In the blog 7 Tips for Putting Children First in a Divorce, I discussed how to have a child-centered divorce and the benefits to children. The other side of the equation is the common mistakes that parents make when they put their needs ahead of the children’s needs.
1. Parents Making Assumptions that are NOT in Their Child’s Best Interest:
If you don’t purposely and intentionally keep the children’s needs as your top priority during the divorce, they can get lost in the process. For example, some parents recall their own experience as children of divorce and impose their feelings on their children. Don’t make assumptions. While being mindful of the difficult divorce you lived through as a child can make you more empathetic to what your children may experience, remember that your experiences and feelings may also keep you from being open to what would be best for YOUR children. For example, just because you felt that it was too hard for you to move back and forth between your parents’ homes after their divorce, start with a fresh slate, so to speak, and consider what might be best for your children. This not only means considering your kids’ unique personalities, but also the co-parenting relationship you plan to have with your soon-to-be-ex and the possibilities for your new housing arrangements. For your children, going back and forth often between two homes might be better than being away from one of their parents for an extended period. Only after you get advice about your situation and understand what your children need, should you make these decisions.
2. Parents Focusing on THEIR Pain Rather than Their Children’s Pain:
Some parents get so caught up in their own pain that they don’t notice their children’s distress. While children are generally resilient if given the proper level of support, some do not handle changes well. Parents should stay attuned to signs of distress in their children during and after their divorce. Parents should be watching how their children are doing–if their grades are slipping, if they are having behavior issues, if they shut down, if they start having anxiety attacks or depression, the parents need to work together and help the children get the help they need. Parents must think about how the divorce is affecting their children even more than how it is affecting themselves. Parents who say something like, “I can’t go more than two days without seeing my child,” need to be reminded that they need to first think about what is best for the children.
3. Parents Not Being Aware of the Effect of Conflict on the Children:
Some people stay together in an unhappy marriage because they think that it’s better for their children regardless of the situation in the home. And, while most children would prefer that their parents stay married, that is not true when the parents’ conflict happens in front of the children. That can mean no one’s talking to each other because there’s so much conflict, or they’re yelling at each other, it doesn’t matter. The conflict is dangerous to the kids, and you’ll see psychological effects on them. Studies show that children whose parents are divorced and get along post-divorce are more well-adjusted in the short-term and the long-term than children who grow up in a high-conflict home or whose parents remain in conflict after a divorce. This is especially true when the parents were engaged in high-conflict litigation. It’s very difficult for parents to co-parent effectively after they have tried to destroy each other in court. Protracted litigation can have devastating and long-lasting effects on children.
Divorce is never easy. However, when parents prioritize the needs of their children, the children can come through the divorce with the assurance that both of their parents love them and are committed to their well-being. Using the Collaborative Divorce process or Mediation are the best ways that parents can work together to make their divorce child-centered.
Contact Vacca Family Law Group at www.vaccalaw.com to discuss how mediation or collaborative divorce can help you avoid these common mistakes when it comes to divorce. And click here to download our free e-book Divorce Without Court: A More Peaceful Solution.