9 Ways Parents Unwittingly Harm Their Kids During Divorce

Many parents who have gone through divorce will tell you the experience was emotionally trying for all involved. What they may not realize is how actions they took during the divorce affected their children, sometimes in a negative way.

To help minimize emotional damage for your family, consider the list below of nine common ways parents inadvertently harm their kids. Members of our Dallas family law firm also provide several tips and resources you may find helpful during the divorce process.

No. 1: Underestimating the impact divorce may have on your child’s mental health.

Divorce can be a tumultuous time, especially for young children who are going through a period where they are evolving and maturing quickly. Those early years are also a time when children develop their senses of self, ego, super ego and conscience, as well as their personalities. Special attention to your child’s emotional needs is essential during this time.

Tip: Be proactive about monitoring your child’s mental health and arrange for him or her to meet with a family counselor or therapist as needed. You’ll find five resources for helping children cope in this past post.

No. 2: Telling kids about the divorce on the spur of the moment.

Children can become overwhelmed with emotions when they hear their parents are splitting up. Some may even go into shock, so it’s important to break the news with care. Take time to plan for this conversation and what you will say well in advance, preferably with the involvement of the other parent.

Tip: Get a psychotherapist’s step-by-step guide on how to break the news about your divorce here.

No. 3: Speaking negatively about the other parent.

It’s important to keep in mind that half of your child’s DNA comes from the other parent. If you disparage you soon-to-be ex, your children may feel you are disparaging them, too.

Tip: Take the high road instead (and ask your friends and family members to do the same).  

No. 4: Preventing kids from spending quality time with the other parent.

Unless your soon-to-be ex poses a danger, your children will likely benefit from spending time with both mom and dad. Limiting your kids’ access to your spouse could be traumatizing, especially if they’re used to spending plenty of quality time with both parents.

Tip: Co-parenting isn’t always easy. Check out 10 essential tips for successful co-parenting here.

No. 5: Relying on your child for emotional support.

Some parents use their children as a sounding board or counselor during divorce. This really isn’t appropriate and is an unfair burden to place on your child. The responsibility that comes with playing “counselor” can be incredibly stressful and may put your child’s mental health at risk.

Tip: Turn to a mental health professional, member of the clergy or support group if you need advice or someone to lean on.

No. 6: Pressuring a teenaged child to speak with the judge.

Per the Texas Family Code, if a parent, a parent’s attorney or an amicus attorney asks that a child ages 12 and above speak with the judge about parental preference or another matter, that conversation must take place in the judge’s chambers. This can be a very uncomfortable experience for those teens who don’t want to be put in the middle or hurt their parent’s feelings.

Tip: While some kids are open to speaking with the judge privately, you may be able to minimize unnecessary stress by allowing the child to choose whether or not to have a one-on-one.

No. 7: Bribing the child to get preference as primary parent

Some parents will try to buy their kids’ love – and parental preference – with material items or by allowing them certain liberties that the other parent will not, like skipping school. While this may win your child’s favor, it doesn’t provide the child with what they need most – a safe, loving home and the support and nurturing of both parents.

Tip: Texas judges typically frown upon actions that don’t put the best interests of the child first. Focus on setting your child up for long-term success instead.

No. 8: Ditching long-standing family traditions.

Kids can be extremely fragile, especially during a family upheaval like divorce. Maintaining as much normalcy as possible can help smooth the transition. This includes keeping up with family traditions that bring them comfort and joy, like opening gifts from Santa at grandma’s house Christmas Day or trick-or-treating with their cousins on Halloween. Before you sweep the kids away to Hawaii for the holidays, have a chat with them about what traditions are important to them.

Tip: Learn how to make the holidays bright for your kids here.

No. 9: Dating during the divorce.

Bringing a new person into the mix, during what is often a tumultuous time for children, may intensify any angst your child is already feeling. Time spent dating may also reduce the amount of quality time you spend with your child. Plus, dating during divorce may compromise child custody, not to mention the ability to co-parent civilly.

Tip: Before you think about dating during divorce, consider the seven reasons why you shouldn’t in this recent post.

Want to speak with top family lawyer in Dallas a about legal options pertaining to divorce or child custody?

Since founding Connatser Family Law in 2013, Aubrey Connatser and her team have firmly established the next in a line of great Texas divorce and family law firms in Dallas. To learn more about divorce and child custody in Dallas and Collin Counties, please call  (214) 617-1583 to speak confidentially with a knowledgeable and compassionate member of the Connatser Family Law team.