Child Custody Myth #1: “Children benefit when parents ‘insulate’ them from the divorce.”

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This is the first of eight child custody myths articulated by David and Laura Sherwood, the parents in the film Talk to Strangers.

“We do a pretty good job of insulating our kids,” Laura asserts two minutes into the film.  Later on, we see Laura make good on that commitment:  “You know we don’t talk to you kids about the case!” she chastises Emily, cutting off a conversation with her daughter.

Like each of the 8 myths presented in Talk to Strangers, this one sounds reasonable enough… until we view it from the children’s perspective.  Consider, for example, Emily’s dismay upon learning that not only can’t she discuss custody issues with her parents, but she won’t be allowed to voice her preferences to the judge either.

“Great!” she exclaims, “I can’t talk to the judge or my parents—the only people who count?”


There’s a big difference between shielding children from parents’ antagonisms, and insulating them from the divorce altogether.

First, it’s impossible to “insulate” children from their parents’ divorce.  We see this, for example, when Nick overhears Laura’s phone conversations.

And even if “insulation” were possible, children don’t want or need it. The divorce, in which children have a tremendous stake, inevitably becomes an integral part of their lives.  In Talk to Strangers, we see how the siblings’ preoccupation with the divorce damages their relationship.  And ultimately, Nick quits his football team because his mind has become “all filled up” with the list of questions he carries around in his pocket because he has no one to talk to about them.

Parents who believe they are helping their children by refusing to discuss the divorce, only add to their children’s anxiety. Children are much better off when their parents agree upon what basic information – without judgments or financial or other details – will be shared with their children.

Agreeing on how, when and what to share with your children is a critical first step toward healthy post divorce co-parenting.

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