Sometimes, divorce gets ugly. At best, names are dragged through the mud and relationships are tarnished. At worst, the kids are involved and dragged right alongside them, and parents are forced out. Kids who are raised in a relative state of normalcy as far as family dynamics cannot be harshly pulled from that and tossed into a world of ugly arguments and uncertainty if anyone expects them to remain stable in their own lives and relationships. No matter how serious the issue is that’s prompted divorce, it’s important to keep several things in mind so that the divorce doesn’t lead to any hostile parental alienation.
Protect the Kids by Monitoring What They Hear
High conflict divorce usually comes out of nowhere, and is prompted by the actions of one parent or another. Maybe it’s an affair, maybe it’s embezzling, maybe it’s an addiction that’s been discovered. Either way – these are all very grown up things that kids should be sheltered from, assuming that their safety is not in jeopardy. If they must know the specific reason for the divorce, spare them the details until they’re old enough to maturely process them or make the decision not to find out. No matter what, make sure your explanation age appropriate and in line with what your ex will say; always seek council if you need help discussing the divorce with your kids. If possible, have a conversation with your ex (through the lawyers, if need be), of what you’ll tell the kids. At the end of the day, be willing to seek out counseling on behalf of your children if you believe they may need it.
Don’t Speak Ill of Each Other Publicly
Your children will take what you say to heart, so do not say anything untrue or heavy in opinion about your ex that’s just not necessary. Bear in mind that your child needs to maintain a healthy relationship with both parents for their own well being (as long as it’s safe for them to do so), and your ill words and negative feelings only serve to make that process much more difficult. Keep it to yourself.
KeepThe Kids Best Interest at Heart
As previously stated, you’re going to have to swallow many words, and stomach many ill feelings to spare your kids from developing unhealthy feelings towards you or their other parent. If you truly want to help them maintain a sense of normalcy during a time where their world has already been turned upside down, you must keep their best interest at heart when you consider your actions and your words regarding your family dynamic and situation.
Set Legal Boundaries, and Then Respect Them
Work with lawyers to determine what your boundaries are. It make take several months, even years to determine custody arrangements and boundaries for your family, so do your best to be flexible so that your kids are getting the care and attention that they need from both parents. Once boundaries have been set, take great care to respect them and to report them if they’re not being respected. Boundaries are in place for a reason, a judge has determined that this is the appropriate outcome for now; to neglect those could be detrimental to the health of the family that you’re trying to piece back together. As painful as it may be sometimes, it’s important to understand that you can’t expect your ex to respect those those guidelines if you don’t respect them.
Parental alienation is often unnecessary and could be avoided if the divorce was handled in a different way. Get a grip on your feelings. Protect the kids, keep their best interest at heart, don’t speak ill of each other publicly, and set and respect legal boundaries, and your children will maintain a sense of mental health that they might lose otherwise.