Divorced Parents…don’t do this!

My internet homepage is MSN and like yours, everyday, MSN has a number of different circulating front-page stories.  I give these stories a quick glance as I run through them and rarely actually click on and read through them.  A few weeks ago, a story entitled, “10 Things Children of Divorce Wish Their Parents Wouldn’t Do”.  I read it and was pleasantly surprised. Right on the mark. So, I decided to share.

“Marriages come and go but divorce is forever, to quote the late, great Nora Ephron.  While you may be able to move on to another man/woman, your children will always be tied to you and your ex-and any drama from that relationship.  With this in mind, adult children of divorce share what bothered them as kids and still irks them today about their parents’ post-split behavior.  Plus, experts weigh in on what divorced parents should do instead.

1. Bad mouthing the other parent. Stacey’s parents divorced when she was 18 and they disparaged each other for years.  The destruction of the family was painful enough without being involved in the parents’ marital strife,” she says. Negative  talk damages children’s self-esteem, adds Susan Saper Galamba, a divorce and family attorney in Overland Park, KS. “Whether it’s genetics or environment, a child’s bound to have attributes of both parents.  When one parent repeatedly speaks negatively about the other, and then tells a child that she sounds just like the other parent, the child receives the message that she’s bad. too.”

2. Discouraging kids from talking about their other parent. “Kids want to talk about their lives, including their other parent, without feeling,” says Dominique, whose parents divorced when she was younger.  Psychologist Terri Orbuch, PhD, a relationsip expert for OurTime.com adds, “Even if an adult child speaks negatively about the other parent, she doesn’t want the parent who’s listening to add to that negativity.”  Instead, help her identify solutions to the problem at hand.

3. Divulging the dirty details of the divorce. Stacey began to resent her father after her mother offered uncomfortable information about the split.  Sparing kids details makes divorce easier on them, says Allison Pescosolido, founder of the Dibvorce Detox Program.  “When you need consoling about how horribly their dad treated you, get actionable advice from a professional; don’t look to your kids she adds.  Also, avoid mentionaing particulars like child support says Sheila Blagg, CEO of Divorce Dating.com, an online network for separated and divorced individuals.  A child should never know if a particular parent isn’t paying,” she says.  “It may make her feel that her dad or mom doesn’t love her enough to support her.

4. Keeping kids completely in the dark. Still, some key information is worth sharing, depending on the situation and your children’s ages, say Pescosolido. For instance, Anna felt deceived after her parents kept the reason for their divorce secret from her for a year.  “My parents split because my dad’s gay,” she says. “It’s better to be open then trying to ignore an issue because you’re embarrassed.”

5. Skipping family events because your ex will be there.  Unless there are extenuating circumstances, like abuse, you’ll likely need to attend some of the same events.  Salamoa says that adult children of divorce often dread coordinating special occasions with their parents. “Blending families when someone remarries is hard enough, but dealing with one or both parents refusing to attend gatherings can be near impossible,” she says.  “If parents aren’t careful, they may not get invited at all.”.

6. Making the situation all about you. If you agree to go somewhere your ex will be, handle the encounter gracefully.  Frankee, whose parents have been divorced since she was eight, says her mother’s anguish over being near her father ruined big moments.  When I graduated from college, my mom wouldn’t hug me until I’d said goodbye to my dad,” she says.  Blagg recommends ex-spouses ignore each other, rather than cause a scene, which only mortifies children.  “Choose your seats wisely,” she advises. “You don’t have to greet one another but remember that your going to be dealing with this individual for years to come.”


More to come…..