The aftershocks of a divorce are stressful, and even traumatic in some cases, on everyone affected by the transition, but children might experience this more acutely because they shoulder the impact of a situation they often don’t understand.
While over time, many children adapt to the changes in their lifestyles and routines, during the initial period of adjustment, they can feel rejected, anxious, withdrawn, confused or angry.
These emotions are normal since children often lack the cognitive maturity to process the disturbance of their family structure, even if it was necessary or unavoidable. Children don’t always grasp the reasons behind a divorce, nor should they be expected to. They just know that Mom and Dad are separated now, and they’re being shuttled from one house to another without the permanence or stability that used to exist under a single roof.
As children grapple with these dynamics and acclimate to their new circumstances, they might internalize blame for the divorce and assume they misbehaved or initiated a conflict to produce this outcome.
However, as the parent, you can neutralize these worries and help children navigate this transition as smoothly as possible when you avoid certain topics of discussion. While it’s reasonable to feel bitterness toward your former spouse, he is still the children’s father, and informing them of all the areas he wounded you is neither age-appropriate nor constructive for their healing process.
When it comes to talking about your divorce here are 4 details you shouldn’t tell your children about your ex.
Just because these details might be true, does not mean it’s beneficial for their young and sensitive ears to absorb that information.
He Was Involved in an Affair
If your ex-husband desires a healthy relationship with the children and active participation in their lives, then disclosing his infidelity to them is bound to deter that endgame. This could be a source of vindication for you, but it’s unfair to the children if they’re still on positive terms with their father.
Once they know his decision to be unfaithful was an impetus for the divorce, the children might feel pressure to choose your side of the conflict and harbor guilt over wanting to maintain a connection with Dad.
He Does Not Help Financially
It might be an ordeal to persuade your ex-husband to be more consistent with child support, but even if this stretches your finances, the children don’t need to experience that added stress. When you discuss complaints about money or their father’s reluctance to contribute, this can make children fear they are financial burdens to either one or both of their parents.
Your hassle with the child support arrangement is not an issue that children should be forced to worry about, much less have an awareness of.
He Drinks Too Much Alcohol
When your ex-husband lives with a pattern of substance abuse, the ramifications of his behavior will impact the children, but in most cases, you can still protect their innocence and preserve his relationship with them. Addiction is a complex disease that children wrestle to understand.
But while it’s tempting to make dismissive comments like, “He’s selfish, lazy or erratic because he drinks too much,” addressing their questions with compassion will offer the answers they seek without vilifying their father.
He Prefers Being at the Office
Often a divorce is the result of your ex-husband seeming to prioritize his career over time spent with his family, but to express your grievances about this in front of the children is basically to communicate, “Dad thinks his work is more important than you.”
Even if this was the implicit message you received while married to him, there is no reason to give your children that same impression. For their own emotional security, children need to believe they are both Mom and Dad’s number-one priority.
Because a divorce is painful and bewildering territory to fumble through, it’s impossible to shield your children from all the sorrow or upheaval. But making a commitment not to treat them as sounding-boards for your frustration will reduce the chance of them feeling like pawns in the tension between each of their parents.
This works to rebuild a sense of both normalcy and safety in the home which has a positive effect on children’s emotional and psychological development in the long-term.