Deciding on Divorce
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Perhaps the cruelest thing a parent can do to a child is to put him or her in the middle of a divorce. Children are not property to be awarded as a prize. Although you might not think it could happen to you, most divorcing couples lose sight of the impact the divorce has on their children.
Divorce is so unnatural when children are involved. Think of it from their perspective. They are in a home—and now they have two homes. If you are having a war with your ex-husband, both homes become battlegrounds. The children do not feel safe and secure anywhere.
Consider the Children
It's best to approach uncoupling as reasonably as possible. If you can avoid a battle over custody you stand a greater chance of moving ahead with your life in a healthy way. Most important, the more vicious the divorce, the more it will hurt the emotional growth of your children.
The single most damaging factor for children of divorce is the continued conflict between the parents. If the parents have a bloodbath and vent their emotions through the court system, the children are the victims. They feel like rubber bands pulled between the two most important people in their lives. They have an inherent loyalty to each parent and should never be made to choose.
Working Through the Visitation Worries
When your children spend time with their father you are sure going to feel a sense of helplessness, and you will want to know what goes on at his house. It is only natural. In many situations the children have not been away from you, their mother, for any length of time. When you divorce, unless the court finds strong reasons to prevent this, you are going to have to send your children to their father's house while you stay home and worry.
Shared Custody Works Best for Kids
What divorcing parents frequently forget is that the child loves both of them and doesn't want to have to pick sides. The child will want to maintain a relationship with both his mother and his father. Even in cases of violence and abuse. Unfortunately, in some situations the court has to limit the involvement of one parent. The children who have the most difficult time adjusting are those who are prevented from seeing and having a relationship with one parent. When a parent is suddenly absent from their lives children frequently think it is because of something they have done wrong.
Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This
Even though you would like to make your ex-husband disappear, you have to accept that your child wants a relationship with him. You may think he is an untrustworthy person, but you should not say so to your child. By bad-mouthing your ex you only hurt the child and potentially damage his trust in you. You do not want to force your child to choose between the two of you. And you do not want to diminish your ex in the eyes of his children. Eventually, your child will figure out his parents' merits and faults for himself.
Your Child Needs the Two of You
In typical circumstances your child will adjust best if he or she is permitted to have a relationship with both parents. That is to say, your child should feel neither your interference nor your disapproval when she builds a relationship with your ex. Even if your ex is not as supportive of this philosophy as you are, do not be pulled into an ongoing battle. Your children are able to learn by example.
Your child will have issues with her father that are separate from your relationship with her. Although it is very difficult to do, you should let them resolve their own issues. Be supportive but do not get in the middle; if you do, you will be the one to get burned. Children of divorce learn the art of manipulation. Do not be played as a pawn.
More on: Dealing With Divorce
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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