One: Make sure you do not overcompensate for the situation your children are in. You probably will feel guilty about the break-up of the relationship even if you chose to break-up for the right reasons.
You will feel sorry for your kids when they are upset and missing the other parent. You might want to lavish them with presents, and give them what ever they ask for to keep them happy.
This maybe ok once in a while but you risk a habit forming situation that will spiral into a child that is spoil and eventually becomes narcissistic. This is how narcissism can develop in children.
Two: Don’t make your children feel guilty about going to see their other parent. They have a right to choose when and if they want to see their other parent and it is likely they will want to.
Think about the child’s needs as opposed to your revulsion that anyone would want to be with your ex-partner. Its different for children. Children need their mum and dad don’t forget.
Three: Never knock the other parent down. Don’t get into a discussion with your child and put your ex-partner down. Keep it cool and keep your thoughts to yourself.
Kids need a good mum and dad and whilst you can try to keep your child from thinking that you have a balanced well adjusted child. If you decide to knock your ex-partner down you will start a war where the children are the cannon fodder in the middle.
Likewise never get into knocking your ex-partner’s new partner down either.
Three: Don’t dump your emotions on them. You are an adult.
You may feel and at times act like a child because of the events that have occurred, you may be the one sitting in a bed-sit or a hotel somewhere wondering how you are going to rebuild your life but if you dump your feelings and emotions on your child it makes the whole experience far harder for them and it will adversely affect their lives; their schooling, their friendships, their feeling of self-worth.
If it continues through a child’s developing years (i.e. every year for a child is a developing year!) you will affect their developing personality and you may be responsible for making your child have mental health problems.
Someone I knew had a hard upbringing with issues between parents and became a neurotic anxiety driven person for all her life. Her sister was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder .. (additional resources here) .Think about what you are doing, don’t dump on your children.
Four: Don’t look to your children to side with you against your ex-partner. It’s not their war. Look elsewhere for allies. You maybe forgiven for being off the rails and upset enough to share this with your kids early on but not for long.
Keep it up and you will create the same issues as described above. Children who are suicidal are commonly from backgrounds where the parents have split but the ongoing aftermath is even more torturous.
You should avoid feeling the need to look for any signs of loyalty. I know it’s hard, children may have a predominance for one parent over another for natural reasons. Don’t turn this into a fight for loyalty even if your ex-partner doesn’t deserve their love. That’s for them to work out and they will work it out if its real when they are older.
Five: Don’t get dragged into a fight. You kid may come home and say that mum said you were an idiot or something else that undermines you. You need to keep it cool and get in contact with your ex-partner straight away to clarify exactly what was said.
It may be your child has not heard correctly something that was said and is telling you through loyalty.
IF you are not careful you might end up in a fight for no reason. Be careful about what you say in front of the children about adult subjects in general as well as subjects relating to your ex-partner.
Your children may look engrossed in their painting on the kitchen table but they might be sucking up all that is being said, to then digest later on. This could upset them and also be relayed to your ex-partner.
Six: Be careful about responding to what the children say. They may be using you to punish the other parent for some injustice dished out to them recently. Kids play each parent off against each other.
If one wont let them have another ear piercing then they will go to the other parent. If the other parent wants to start a fight or is a little less careless about managing manipulation then you have a child who knows how to play you off against each other to get their own way.
The child gets in control and over time you risk anarchy in your own home as the child becomes to believe they can get away with almost anything
Seven: Don’t speak for your ex-partner. Let them speak. Tell your kids that you both love them very much, sure, but keep it simple and don’t elaborate. Your words may come back to bite you.
If you say too much about your ex-partner, if this is innocently told to them by your children you might be provoking a fight where the children are used are pawns.
Additionally, the more you try to convince your child that their other parent does love them, even though they never see them, even though they have walked away from them and disowned them, even if they are now starting a new family and don’t even bother to remember their birthdays or send them gifts at celebration times.
You see? Whilst you are trying to hold them together, at worse, the absent parent is moving in the opposite direction
Eight: Focus on developing sound and secure boundaries within your and their home. Make sure they understand they are welcome always in your house even if it isn’t their official home.
Make sure that they understand the rules of behaviour of your house and that this may be different to the rules in the other house they live in.
Nine: Make sure when the children are living with you that you find time for them. You spend time doing activities with them and that they are not just left to do what ever they want in the background as you continue your life.
I understand you will be juggling work and home life, especially when it comes to school holidays. But if you plan ahead and organise some days out and some days where friends can come over you will be able to keep them active and without reasonable excuse to moan.
Ten: Mobile Phones Off! Make sure that you allow your child to keep in touch with their other parent but make sure the mobile phone is not used as a way to undermine your time with them.
Get them to leave it at home when you go on a trip so that you can enjoy the trip with your child. Conversely when they go away with their other parent, don’t keep on hassling them via the phone, make sure they have quality time with their other parent too.
If they go on holiday, ask for a post card, not a call each day in the evening for example.
This is controlling and it will make the children find contacting you a chore or loyalty rather than something they want to do. Think about where this need comes from within you and then think about what is best for your child.
Republished with the author’s permission.
Take the Fisher Divore Adjustment Scale at http://www.DivorceSeminarCenter.com