Parenting during divorce poses unique and difficult challenges for even the most well intentioned mothers and fathers. Many parents find themselves preoccupied if not overwhelmed by the divorce and all the emotions and uncertainties that accompany it. As a result, these parents become less able to attend to the needs of their children who need them more than ever during this turbulent time.
As a conscientious divorcing parent, you can serve the interests of your children by avoiding the following mistakes commonly made during divorce. But even if you do have a bad moment (it’s okay, nearly everyone does), use the experience to strengthen your resolve to not let it happen again.
Divorcing parents promote their children’s well-being by retooling their co-parenting relationship early in the divorce process. Adding new ground rules to old shared values redirects parents’ focus from their own conflict to the children’s needs. It also creates momentum for a long-term parenting plan and a co-parenting relationship that produces healthier children.
Here are a dozen Parenting Goal Statement staples:
➢ We will shield our children from our conflict.
➢ We will not use our children as messengers or confidants.
➢ We will not put our children in the position of “choosing sides.”
But there may be more to it than that. I believe that custody battles are so damaging because they deprive children of the very things they need most during divorce.
A “Top 4 List” of children’s needs during divorce would read something like this:
- An end to their parents’ fighting
- An end to uncertainty about where and with whom they will be living
- A return to some degree of normalcy in their lives
This is the first of eight child custody myths articulated by parents David and Laura Sherwood 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 declares, cutting off a conversation with her daughter Emily.
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 when she learns 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.
Most parents continue to co-parent their children after divorce. Absent circumstances where children are at risk, parents have the responsibility to put the their children first by working out a parenting plan that is in the children’s interests.
If you are unable to resolve children’s issues with your co-parent, a judge will. There are a number of reasons to avoid that:
➢ The custody evaluation process can humiliate, frighten and compromise your children, and cause them enduring emotional harm.