Raising Happy Children after Parents Divorce

Divorce is filled with emotions for everyone involved. Even before parents divorce, children pick up on tensions and stress. Following three simple rules will help you and your ex-spouse raise happy children after divorce.

1. No message service.

Even though Junior is going to his mother’s home this weekend, don’t send a message with him…not even in his luggage. By sending a message with your child, you force him to negotiate with his other parent in a situation where you should be doing the talking. You are adding too much stress.

Need a way to message? Email, text or instant message your ex. The communication is between two adults without asking Junior to be the middle man or coming face-to-face with either of his parents.

Need to speak in person? Stay on point. Do not swallow the bait if your ex decides to plumb the depths of anger or resentment. State plainly, “I appreciate your feelings, but I am here only to discuss Junior’s ball game on Saturday.”

When possible, speak outside the earshot of your child. If not, stay focused. When a fight ensues over a discussion about him, he is more likely to feel guilty, as he will assume he is the cause of the tension. Your child’s emotional health depends on your ability to maintain your feelings.

2. Don’t you get it?

Everyone needs to feel like someone understands. As a parent, your child needs to know you understand her feelings. Divorce creates emotional turmoil for children. Listen to her. Do not tell her what you think or feel. Stay on point. This discussion is about *her* feelings.

Above all, do not criticize your ex: It is a criticism of your child. Why? Your child is 50% your ex.

Respond to what she says. Do not editorialize. Use the same words she does. “You are feeling _________ about having to meet your dad’s new girlfriend, right?” Then, listen again.

You do not have to have a solution. You do have to listen. Emotional healing comes from knowing you understand how she feels.
If the feelings are lingering, suggest she write them in a journal. She can share the journal with your ex, but only if she wants to share.

3. No third degree.

When Junior comes home on Sunday, play the middle of the field. Do not interrogate him about every moment and everyone’s actions. Instead, ask as though he went to stay the weekend with your brother.

This will keep the conversation light and focused on him, not your ex. When Junior is finished talking, let it go.

If you keep silent about his visit, you build a wall. You add stress to him by silently asking him to compartmentalize. Your disinterest translates into Junior thinking he must avoid speaking to you about this experience.

You always want your child to share his day with you. Do not make exceptions when he spends the day with your ex. It is not fair to your child and could lead to secrets in other areas of his life.

Open, fun, general questions about the visit are good for diffusing tension, celebrating the fact he still has two parents and cementing open communication between you.

You can raise happy children, even after divorce.