6. Using a child as a pawn or trophy.
If a parent entices a child by smothering them with attention, the other children can feel abandoned and left out as they see their sibling gain undeserved or random gifts and favors. This choice can set your kids against one another, as the parents continue the emotional battle them.
I’ve seen this happen most often when a parent has narcissistic traits, and “needs” the kids – and still wants to hurtfully manipulate the other parent.
7. Loyalty or a sense of guilt toward the parent who’s perceived as alone.
Many children are very sympathetic and in some cases, they can worry about the parent who is now living separately. Sometimes joint custody isn’t worked out because of work schedules or other factors. So this loyalty isn’t manipulated; it’s truly an awareness.
It’s usually the oldest or the youngest child who feels this loyalty and will voice worry or concern, or even wanting more time with you. Yet if you struggle with substance abuse or some other significant problem that you haven’t take responsibility for, you may try to elicit that sympathy. And that’s manipulation.
8. Being used as a messenger.
This dynamic causes extreme stress on the children. With little to no communication between the adults, frequently the children are used to communicate, “Tell your mother to pick you up Friday after school and that she needs to fill out your school forms.”
Sometimes it’s far worse, “Tell your father that I’m aware he’s still seeing that woman that broke up our marriage and that he should stop lying to me. I’ve seen her Instagram photos of them together.” Using your children to fight your adult battles puts them in a highly unfair position.
9. A non-custodial parent dealing with depression/disenfranchisement.
Maybe you didn’t fight about custody at all. Some agree on primary or joint. If you did fight, someone lost the battle. The parent who “lost” can feel a sense of disenfranchisement or a sense of being cut off from the basic rights of parenting. And that can lead to depression. More women are having to cope with these same feelings as judges aren’t awarding automatic custody to moms.
So how does that disenfranchisement affect kids? Obviously, if you get depressed, then their lives will be affected. But you also may give them the message that you’re not okay. And then it becomes their “job” to make you happy.
10. When all they hear is blame and disrespect.
Kids want to love both their parents. Painting your ex as a bad, stupid or weak person can either make your child want to defend that parent or if constant enough, can give them permission to also show disrespect.
Legal divorce can happen way before emotional divorce does. And that’s not fair for your kids. Your anger or disappointment or sense of failure needs to be worked out with a therapist or a friend – not your child.
How many times have I seen the hurt still present in an adult’s eyes, created when they’re remembering their long waits for Mom or Dad to show up for “their weekend,” and it never happened?
Too many times.
That hurt entrenches itself. The child’s self-worth and sense of security plummets.
The best way you can help your child? Get emotionally divorced yourself. Quit fighting the same battles you fought within your marriage. Focus on what is best for your children.
And try to be the best parent and parenting partner you can be.
If you want to get some help with emotional divorce, click here! It takes time.
Check out Dr. Margaret Rutherford’s bestselling book Perfectly Hidden Depression on Amazon. Her book will be translated into seven different languages and will be available this year.
Divorce is never an easy decision, more so when there are children involved. Many parents tend to underestimate the effects of parental divorce on children, and that is why it is very important for you to help your child deal with your divorce. When you and your spouse work together to help your child with your divorce, it makes the process easier for them to handle. At the end of the day, they are children, and without their parents’ support, it is not possible for them to understand such complicated dynamics.