Going through a divorce can be a massive life change for everyone in the family. In the midst of this change, if you’re a parent, you have to be extremely careful what you say and do around your child – particularly when it comes to their other parent.
You may know that and have every intention of doing it. However, when you’re frustrated and angry and navigating how to co-parent with someone you may have very negative feelings about, it’s easy to let your guard down and say something hurtful or inappropriate in front of your child.
Don’t share negative feelings about your co-parent
It’s also easy to make another common mistake, particularly if your child is a teen or even pre-teen. That is turning to them for emotional support. Even if they’re the only one around when you need to vent about the toll the divorce or your soon-to-be ex’s latest move is taking on you, it’s crucial to spare them from that.
This is their other parent, and your child can view criticism of that parent as a reflection of how you feel about them. If this happens often enough, it can potentially turn them against their other parent or have the opposite effect and make them feel the need to protect or defend them.
Don’t share details of the divorce
It’s also wise not to share details of the divorce negotiations like property division and support. If they’re old enough, you may want to seek their input (within reason) on the custody arrangement. However, this should generally be done together as parents. Otherwise, a child may feel like one parent is pushing them. They also should never be made to feel like they’re “choosing” one parent over the other. As parents, you need to make the final decision based on what’s best for your child.
If you’re concerned about the future – whether it’s where you’ll live, how you’ll make ends meet and how you’ll be able to work and be a part-time single parent – you should never express those concerns to or in front of your child. That’s something to discuss with your legal team.
Building a strong support system of family, friends and professionals can help you deal with these issues with other adults and keep them away from your child.