguing about them (more guilt) or if you become too busy or 'buzzy' about your new life that you forget to ask them how they are (rejected) and your child will be a big ball of emotions. Leave them there and the consequences can be devastating. You are both responsible for their pain, no matter who caused the divorce. Make sure you spend time to help them safely through the grief cycle.
5. Don't stop being parents - So your 'romantic, sexual' relationship is over but your parenting responsibilities aren't. Your ex may have cheated on you and you are hurt, I get it, but you are still parents and you need to parent together. If you have any chance of getting your children through your divorce, then you need to put your feelings aside and focus on the children. If you cannot communicate about anything else, please work hard to find a way to communicate about your children for the sake of your children. Banish all conversations about anything but them, if you have to. The difference it makes is phenomenal.
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