Since 1988, Kids' Turn has been listening to the voices of children as they express their problems when their parents divorce. Based on their comments, here are the top five admonitions from children on which separating parents can build new behaviors during 2011.
Stop fighting in front of me. I hate it when you fight. This very simple concept verifies the reality that parental conflict is the number one cause of childhood difficulties when parents separate or divorce. If separating parents cannot be civil to one another, find alternative ways to communicate so the volatility when children are present is reduced or eliminated.
Stop criticizing my mom/dad in front of me. Each child carries genetic or acquired characteristics from both parents. When one parent criticizes the other, the child personalizes the criticism to include those characteristics shared with the target parent. Save the criticisms for your attorney or mediator, but keep the child out of it.
Don't ask me what is going on in my other parent's house. Keep the children out of the role of spying or reporting on what the former spouse is doing. If parents want to know how the former partner is managing in a different house, hire a detective.
Let me make some decisions about the changes in my life. Obviously, parents are making major decisions which make children feel their lives are completely out of control. Age-appropriate input (ex: picking out colors for a new room; creating new holiday traditions; ideas for the visitation schedule) helps children feel they have a voice in the process and that their wishes are respected and considered.
Continue to be my parent. Parents can become very self-absorbed as the marriage unravels. As a result, parenting suffers during separation. Small children are frightened by out-of-control behavior by their parents, and teenagers require steady, consistent supervision. Staying engaged (or re-engaged) with parenting responsibilities must be a priority as the family reorganizes.
By following the expressed suggestions of divorce children, newly separated parents can help their kids navigate the unsettling family turbulence to which they will be exposed in 2011. Additionally, parents will establish themselves as calmer role models able to carry on through one of life's most stressful situations.