Divorce, Kids and Reliability

When parents divorce, they usually aren’t fully prepared for how they want or should parent through the storm.  However, most parents simply know that making their kids feel safe and secure is important.  What that really means is making sure that children know that even though mommy and daddy are separating, they both, where abandonment and other extreme issues are not at issue, can still be counted on to be there for them.

In the throes of separation, it may be difficult to assure a child that the other parent can be counted on.  Indeed, that may be the complete opposite of what a spouse may believe of their former partner – particularly if infidelity occurred.  However, being a “bad spouse” does not necessarily mean that the spouse is also a “bad parent.”  

For children, a parent’s ability not to put down or slight the other parent in front of the children (and ensuring that other adults and family members follow suit) can be critical to their ability to feel safe and supported in their willingness to rely on both parents during uncertain times.   Where a parent can effectively bite his or her tongue about negative opinions of the other parent, the child also avoids internal strife and confusion.

Children want to love both of their parents.  When one parent talks negatively of the other in front of the child(ren), it is confusing.  The comment may not align with what they think and feel about the other parent.  Processing such comments – which results in the child having to make unfair decisions about who is right (who to believe), whether to risk disagreement and rejection from the commenting parent, etc.  – hardly acting in the best interest of the child.  What a conflict for children to navigate! 

To be the reliable parent that every parent wants to be, skipping the name-calling in front of the children not only demonstrates to children how to act in a conflict, but also saves them from confusing emotions.   And, if those comments a parent was able to keep to himself or herself during the divorce are true statements about the other spouse, the children – when they are old enough – will figure it out themselves.

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