6 Do’s and Don’ts to Keep Kids Out of the Conflict
Children caught in the middle between two conflicted parents is challenging to say the least. Parenting can already be quite daunting. Then throwing in high conflict between two adults – it becomes – sometimes, beyond daunting. Mistakes are made. Troubles are magnified. Emotions are in high engine. And the price that gets paid too often, is the child caught between the two adults.
by Dr. Dean Beckloff | Contributor
- Don’t talk about the other parent, the other parent’s friends, relatives, or other relationships to the child. That’ll put the child right in the uncomfortable middle.
- Don’t talk about the divorce or any other grown up business to the child. They do not need to know the “truth” as either parent sees it. Above all, don’t blame the other parent for the divorce – or for anything to the child.
- Don’t talk about money or child support to the child, regardless of their age. I’ve had high school students put in the uncomfortable position of having to hear how the other parent needs to pay for gas, or whatever, through the support given.
- Don’t block visits or prevent the child from speaking to the parent by phone, or make the child feel bad when with the other parent. Along with that, don’t ask questions that put the child in the position of feeling as if they are telling on the other parent.
- Don’t send verbal or written messages to the other parent, through the child.
- Don’t ask the child where he or she wants to live. The child has two homes where they can be loved and cared for and where they can be themselves.
- Do realize that the child has two parents who each love him or her. No parent is perfect, and you can support the relationship regardless of the flaws.
- Do allow the child to be the child. They do not need to know adult business, and realize, kids like to know adult business. But keep the child the child – including teens. If you feel they are listening to adult business – and they probably are – change any topic that you may be discussing.
- Do realize that the child has two homes. Refrain from calling your home the ‘home.’ Call both homes their home – their home with Mom and their home with Dad.
- Do be flexible about times the child can be at either home – or at a friend’s house! Especially as kids grow up, they more and more are seeking to establish their own life. Don’t get in the way of that natural and normal process. Be on their side of growing up and expanding their lives.
- Do acknowledge the other parent, be polite and cordial, especially in public events like practices and games or other events. Treat your co-parent with respect. Doing less will mortify your child, will put them in the middle, create tensions that the child does not need, and at the very least will do nothing to demonstrate good manners. Be polite.
- Do allow your kids to love both parents, without restraint, and to see each parent as much as possible. Be flexible even when it is not part of the regular schedule.
And finally, get help. Read books – there are any number of good books now that can help parents avoid the pitfalls. Consult with a therapist who has experience in working with families who function in two homes. When there are mental health issues in one of the parents, that is all the more reason to seek help. The kid or teen, needs an outlet where they simply don’t have to worry about who they might offend – in other words, a neutral party.
All of this can assure that your kids have a great chance of growing up well, happily adjusted, and that they will learn from these experiences in life.