On behalf of Morna Challoner of Challoner Law posted in blog on Tuesday, November 7, 2017.
Children often understand more than adults give them credit for. When young, their vocabulary may be limited, but research has established that children can pick up a great deal of information from body language and tone. Simply put, it can be difficult for parents to keep secrets from their kids.
You may know this; indeed you may have experienced it when you and your spouse decided to divorce. Discussions and disagreements you’d wanted to conceal were, instead, somewhat plain to your kids. At the very least, they knew ‘something was up.’
The tendency to conceal discord arises from a good place. Namely, you want to spare your children from the pain of seeing their parents fight. But when they’re left to figure out things on their own, the pain children experience becomes all the more exquisite. Instead of speaking about it, they feel they must keep their suffering secret, too.
What this dynamic underscores is how difficult it can be to protect children’s interests during divorce. Efforts to protect have, instead, the opposite effect. And so, with this article, we would like to share some ways to keep your children’s feelings proactively front-and-center.
Children at the heart of the matter
Although you and your former spouse have gone separate ways, your children continue to bind you to each other. Still, you may try to avoid your ex, even where it concerns the children. The exigencies of visitation and custody may make this a challenge, and many parents resort to coping methods that unfairly burden their children; for example:
- Making your child a messenger between you and your spouse
- Changing parenting schedules at the last minute
- Choosing the least convenient options for your ex
- Bashing your ex in front of the children
It may be difficult to control what you think about your former partner, but saying it aloud in front of the children may cause confusion and conflict for them. Psychologists say that, no matter your history with your former spouse, children deserve the opportunity to arrive at their own opinions. Keeping your negativity in check will allow your children to see your dignity and grace under the circumstances.
As you and your ex move forward with your lives, you may learn that your former spouse has a new romantic interest. Even if you hear about this from your children, psychologists advise parents not to pump children for details. It is, of course, important to know about the person your ex is bringing into the lives of your children. However, advisors recommend that you get your information directly from your co-parent and not by questioning the children.
Sharing parenting responsibilities is one of the greatest challenges of post-divorce life. As you and your co-parent adjust, you may find things becoming easier, especially if you are willing to compromise and pick your battles when it comes to custody. Of course, when conflicts arise that you and your ex cannot settle amicably, you always have recourse to California legal counsel.