- by Mary Stearns-Montgomery
- in Divorce
Being aware of your actions and words as a parent can single handedly alter the severity divorce has on a child. From a legal perspective, the way a parent interacts with his or her child can influence child custody, visitation, and parental rights in Georgia. The courts are interested in determining which parent is acting in the best interest of a child, so it is imperative to act responsibly to protect your children’s emotions from the stresses of divorce. Here are a few suggestions of what not to say or do when communicating with your child about your divorce.
During a Divorce, Avoid These Topics when Speaking to Your Kids
Avoid giving children too many “adult details”—It is important to consider your child’s age when speaking to him or her about your divorce. The majority of the time a child will not understand, nor do they need to know, if you are getting a divorce because of issues that relate to intimacy, money, abuse or addiction of any kind. It is best to leave the conversation as simple as possible with your child and not get into specifics. Too many parents fall into the trap of thinking “hey my child asked me and I didn’t want to lie” and “I just wanted the child to know the truth” and “I didn’t think fast enough to think of something else to say”. What you should say instead is “both your mom and your dad love you very much”. And if you say it over and over again that will not hurt you, no matter how much you want to say something else. As a matter of fact, watch closely as you say it and you will see the relief in the child’s body language.
Remind children that they still have a present mom and dad—Divorce can make a child feel like they are losing a parent, so it is imperative to express to a child that they will still have two parents present in their life. Be sensitive, listen and make yourself available to discuss divorce in a mature way. Prove with your actions that you are present and available.
It’s not their fault—Reminding a child that they are not to blame for the divorce is essential to helping children cope with divorce. Children need to be reassured that they did not do anything wrong, and that divorce is an adult issue. Children tend to personalize divorce in many cases, so make it perfectly clear that they’re not at fault.
Don’t ask them to choose sides—Asking a child to choose one parent over the other is not fair to the child and can result in resentment later on down the road. Furthermore, a court will tend to not give custody to the parent who is willfully jeopardizing the other parent-child relationship, as doing so is emotionally damaging. Read our 3 tips for preparing for child custody battle.
Dogging out the other spouse—While going through a divorce is emotional, it is vital that the parents do not lash out at the other, or talk badly about each other in front of the children. It is unhealthy for the child to hear their mom or dad being called negative words by the other. Defaming your ex-spouse can also be held against you in court and can affect the outcome of a custody hearing.
When interacting with children, be merciful and kind, and remember that divorce is a problem between two adults.