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How to Avoid the Biggest Mistake Divorced Parents Make

April 09, 2024
Advice, Parenting Tips
Avoid the Biggest Mistake Divorced Parents Make

You’ve likely heard concerning statistics about children of divorce. They are more likely to:

  • Display behavioral problems in and out of school
  • Make poorer grades
  • Suffer from depression
  • Demonstrate aggressive behaviors
  • Use drugs and alcohol

But those statistics don’t have to be the fate of every child of divorce. Divorced parents with well-adjusted kids do (or rather don’t do) one vital thing.

Below, we expose the single biggest mistake you could make after your divorce. It increases your child’s likelihood of falling victim to grim statistics. Plus, we’ll tell you how to avoid it and what to do instead.

The Biggest Mistake

The biggest mistake you can make is entirely within your realm of control. That big mistake is…letting anger get the best of you.

Understandably, you may have built up anger stemming from your divorce. Like a chemical reaction gone wrong, you are a bubbling-over beaker of frothy, hot hatred.

While your anger is natural and possibly even justified, problems arise when you allow that anger to compromise your relationship with your child. More than the divorce itself, what harms a child most is often the parents’ responses and reactions to it.

Avoid the following actions if you want your child to bounce back quickly after your divorce.

Avoid Public Battles

Fighting and yelling at your co-parent around your child is secretly breaking their heart and causing more harm than the divorce. Don’t even attempt to “have words” with your co-parent within earshot of your child.

Think you can hide your anger in a closed-door telephone conversation? Think again. Children easily pick up on tones and feelings. That bedroom or bathroom door couldn’t soundproof you enough.

You have to take on a business-like tone when talking to your co-parent. Stay cool, calm, and collected no matter what.

Children subjected to constant parental fights (even pre-divorce ones) feel helpless. They want to fix the problem but don’t know how. They can get stuck in a pattern or negative emotions. What starts as helplessness can turn to self-loathing and blame as time passes.

Your uncontrolled anger may place your child in an anxiety-causing role reversal scenario. They feel they must care for you instead of the other way around.

Do This Instead

Vent to a licensed therapist. Their neutral perspective and relationship strategies can equip you to deal with your ex. It’s worth the money, and your insurance may cover all or a portion.

Avoid Trying to Be the Favorite

Trying to be the “favorite” parent can lead to manipulative tactics. It can worsen your child’s stress, anxiety, depression, and aggression.

Untruthful, vilifying, and demeaning words don’t make you look better. Putting your kids in the middle or making them feel as if they must choose one parent to love is emotional abuse.

Do This Instead

Understand that children can hold enormous amounts of love for all the caring adults in their lives. That goes for grandparents, too.

Keep resentful speech to yourself. Don’t use your children as sounding boards–that’s a parent/child boundary that should remain respected.

Children pick up on non-verbal communication, too. Keep your eye-rolls, sarcasm, and tone of voice in check.

Listen to divorce-related podcasts or journal your feelings. Join a divorce support group or find a therapist.

Take the high road, or your children may grow to resent you or disassociate from you in their adulthood.

Avoid Busy-ness

You’ll likely be busier than ever as one half of a co-parenting team. A two-person job has become a one-person operation.

You have needs and dreams, too. You may desire a more active social life, want to date, or focus on your career or education.

However, your children don’t want to arrive at a custody exchange or your home only to be handed over to a caretaker. They need all the quality time you can give them.

Do This Instead

Do your best to schedule your social life, career, chores, and education outside your custody time.

Turn any amount of time into quality time by showing attentiveness and positive energy. Give your kids your undivided attention for a few minutes a few times a day. They’ll feel seen and heard. As your child matures, you can decrease the time you put into these “attentive” periods.

Play with your child during times of mindful attentiveness. Talk with them. Listen to how their day or week has gone without asking prying questions about your co-parent. Tell them over and over again how much you love them.

Use a co-parenting app to help you manage all the extra stuff that goes into co-parenting and free up more of your time. Track expenses, pay child support, and create schedules and share it all with your co-parent within the app.

Avoid Alienation Behaviors

Don’t alienate your co-parent from their child. Don’t change, interrupt, or interfere with the custody schedule and your child’s special time together with your ex. Don’t keep your co-parent waiting at custody exchanges.

Do This Instead

The silver lining to the ugly cloud of divorce is that you gain time to yourself when your child is in your co-parent’s care. Use that time productively: rest, read, watch a movie, get together with friends, or date.

Use a co-parenting app to set a custody schedule you and your co-parent agree on. Share, request, and make adjustments within the app so you always know what’s happening regarding raising your children together.

Controlling Your Anger

You might feel one or a combination of emotions from your divorce, including rejection, embarrassment, worthlessness, or deception building inside you. Let off steam anywhere but in front of your children. Guard your words, actions, and even thoughts.

Safeguard your child from any emotional or psychological damage you could cause with your anger. Remember: Your attitude is the key to your child’s healthy adjustment after divorce.

Turn to a mental health therapist to help with complex, ongoing, negative emotions. Use co-parent apps to manage your extra child-raising tasks. And remember to keep interactions between you and your co-parent business-like for your kid’s sake.

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How to Avoid the Biggest Mistake Divorced Parents Make

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