Talking About The Divorce Around Your Kids
One of the best ways that you can quell negative feelings directed toward one parent after the divorce is to come up with a plan together on how to talk about the pending divorce. This plan should include:
- When you will talk to your kids
- How you will tell your kids
- What you will tell your kids
Ideally, you will have this conversation with your children together. Children will likely feel scared and confused, but sometimes they will not react at all. Children need to know that the divorce is not their fault and that both of their parents love them and will continue to be there for them. Be honest with your children, but don’t cast blame. For example, if the divorce will cause you to have to move, let your kids know about this. They need to know how the divorce will impact your life. Also, avoid using the word “separation” if you are really going to divorce so that you do not give them false hope that you will rekindle your relationship.
Let your children express their fears, concerns, or ambivalence. Ask them if they have any questions and answer them together. Give them time to adjust to the news and provide reassurance when necessary.
Divorce can sometimes get ugly, but it is your job as a parent to shield your children from this ugliness. Be careful about what you say about the divorce and the other parent in front of your children. How you talk about the divorce in front of your kids will have a huge impact on how they view it and the other parent. At the same time, be honest with your children in an age appropriate way. It should be acknowledged if another person is involved and will be part of the new arrangement.
My Kids Don’t Want To Visit Their Dad
In many situations, the mom is the primary caregiver and may stay in the family home and have primary custody of the children during – and possibly after – the divorce process. Fathers may be given visitation according to a schedule set by the court or agreed upon by the parents. However, problems can sometimes arise when kids don’t want to visit their dad. This problem is common, especially in situations where the dad cheated or initiated the divorce because the children may view their father as the one who destroyed the family unit.
Courts may consider the wishes of the children when considering to whom to award custody. They will consider the child’s age and maturity level when weighing how much this preference influences the ultimate decision. For example, the court may view a situation in which a 14 year old doesn’t want to visit their father much differently than when a 10 year old doesn’t want to visit their dad, potentially finding the younger child’s preferences tainted by their loyalty to their primary caregiver or her influence.
Once a custody or visitation order is put in place, you must comply with it to avoid legal problems, such as being found in contempt of court. So, even if your 12 year old doesn’t want to visit their dad, you are still responsible for making sure he or she does if the other parent actively desires and pursues that relationship.
My Teenage Daughter Hates Her Dad
Teenage daughters may have a better understanding of their emotional responses and may be more expressive. Additionally, your teen daughter may empathize with you more as a female and may be able to imagine herself in your position, which may cause her to have strong negative feelings toward her father. She may even express her hatred for her father or outright reject him, which can make it difficult for the father to maintain a positive relationship with his teen daughter.
Additionally, teenagers are notoriously moody. It may be difficult to discern what is “normal” teen behavior versus a response to the divorce. Teens may also try to rebel as a way to assert their desire for greater independence, so they might create an issue about unwanted visitation and argue that they want to spend time with friends instead.
While it may be difficult to get through to a teen daughter during this time, it is important that you do not create barriers between your teen daughter and her father. He will need to continue to make overtures to spend time and not give up even when she seems uninterested. Some teens may even test their fathers to see how much they really care. It is vital to keep the channels of communication open.
You may be tempted to try to curtail time between your daughter and her father if she is adamant about not wanting to spend time with him. However, even if your teenage daughter hates her dad after the divorce, it is still important for him to be an active figure in her life. According to the Institute for Family Studies, girls who have a secure, supportive, and communicative relationship with their father are less likely to become pregnant as a teen or become sexually active in their early teens. Additionally, daughters with fathers who are actively engaged and encourage their self-reliance are more likely to graduate college and enter into higher-paying and more demanding jobs.
My Son Hates His Father
Sons who believe their father wronged their mother may also not want to see their father. Like with daughters, a father’s active role in their son’s life can lead to a more successful career and future romantic relationships, according to the Institute for Family Studies. As talk show host Dr. Phil says, “The most powerful role model in a child’s life is the same-sex parent.” Children learn about their role and place in this world by mimicking the actions of their same-sex parent. Cutting off the connection between a father and son can lead to confusion and resentment that lasts for many years to come.
My Kids Don’t Want To Visit Their Mom
In some situations, kids may not want to visit their mom if they feel she is responsible for the divorce. If children feel that their mom was selfish and her actions were opposed to their previous experience with her or perception of how a mother should act, they may resent and dislike her. However, having a healthy attachment with mothers will help children form stable relationships later in life, so it is important to encourage the connection between your kids and their mom.
Ways to Encourage the Relationship between Your Children and the Other Parent
It may initially feel good to be the favored parent. However, children will remember when parents put their ego in front of the child’s wellbeing. Eventually, your children may come to resent you for not trying to encourage their relationship with the other parent. While you can’t do anything about it if the other parent drifts out of your child’s lives, you can encourage their bond and not set up extra and unnecessary barriers.
Some ways to encourage the relationship between your children and the other parent, minimize conflict, and co-parent in a respectful way include:
During times of change, children really need to be able to rely on structure and routine. You can help in this regard by sticking to your regular routines, such as still having dinner at the same time, going through bedtime routines, and disciplining your children the same way you did before the divorce. Children should also know when they will be visiting the other parent and what the regular schedule will be.
If something comes up that affects the routine, try to be flexible. For example, swap weekends with your ex if an emergency prevented him or her from exercising visitation. This can help create goodwill and also show your kids that you can work together as a team.
Avoid using your child as a go-between with your ex. Try to communicate directly with your ex. If that isn’t working, you can use other options, such as a child custody app, mediation service, writing professional notes back and forth, or other means that do not put your child in the middle. Try to keep your child from being directly involved in adult issues.
Don’t Badmouth Your Ex
While your ex may give you plenty of ammunition during the divorce process, do not take the bait. Badmouthing your ex in front of your kids can affect how they feel about him and you. It may also be used against you in child custody hearings. Remember that when you insult your ex, you are insulting your children’s other parent.
Even if you are not on the best of terms with your ex, you can still be civil and aim for the same type of professionalism you would show to a coworker. Some examples include:
- Be on time for pickups and dropoffs
- Respect their privacy
- Exchange important details in writing
- Do not curse, yell, or attack them
If you are struggling with how to manage your child’s relationship with your ex after divorce, do not hesitate to reach out for support. You can access our Parenting Through Divorce program to hear advice from adult children of divorce about what they needed during and after divorce. You can access Parenting Through Divorce in the MasterPlan Divorce Recovery Program & Community for Women or in the Divorce Recovery Academy and Community for Men. You or your child may benefit from counseling. You may also want to consider working with a mediator who can help you and your ex come up with a co-parenting plan.