5 Tiny Ways People Screw Up Their Kids In Divorce

How you let your divorce hurt your children.

sad little boy with parents arguing behind him Dejan Dundjerski / Shutterstock

You’re devastated by the ending of your marriage and losing a life partner. Your children are the most important thing in your world and you want more than anything to protect them from the harmful effects of their parents’ divorce. It’s just you and them creating a new life together. Right? But you’re hurt, disappointed, and angry and maybe you were left for someone else or caught totally off-guard or struggling financially or just unsure of who you are anymore other than a mom (or dad).


It’s really hard having to deal with all the emotion and strain of getting a divorce and still being a great parent. I know, I’ve been through it. In our weakness and frustration, we may succumb to using our children to lash out at our spouse or shore us up when we’re feeling low. After all, you say to yourself, it was all or mostly their fault that you’re splitting up, anyway, so surely they should pay for what they've done. And our children will see that we are "the good parent." You may or may not be conscious of doing these, but if you want to know how not to screw up your kids in divorce and not permanently scar them, here are 5 things you need to stop doing.


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Here are 5 tiny ways people screw up their kids in divorce:

1. Trash your ex (or soon-to-be ex) spouse to your children and anyone else who will listen

You’re the victim and you want everyone to know that it wasn’t your fault and that you’re "the perfect parent." You’ll eventually be seen as the emotionally weak and bitter one. Your friends and family may initially listen and be sympathetic but that won’t last long. See a divorce coach or therapist for the support you need and save your friendships.



2. Have the kids deliver messages to your spouse regarding visitation, custody, and financial issues

It’ll sting your ex a bit more that way. But, someday, your kids will pity and resent you for putting them in the middle. There are far more effective ways to communicate with your (ex-) spouse.


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3. Prevent your children from spending time with their other parents

They’re the ones who broke up the family, why should they get to spend happy time with their children? No matter what your children’s ages, they just want to be kids and have two stable and protective parents who put their needs first. Try to see the positive aspects of their other parent. You’ll be a hero someday for protecting your relationship with dad (or mom) and if the other parent is all that awful, they’ll come to see that for themselves.



4. Allow your children to take on more housework to ease your burden

You’re stressed to the max and Junior wants to help — it’s a win-win, right? Or maybe they want to spend Friday nights at home to play video games with you since you seem so lonely. As tempting as it may be to rely on your mature children, they will suffer in the long term for taking on more responsibility than was appropriate for their age. A childhood misspent can never be recovered.


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5. Forget to tell your kids how much they are loved and that the divorce is not their fault

As irrational as it may seem, kids just naturally think it’s their fault that dad (or mom) moved out. They need lots of reassurance that they’re great kids and loved by both parents. Yes, you’re mad, but your children love their other parent and, at least partly, define themselves by them. Do you want them to feel bad about half of who they are? If your answer is "yes", then be prepared for emotionally damaged children.

They’ll have difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships forever more. They’ll put their development on hold and never get to recover what they missed. Find other outlets to deal with your frustration, anger, and loneliness. Get the help you need to be the best parent you can be. Find a divorce coach or a therapist skilled in divorce transition and parenting. Your kids will thank you.


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Berni Stevens is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® and a trained mediator and divorce coach. She is the founder and CEO of TruNorth Divorce Solutions.