It is a common belief that the act of separation or divorce, itself, is what has the most significant effects on children, but I’m afraid I have to disagree. As a child of parents who separated when I was a toddler, I believe the parents’ behaviors before, during, and after a separation affect the child the most.
Children love their parents and typically want to please them, so imagine the amount of stress placed on a child whose parents put them in the middle of THEIR PARENTS’ problems, whether intentional or unintentional. Parents who –
- Discuss adult issues with the child, such as reasons for the separation, financial problems resulting from the divorce, and past or present legal proceedings.
- Ask a child to make choices about visitation or communication with the other parent.
- Make negative comments about the other parent or other parent’s family.
- Use the child as a therapist.
- Interrogate the child to obtain information about the other parent.
- Tell the child they are now the “Man of the House” or “Woman of the House.”
Being caught in the middle of parents can be stressful and often lead to a child playing on both sides of the fence to please everyone. Some children resort to acting out at home or in school to turn their parents’ attention on them even if that attention is negative. Why? Because it temporarily stops the bickering and fighting.
Let’s not forget how one’s childhood environment impacts their adult life. I’ve met many adults who felt like they were caught in the middle growing up. Adults who still feel the need to please both parents. Adults who fear significant events, such as weddings and graduations, because they know their parents will be in the same room with one another. Adults who feel stressed around the holidays because they either have to split their time between two parents or because they have to choose a parent to spend the holidays with. Trust me, your actions as a parent can and do have lifetime consequences.
Now, I understand that divorce and separation may bring anger, sadness, and sometimes depression. That’s okay. It’s normal. But, as a parent who is going through a breakup, you sometimes have to act in a way that goes against your natural emotions to minimize the effects it may have on your child.
For more information on co-parenting or parallel parenting, check out these resources:
If you have questions about how Desireé Bedasa, PLLC can help you navigate divorce or separation while protecting your children, please call or contact us online to request an initial consultation.