5 Mistakes Divorced Parents Make


Making Their Child the Messenger

If the marriage ended badly, some people don’t want to speak to their ex-spouse, even if the conversation is kept to scheduling topics. They then fall into a habit of telling their kids to tell their mom/dad “I’ll pick you up next week at 4 because I have an appointment.” Even if the kids are responsible enough to pass the message along with all its details, you’re adding extra strain to your children.

Be an adult, pick up the phone and call your ex-spouse, or even text or email. There are plenty of routes to communicate that don’t require hearing his or her voice.

Conversing With Them About The Divorce

Some divorced parents see their teenage children as old enough to hear mom or dad’s emotional side of the story. Just because you’re divorced doesn’t make you any less of a parent, so act like one. That includes protecting your child from the emotional stress of getting wrapped up in your personal feelings with your ex-spouse.

Call up a friend or see a therapist if you really need to discuss your side.

Not Knowing How to Treat Weekends With the Ex-Spouse

After messy divorces, divorced parents often take one of two wrong routes in treating kids’ weekends with the ex-spouse. They either act like it didn’t happen, avoiding any conversation, or bombard the kids with questions and offer snide remarks. Either way makes kids feel stressed and guilty about enjoying time with one of their parents.

Treat your kids weekend away like a weekend away. Ask general questions or whether they had fun, what they did, anything special planned for next time, etc. Keep your snide remarks of your ex-spouse’s new partner to yourself, and don’t ever lead your child to feel guilty for enjoying him or herself.

Try to Solve Their Kids’ Feelings

Divorced parents may feel guilty about placing their kids in a less than perfect situation and for that reason will try to identify a child’s feelings and express empathy to the child. Even if the parent is from a divorced family himself, doing this will diminish the importance of a child’s feelings and even develop an idea that divorce is normal.

Simply allow your kids to express their feelings, don’t identify feeling for them. Ask questions to help them categorize their feelings and make sure you’re both on the same page. For example: don’t say, “I know you’re upset about mommy and daddy living apart” instead, “How do you feel about mommy and daddy living apart?” Your kids may be fine with the divorce especially if they’re relieved to not be in a house of yelling any longer, by telling them they should be upset you might confuse them.

Not Working as a Team

Just because you’re divorced, doesn’t mean you and your ex-spouse aren’t both equal parents to your children. Continue following the same lines of discipline and child development. If not, your kids will get savvy as to what they can get away with at who’s house, leading to potential conflict as they get older.

So put your pride aside, text/email/call your ex and let them know the current antics the kids are up to and how you’ve been handling them.

Comments (4)
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After divorce, smart parents quiz themselves regularly to see if they are not falling into some of the traps of destructive post-divorce parenting. If you find yourself making any of these mistakes, it's never too late to make amends - for the sake of your children!


When children are involved in separation and divorce, usually the most contentious area of parental discord, centers around the topics of the children's residence and the parental access schedule. If it is possible to work out a schedule that is acceptable to both parents and beneficial to the children, on many different levels, the rest of the needed changes and solutions to new problems are more likely to fall into place.


Allowing kids to express their feelings is important. It'll make handling the divorce and transitioning to splitting custody much easier.


Having taught classes for hundreds of divorced parents I have see certain issues arise consistently. I think that most step-parents have good intentions but many are unprepared for the stress and conflict that can arise when they begin dating or marry someone with children. Below, is a list I have compiled of five mistakes commonly made by step-parents (and biological parents for the matter).