Children often feel or actually are voiceless when their parents divorce. It is a highly emotional time for parents, and kids sometimes become part of the fabric of the conflict as each parent decides what he or she thinks is in the best interests of the children.
There are some parents who can continue to parent their children and maintain a civil, if not friendly, relationship with the person from whom they are disengaging the rest of their life. For those who cannot, it appears children have a great deal to say about this. If and when they do tell you what they think, it is a good idea to really listen to some of the words of wisdom they have to offer. Here are some examples based on Cooperative Parenting & Divorce Parent’s Guide (Boyan & Termini, 1999).
Kids don’t want:
- to see their parents fighting. It makes them feel bad about themselves.
- you to talk with them about the divorce and grown-up things they don’t understand anyway.
- to hear about money or child support. They feel less like kids and more like possessions.
- you to ask them questions about what is going on at their other parent’s home. They feel like they are being asked to spy.
- to be used as a messenger for anything needing to go back and forth between their homes. It means they’re the ones who have to deal with the reaction of the other parent, and it makes them feel scared and anxious.
- to feel bad for loving their other parent. They feel protective of both parents, can’t figure out what is the right thing to do, and feel guilty.
- their parents to talk to them when they are on the phone with their other parent. They feel tugged at from both of you, they don’t want to have to choose between you.
- to be stopped from seeing their other parent. It is too upsetting to be caught in the middle with everything and this too.
- to be called constantly by the parent they aren’t with. They want to be able to love you both completely and without guilt.
- to hear either of their parents blaming the other for what is wrong with their lives. They think they’re too young to have to deal with all that, and it is very upsetting to them.
- either of you to ignore the other when you are at one of their sporting or other kinds of events. Just act like normal adults and don’t embarrass them.
- to have to worry about what they can or cannot bring with them when they go back and forth between your homes. They just want to be able to have their things when they want them.
- to be asked questions that make them choose between you, especially about where they want to live. They think it is unfair.
- everything to be so rigid. They like it much better when everyone can be flexible and stop making their lives the place where things get fought out and then they don’t get to do the things they had always been able to do before.
- you to talk with them about everything. They would rather you found a friend or a therapist to talk to instead.
If you are in any stage of divorce, you might want to take these ideas into consideration when you interact with your children.