Parents, shut up. Bite your tongue, take it outside, take a drive, walk around the block, or do whatever it takes to stop talking negatively about your ex in front of your kids! You’re devastating them.
Do you want to know what they say? Things like, "It’s like they’re ripping me in two." "I hate being in the middle." "I could hear Daddy yelling on the phone." "Mom’s mad because she has to pay for ______." "Dad’s mad because he has to pay for ______." "I’m scared to talk to a law guardian." "If I say how I really feel, I’ll hurt Mom’s (or Dad’s) feelings." "I can’t stand it when they fight." "I don’t know what to do."
And if you saw these little ones, with their tear-stained, wide-eyed, shell-shocked expressions, it would break your heart.
And by the way, these kids have been told that it’s "not their fault," and that both Mommy and Daddy love them. It doesn’t help when they see you fight. This is not about making sure that children never see their parents fight. Most couples do argue. But when parents who are divorcing fight, it becomes a whole different story. Now there is just fighting, anger, hurt and fear.
No matter how justified you are in your hatred and bitterness towards your ex, do it somewhere else. Go talk to your mother, best friend, co-worker, whomever. Just don’t fight in front of the children.
Again and again, when parents agree to be civil, the children emerge from divorce in much better shape. When kids feel free to have a relationship with each parent, in front of the other parent, they do significantly better.
I hate the question, "Which parent do you want to live with?" Of course kids hate this question more. Who do you think they want to live with? In case there was any doubt, they want to live with both parents under the same roof. But they can’t, because their parents are separating. You can’t take this pain away from them. So don’t make it worse by airing your bitterness and volume in front of them.
Law guardians have the difficult task of trying to sort this out. They have to ask these little ones the tough questions. But these children need to know that their parents understand how difficult this is for them, and that they will work together to help resolve these issues. Kids need to know that Mommy wants them to see their Daddy and that Daddy wants them to see their Mommy. Parents that successfully give this message to their kids have happier kids.
Many parents want their child to see the divorce from their point of view. "Your father did this …," "Your mother did that …" This is selfish and emotionally abusive. Your child may even agree with you, seem to understand that you are right. But in their rooms at night, or school the next day, they are back to wanting each of their parents nearly equally. And they are back to feeling responsible for their parents’ feelings.
Many children talk about going to Mom’s house or Dad’s house, not My house. I tell them, "It’s your house too," to help them feel grounded in a time in their young life, when they feel not homeless, but familyless.
I applaud parents who understand this and make it work for their children, despite their own sacrifice.