Divorce has a way of making people emotional and pushing them to act in unpredictable ways. People often want to feel vindicated through divorce proceedings and hope to punish their ex for what they view as unfair treatment during their married life.
All too often, parents get so absorbed in the fight against one another that they lose sight of what really matters. Their children will suffer because of their behavior. Even the most assertive young adults will struggle to speak their minds when they feel uncertain about their family circumstances.
There are certain things your children would probably like to tell you but may not be able to say for themselves.
“I don’t want to pick a side.”
With the rare exception of situations involving abuse or neglect in the family, children primarily want to protect their relationship with both parents in a divorce and worry about doing harm to either of those important connections.
You and your ex can help them by settling custody matters on your own so that they don’t feel pressured to speak up in court. You can also avoid discussing your emotional reactions about your divorce with or in front of your children. The less that they hear, the less they will feel like they need to take sides or judge either parent.
“I don’t want to split my most important days.”
Your 12-year-old only becomes a teenager once, and your 8th grader only has one graduation ceremony before they become a high schooler. Many parents fight intensely about splitting up parenting time, especially on special days like birthdays and holidays. While that approach may be practical, it does not send her what the children would like.
If it is at all possible, having both parents together for important days and family celebrations will be better for the kids than two separate celebrations for every milestone in their lives.
“I still love the rest of my family.”
A child doesn’t just have to worry about their relationship with their other parent. There are aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins that they love as well. Especially in scenarios where one parent has significantly more time with or authority over the children, committing to keeping the extended family involved is important for the children’s sense of family and security.
When you take a step back and start to think about your children’s emotional needs, being more rational in your approach to your divorce may be a bit easier for you. Supporting your children when you share custody with your ex may require sacrificing your short-term emotional validation for their long-term sense of stability, but that sacrifice could have a lifelong beneficial impact on your children.