Children often feel helpless, confused, overwhelmed or lonely when their parents get divorced. This is for sure a challenging time for parents, and unfortunately children become part of the conflict.

Divorces are not always amicable, and oftentimes each parent has their own version of what is right or wrong for the children to know and they individually decide what is in the interest of the children according to their own beliefs. Most of the parents continue to care for their children and maintain a civilised, if not friendly, relationship with the person with whom they are separating.

For those who cannot keep that kind of relationship with their ex-spouse, it seems that children have much to say about it. If they could tell us what they think and what helps them and what not, here are some words of wisdom they would have to offer:

Here is what children don’t want to happen after a non-amicable divorceChildren do not want:

To see their parents arguingIt makes them feel guilty because they feel they caused / initiated the argument. Since they are fully dependent on their parents, they dread the moment that their parents will stop caring for them and leave them alone. Hence, their initial reaction is to blame themselves.

To be involved in conversations about the divorce and adult issuesThey don’t understand them, and they are not supposed to.

To hear about financial issues, alimony, or custodyThey feel less like children and more like objects for sale or material goods.

To be interrogated about what happens / happened at home with the other parentThey feel like they have to spy on their parents instead of spending fun time with them.

To be used as messengers for anything one parent needs to say to the otherThis means that they are the ones that have to deal with the reaction of the other parent, and that makes them feel scared, overwhelmed and anxious.

To feel guilty because one parent’s love makes the other one jealous and resentfulThey want to feel loved and protected by both parents – not guilty.

To feel bad when they want to talk to one parent on the phone while being at the other parent’s houseThey feel pressure and – once again – they do not want to choose between the two.

To stop seeing one parent or the otherIt is already stressful to be in the middle of the two most beloved people of their life. Let alone choose one over the other. They want to be able to love both of them completely and without guilt.

To act as a soundboard and listen to their parents blaming each other for what went wrong with their livesThey are too young to be able to cope with all this, and this is too stressful for them.

To see one parent ignoring or badmouthing the other, when they are all together in some sport or other social eventTheir true wish is to see you both simply behave like adults and protect them.

To answer questions that make them choose between one parent or the other, especially on where they want to liveIt is such a huge responsibility and a heavy burden to carry on their shoulders.

For everything to be too rigid or too looseThey prefer it when everyone is flexible and not clinging to the life they had before and their past choices. At the same time, they feel safer around boundaries, structure and stability.

Talk to them about your feelings in regards to the divorceThey would prefer if you could find a friend or a therapist to talk about what you are going through, instead of transferring your worries to them, since they cannot be of much help. They end up shutting off their own feelings because they see how overwhelmed you are, and they don’t want to burden you even more.

Try to see things from your child’s perspectiveA breakup or a divorce is not just a process of two people splitting up, but also a process of loss and grief for the whole family. Take your time to adjust to the new reality and at the same time try to see things from your children’s perspective, as this will help you empathise with them and help them in a more constructive and compassionate way.

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