A divorce is a traumatic experience. You have decided that it is time to end your relationship, essentially cutting someone from your life with whom you’ve not only spent a lot of time with, but who you have also promised that you wouldn’t do this very thing; leave them. The wound that is open on both sides is painful and deep and can last years even if the two parties remain pleasant through the awful experience. Now, imagine what it is like for a child.
The two parents are the child’s entire world and now that world is literally torn in two. Not only are the parents not going to be living together any longer, but chances are there is real hatred between them. The biggest mistake a couple can make when divorcing is to allow the child to see this. In a normal parent – child relationship, there is a loving bond between the children and the parents. Now part of that bond is broken. The circle of love from parent to child to parent is broken and the child is left wondering not only “what now?” and “is it my fault?”, but also, whom do I give my love to now? If the father shows that he clearly does not love the mother anymore, the child may wonder why or what mommy did to make this happen, or the same with the mother if she shows clear dislike for the father, The child will wonder if they show their daddy love, will mommy disapprove? Would they be considered bad children if they loved either parent when something has made both of them hate each other so much that they divorce?
Never involve the child in your divorce. Never involve them in the reasons why or show them that you are mad at your spouse or ex-spouse. Never include them in discussions about the other parent that shows them in a bad light. Never speak negatively about the other parent. Assure the child that their mommy or daddy still loves them as much as they ever did. In fact, let them know how you love them so much more for being so strong and brave through such troubling times. Assure them that they did nothing to cause the break-up. Never put the child in between you and your spouse, or put them in a position where they feel they might have to choose one parent or the other.
A divorce is hard and lonely. A mistake some divorcing parents make is to try to involve the child in the process. Sometimes this is simply out of a feeling of loneliness and isolation, a feeling that you need to tell someone what is happening to you. Your child is not a friend in which you can confide. Never involve them in the business of your divorce. Sometimes a parent might talk to a child more frankly than they should in the belief that telling them the truth will make things easier. Confiding in your child this way makes them more acutely aware that they have control over the situation and may in fact have done something or are doing something wrong. They may feel that there is a way to stop what is happening and are not doing the right things to stop it.
The bottom line in any divorce involving children is to NOT involve them at all. Assure them that they are not to blame. Assure them that both parents still love them and that they will always be able to see either parent whenever they want, and above all assure them that everything will fine, different, but fine.