Do’s and Don’ts For Parents and Children Going Through Separation or Divorce
No. You didn’t misread the title. Unfortunately, in today’s day and age, more and more children and teens have to be the ones that take on the responsible role of setting boundaries in the family. This is the most common when parents are going through a separation or divorce. Here are some usual scenarios that happen in this family dynamic along with what the parents and kids should be doing.
Scenario 1: Parents are going through trial or legal separation and one parent is dating someone. The opposite parent wants to find out who this other person is; how long they’ve been dating, etc. The parent asks the child to find out for them.
PARENT: Do NOT let your child be your personal spy, this is crossing a line and involving your child in inappropriate behavior. Instead, keep communication open and find out for yourself. If your partner is lying or communication is next to impossible, then implement adult help such as a therapist, lawyer, etc.
KID: Tell your parent no if he or she asks you to interject in a subject you are not comfortable with. This is not disobedience since what they are asking is out of line. Be respectful in your response, but say something like, I do not feel comfortable asking mom/dad about that and do not believe it’s my place to do so.
Scenario 2: Parents have gone through a legal divorce and nearly hate one another. Each parent constantly belittles the other parent and talks poorly about one another.
PARENT: Keep in mind that your child is 50% you and 50% your spouse, so when you say something terrible about your spouse, your kid is hearing that 50% of themself is horrible as well. Even if that’s not what you intend or even believe, this is how the child is processing it. Also, your ex may be a great parent, but a horrible spouse; therefore, your kid loves and admires your ex even though you no longer do. Nobody wants to hear someone insult a person they love, so if you no longer respect your ex, at least respect your child.
KID: As difficult as it may be, let your parent know that you do not want to hear negative comments about your other parent. They may not listen at first because they are going through their own hurt, but keep reiterating it and they will eventually respect where you’re coming from. Remind them that you love this parent and are not going through the same feelings as they are. And give them the old saying: If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. Please and thank you! (Remember, still be respectful!)
Scenario 3: Parents are divorced, but one is still in love with the other. This parent seeks help, love, understanding or a listening ear from their child.
PARENT: You are recruiting the wrong person for this. The type of hurt, betrayal, or devastation that you are feeling is something that your child has NO wisdom in. They have never been through this and they do not have the education or training to help you. While you may feel better after venting, the damage you have done to your child is immense. Instead, seek out a professional counselor, a pastor, a spiritual advisor, a life coach, a best friend, a stranger, ANYONE but your kid. They cannot handle it, even if they seem like they can.
KID: As much as you don’t want to see your parent hurting and may even want to help, you have to remember that this is not your role. You are the child/teen and your life responsibilities are nowhere near taking emotional care of your parent. Your job is friends and school (and maybe even a part time job), but that is it. You are not a caretaker. Simply tell your parent, I love you, but I am not equipped to help you with this, who can you call to better help you?
Whether you are the parent or child in this unfortunate situation, keep one thing in mind: BOUNDARIES. And once you set a boundary, make sure you maintain it. If you have trouble setting boundaries or respecting them, then do not be afraid to ask for help from others. Even though you are a family unit, you can all benefit from outside resources.
If you are a family struggling with any of these types of scenarios, then call Life Counseling Solutions to help implement the tools to maintain a healthy and functional family dynamic. You can call 407-622-1770 for a free consultation or to schedule an appointment online here.
Author: DeAnn MacCloskey