Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Child’s Perspective on Divorce

By Marlene A. Pontrelli

One of the most difficult aspects of any marriage dissolution is the effect that the divorce or separation has on the children. Often times, parents truly believe that they are protecting the children by limiting the time that they spend with the other parent, or insisting that certain rules be followed in the other parent’s home. A child’s reaction to the divorce may vary depending on age and other factors. However, the best thing parents can do who are going through a divorce or legal separation is to look at divorce from a child’s perspective. Below are some things to consider:

1. I am not getting a divorce, you are. You are divorcing each other, but I am not divorcing either one of you. You are still both my parents, and that will not change after the divorce.

2. Please do not say negative things to me about the other parent. I love you both and it hurts me to hear you say bad things about the other parent. When you say negative things it just makes me mad at you for trying to make me feel bad about the other parent.

3. Please do not put me in the middle of your dispute. I am not going to take sides, and even if I did, it would only be to satisfy you and make you stop talking about it.

4. Please do not use me to communicate messages to the other parent. If you have something to say to the other parent please find a way to communicate to them directly. I am likely to get the message wrong anyway.

5. Do not ask me about what the other parent is doing, who they are seeing, or try to get “information” from me about the other parent. That makes me feel like a traitor if I give you information, or makes me feel like you want me to spy on the other parent. I don’t want to be put in this position. Besides, I don’t know everything anyway and you are likely to get a misimpression of the circumstances.

6. Please do not get into fights with the other parent over their parenting skills. If the other parent is not exercising the same parenting skills that you would it does not mean they are a bad parent. It just means they parent differently than you. If you fight about this I will learn that I can play one parent off the other. I know that rules are different in each house and I can learn to respect each parent’s rules.

7. I understand you may not want me to see my friends, or have a sleepover at a friend’s house because you feel like you are losing parent time. That’s okay. I will learn to adjust, but I hope you will let me speak up and talk to you about it. Please be open and honest about your feelings with me, rather than just saying no, and I will be open and honest with you about my feelings. Hopefully, we can compromise.

8. Please do not use money that you may be receiving or giving to the other parent as a way to punish me. Saying things like, you don’t receive enough money, or you already give money for a particular activity, puts me in the middle. Please try to work out these issues with the other parent without me, and then jointly tell me your decision. I can understand “no” coming from both of you. This is part of what co-parenting should be about. A simple “I will discuss it with your mother/father” is all I need to hear.

9. I know that someday you may have another person in your life. I am okay with that. Just take it slow and introduce me gradually to the other person. Do not expect us to become an instant family.

10. Please do not argue over holidays with the other parent. I can be flexible. Please be flexible too. It is only a date on a calendar. If you make it a positive choice, rather than a negative choice, we can celebrate 2 Thanksgivings, 2 Christmases, 2 of everything, and I will consider myself the luckiest kid in the world for getting to do everything twice with the two people I love the most.