As a counselor in a public middle school, many, if not most of my students come from homes where there has been divorce, separation or parents never married. It has become the norm as the non-traditional family now outnumbers the traditional family. In all family types, I see parents doing the best they can; managing visitation, scheduling, using mentors, etc. Running any kind of family is very detailed and no easy job. Most do it amazingly well.
I am often surprised, however, at the number of well meaning, educated, divorced parents who continue to place their children in the middle of adult situations. Sometimes I think they are simply too close to the forest to see the trees! These are good parents who might see these things in others and criticize, but cannot see what’s inappropriate in their own homes.
Parents, you must set aside your hurt and anger at former partners no matter how justified they are when it comes to the children you share. You often do not realize the damage your words can do. When you call your ex partner names and show your anger because he cheated on you and destroyed the family he vowed to protect, you have every right to be angry. However, your children did not experience this in the same way you did and will likely love their parent regardless. Let them. Yes, their lives were no doubt affected too, and they may have their own set of issues with it, but when that is compounded with yours, it gives them a huge burden.
Refrain from sending messages through your children back and forth because you refuse to speak to each other. Do not ask children about what goes on at the others’ homes – drilling for information. Do not speak negatively about new partners. Anything your child needs to know about them will show itself eventually and better it come from their own observations than from your jealous lips!
Do not ask your child to lie about new relationships you may be having. If you know that your new relationship is going to anger the ex partner, you have some choices – none of which are easy. You can wait to see how the relationship develops before you expose it to your child at all. You can openly discuss it with your ex partner and ask that your children be left out of it. The children should not have to answer questions or discuss any of it if they choose not to and certainly shouldn’t be forced, bribed or drilled. And, they should not be taught to lie.
Sometimes I am baffled at the seeming insensitivity of loving parents. I work with children daily who are caught in the middle of their parents’ messes. Remember that when you are the deliverer of hateful words, it does not make you “look better’; it does not make you a hero. Your child shouldn’t have to love one of you more or take sides. Everything eventually comes out – always has.
Great words from Budda – “Three things cannot be hidden for long – the sun, the moon and the truth.”