My Advice


Don't Put Your Children in the Middle During Divorce!

Posted on April 30, 2012 at 7:28 PM

Divorce is a significant event in the life of your child.  Whether he or she becomes permanently scarred or thrives can depend on how you and your partner manage conflict and create a cooperative parenting environment.  One book that I highly recommend to parents committed to protecting their children's emotional well-being during this difficult transition is titled "Cooperative Parenting and Divorce: Shielding Your Child from Conflict -- A Parent Guide to Effective Co-Parenting" by Susan Boyan and Ann Termini. I am excerpting from their book (below) some helpful guidelines (written in the child's voice) on how to avoid putting your son or daughter in an uncomfortable situation while you negotiate joint custody and living arrangements.

Do not talk badly about my other parent. (This make me feel torn apart! It also makes me feel
bad about myself!)
Do not talk about my other parent’s friends or relatives. (Let me care for someone even if
you don’t.)
Do not talk about the divorce or other grown-up stuff. (This makes me feel sick. Please
leave me out of it!)
Do not talk about money or child support. (This makes me feel guilty or like I’m a possession
instead of your kid.)
Do not make me feel bad when I enjoy my time with my other parent. (This makes me afraid
to tell you things.)
Do not block my visits or prevent me from speaking to my other parent on the
phone. (This makes me very upset.)
Do not interrupt my time with my other parent by calling too much or by planning
my activities during our time together.
Do not argue in front of me or on the phone when I can hear you! (This just turns my
stomach inside out.)
Do not ask me to spy for you when I am at my other parent’s home. (This makes me feel
disloyal and dishonest.)
Do not ask me to keep secrets from my other parent. (Secrets make me feel anxious.)
Do not ask me questions about my other parent’s life or about our time together. (This
makes me feel uncomfortable. So just let me tell you.)
Do not give me verbal messages to deliver to my other parent. (I end up feeling anxious
about their reaction. So please just call them, leave them a message at work or put a note in the
Do not send written messages with me or place them in my bag. (This also makes me
Do not blame my other parent for the divorce or for things that go wrong in your
life. (This really feels terrible! I end up wanting to defend them from your attack.
Sometimes it makes me feel sorry for you and that makes me want to protect you. I just
want to be a kid, so please, please…stop putting me into the middle!)
Do not treat me like an adult; it causes way too much stress for me. (Please find a
friend or a therapist to talk to.)
Do not ignore my other parent or sit on opposite sides of the room during my
school or sports activities. (This makes me very sad and embarrassed. Please act like
parents and be friendly, even if it is just for me.)
Do let me take items to my other home as long as I can carry them back and forth.
(Otherwise it feels like you are treating me as a possession.)
Do not use guilt to pressure me to love you more and do not ask me where I want to live.
Do realize that I have two homes, not just one. (It doesn’t matter how much time I spend there.)
Do let me love both of you and see each of you as much as possible! Be flexible even when
it is not part of our regular schedule.
THANKS, your loving child

Categories: Children, Custody, divorce, Mediation

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Reply Gerald Chambers
8:42 PM on May 7, 2012 
Good article and suggestions, Robert.

Conflict between parents can influence how children view themselves, relationships, and marriage. Studies have shown, that the most damaging aspects of divorce on children result from parents who engage in ongoing negative conflict. Children caught in the middle tend to have decreased self esteem, more behavior problems, and perform worse in school.

Conflict tactics are learned and passed down. Children can benefit greatly from watching their parents engage in constructive conflict. They can learn how to compromise,negotiate, and find mutually beneficial solutions. However, children should be shielded from destructive interactions between parents whenever possible, because unproductive conflict habits are hard to break.

It's impossible to avoid conflict in relationships, but it is possible to learn how to have constructive conflict that leads to agreements,solutions,and understanding rather than negative conflicts that break families apart,destroy relationships, and leave everyone wounded.
Reply eittan
12:15 AM on May 8, 2012 
This is very helpful, thank you, Robert!
Reply haliada
1:17 AM on January 31, 2022