Kids will be more likely to manipulate and use your divorce to their advantage if they see you and your ex in competition with each other.
No bones about it – divorce is hard, and it is painful. And if there is a child involved, it is even harder. As responsible and caring parents we strive to do all that we can to lessen the pain and disruption to our children’s lives during – and after – the divorce process.
But what if you suspect that your darling kid may actually be taking advantage of your divorce? Who despite – or even because of – their pain will try to lever all that they can from you? Who will conveniently look past your pain and suffering and manipulate the situation in their favor to suit a passing need? Even if that ‘need’ is not a need at all and will likely be dumped by them for the next ‘need’ when it comes up?
My kids were fifteen and thirteen when my husband (very unexpectedly) left the family – difficult ages to begin with without the added dynamic of divorce thrown into the mix. They were no doubt shocked and confused by what was happening, and being teenagers lacked the ability, for the most part, to process their feelings and pain in an appropriate manner.
Did they try to manipulate the situation to their advantage when there was something to be gained? You bet. Did I at times feel wretchedly guilty at the situation they were in and therefore give in to their stupid demands? You bet. Three years later do they still try this on me? Yes, sometimes. Do I still give in and let them have their way? No.
I have learned that my children are exactly that – my children. And that I, as the PARENT in the equation, need to set appropriate boundaries with said children. I have learned the importance of:
- Not giving my power away (by giving in to ridiculous requests and demands) because of a misguided sense of GUILT on my part
- Saying NO as and when appropriate
At the end of the day, kids will be fine IF they can see that you are fine. If they can see that you are in control and in charge and NOT someone to be pushed over, they will come through the divorce relatively unscathed. In fact, not only will they come through unscathed – they will learn the fine art of RESILIENCE. A VALUABLE life lesson.
Also, it is important to note that kids will be more likely to manipulate and use your divorce to their advantage if they see you and your ex in competition with each other. If you and your ex can manage to put on a united front and agree on at least the important things (hard at times, I know) your child will be less likely at act up.
Here are 4 Ways to Tell If Your Kid Is Manipulating and Taking Advantage of Your Divorce
They play one parent against the other for their own advantage
You may hear something like ‘Dad is so mean, he never lets me buy the things that I want in the food aisle’. And against your better will, you may give in and buy your child the desired item (even though deep down you agree with Dad that he or she shouldn’t have it). Be careful here! You can bet your bottom dollar that your little darling is trying the same thing on Dad, and that he or she isn’t in the least concerned with what is right or wrong here – they are playing you by pulling on your heartstrings and appealing to your vulnerable side so you readily and easily give in.
They tell you they want to live with the other parent
When you don’t do something to their liking, you may have this one thrown at you. If you’re lucky, you may hear it more than once! Of course, there may be a legitimate reason that a child wants to spend more time with the other parent, and a relationship with both parents should always be encouraged for children of divorce. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
What I’m talking about here is kiddie blackmail. Something akin to ‘if you don’t let me do so and so, I will make your life even lonelier and more miserable than it already is by going to live with Dad’. Of course, they probably won’t use these exact words, but this is essentially what they mean. Don’t give in! See it for what it is – manipulation – and DO NOT GIVE IN.
They tell you they need more freedom
This may be something along the lines of ‘This divorce has had a terrible effect on me. I’ll feel much better if I’m allowed out Friday and Saturday with no curfew’. Again – kiddie blackmail. If you are any kind of a decent parent, you will be fully aware of the effects of the divorce on your child, and you will have done all that you can to make things as easy and pain-free as they can possibly be. So don’t let your little darling convince you that the solution to the upheaval is unrestricted access to friends and alcohol.
They tell you they can’t do their schoolwork and/or chores
Of course, your child may be suffering some anxiety due to your divorce and may, therefore, have legitimate trouble keeping up with their regular routine. This is to be expected, and some leeway should be given in the early days of your divorce due to this. But if some time has passed and they don’t otherwise appear to be depressed, they may just be trying to get out of their responsibilities. It is important here to teach your child that sad and unfortunate as divorce is, life goes on. We all still need to get up in the mornings, live our lives, and do what needs to be done.
As your child’s parent, you are the best judge as to how your child is coping with your divorce, and whether or not they are manipulating the situation to their advantage. Hopefully, these tips may save you a little stress and confusion along the way.