Let's say the most brutal part right up front: an alarming number of divorcing parents who say they're trying to "protect" their children from the effects of divorce are actually making things much worse. And the biggest reason is that the parents just can't take their egos out of the equation to make room for their children. For these parents, the drama is everything, and the kids become the suffering audience for a "poor wronged me" scenario that drags on and on.
The most important thing you can do for your kids is this: realize that from the moment you file for divorce, it's all over. Everything he did, everything she did, from that second on is now irrelevant. You're done. No matter how bad it was, and no matter how much you're hurting, it's over now. From here on in, it's no longer about you and your ex and your problems – it's about making life easier for your children.
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If you have kids, you're still going to have to be dealing with your ex. And this is the time to man- or woman-up. You and your ex have already made your mistakes, and now you have a more important mission: to help your children, who are almost certainly suffering, and probably have been for some time. No matter how much you hate or resent your ex, you're just going to have to get over it. Or act as if you have. Frankly, so what if it hurts you to pretend? Make a commitment to your kids and swallow your pride. They're the important people now. Ask yourself what's more important to you – your being "in the right" or your child's peace of mind?
Here's one thing you should keep in mind. KIDS THINK EVERYTHING IS THEIR FAULT. No matter how much you reassure them that the divorce isn't about them, they'll always think it is. Always. Kids are very self-absorbed; it's a natural state for them. And the first thing they think about divorce – or even arguments between parents – is that it's somehow their fault. And the longer the parents' resentments of each other goes on, the deeper the guilt of the kids is going to be. They almost never admit this to their parents, but you can be sure they're feeling it. And don't think the kids are old enough to understand what's going on. They might be, but it's still going to hurt them in ways you'll never know until it's too late.
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Here are some of the worst things divorcing parents can do to their children, and unfortunately do all the time.
- The parents are unwilling to move on, or realize that the marriage is over. The parents just can't shut up, even in front of the children. They can't let go of the worst parts of the relationship and must talk it over endlessly. If there was infidelity involved, the injured party must re-hash this over and over, to all the friends, all the relatives. The unfaithful partner feels that he or she was "forced" into it by his or her mate's actions or for "true love," and must now make excuses. Worse, the kids are made to feel – or are even told – that "Daddy/Mommy didn't want us any more."