Children are not just spectators during a divorce. The separation is a life-changing experience for a child. The process can cause fear, anger, and guilt. Parents must remember that their own pain cannot take priority over parental responsibilities. The choices they make and how they involve the children in the divorce can determine the emotional well-being of their child.
What They Need
Consistency and safety are the concerns of most children. Kids want to know they will still have their parents, grandparents, and friends. Most will worry about where they will live, if they can keep their things, and what will happen with family pets. Parents need to answer as honestly as they can without empty promises or dire predictions.
Psychologists say that when parents lie, it destroys the trust children have in the people they rely on the most. The lack of trust can leave them vulnerable and unsure where to turn for support. A better option is to choose honesty even if the answer is not something your child will like or you don’t have an answer yet.
How Age Matters
Kids of all ages feel some of the effect of a divorce. Infants can sense tension, and elementary school-age children can feel fear and loss. Even children that act oblivious to the situation have some opinions and fears.
Parents should allow kids to ask questions rather than randomly offer information. Children will ask for information appropriate to what they can understand. Answer the questions adequately but without too much detail. Try to stick with facts only in the answers to prevent any negative comments about their other parent.
Parents who shield the child from any discussion of the divorce can cause confusion if the child is called on for their opinion during the custody decision. New Mexico laws allow judges to take the opinions of children of any age into account when they decide custody. At age 14, children can generally decide where they wish to live.
When Parents Lie
Sometimes one person in the divorce does all they can to keep things calm, while the other does all they can to undermine everything. Malicious parent syndrome is a term used to describe a parent who will do anything they can to make the other parent look bad.
People who act maliciously do so to alienate the other parent. They may keep the child from the parent, lie about the other parent, and even do things that harm the kids. The point is to make the ex-spouse responsible for the misery the child feels.
Not all parents go to the extremes, but their actions still cause pain. The desire to fight back can result in the child feeling abandoned and with no one to talk to or trust. Instead, responsible parents need to stay neutral in front of the child and fight for their rights in the courtroom.
Accept nothing less than legally binding custody and support plans. Have as little contact with the other parent as possible, and keep all personal information private so the ex does not have details to comment about. Do not take the bait when a child reveals the insults or comments from the other parent. Ignore the behavior and stay positive and calm around the children.
Seek out legal advice if the behavior of the parent goes beyond basic insults or nitpicking and into a situation where the children are kept away or harmed. The behavior may begin before the divorce or after. Keep a journal of the behavior and note any witnesses to the actions of the other parent in case of a future court hearing.
Never underestimate the emotional turmoil a divorce causes a child. Parenting forces people to always think about the needs of their children, even during a personally difficult time. At the Law Offices of Lynda Latta, LLC, we want to help you and your children to have as pain-free an experience as possible. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.