The Dangers of Putting the Kids in the Middle
Divorce can be a difficult and emotionally turbulent experience for parents. For children who may not understand the process or fully grasp the gravity of its impact on their futures, divorce can also be a confusing and tumultuous time.
While most adults approach divorce with the intent of reshaping their lives in the future, children don’t always have the foresight or life experience to know that there is life after divorce – especially their parent’s divorce. What’s more, they recognize they have little or no control over the process. To children in divorce, the only family they have ever known is disintegrating, and it may seem like their primary source of safety and protection is slipping away. In divorce, probably more than at any other time, children need parents to comfort and reassure them, and can let them know they are loved.
Unfortunately, divorcing parents are usually in the midst of such emotional turmoil themselves that they lose some of their ability to be what their children need. Worse, they may put their children into the middle of the divorce, treating them as just another card to be played in the battle with their spouse. Putting kids in the middle of a divorce is not only potentially harmful to a child’s emotional health, it’s not viewed favorably by Judges who oversee divorce cases, and see this type of behavior every day.
When navigating a divorce, it’s important for parents to find the strength to separate themselves from what’s happening, work on themselves, and find their support networks so they can minimize the impact of divorce on children. While taking the time to speak with your children about divorce is important, simply talking to children may not be enough, and some cases may invite parents to speak with children about adult matters that shouldn’t be discussed.
Helping You Help Your Children
At The Harris Law Firm, our attorneys are well aware that the rights, interests, and well-being of children should always be a priority in family law cases. It’s why we work diligently to protect the children in divorce, child custody, and other related legal matters, and encourage parents to explore available resources that can help them help their children during these difficult times.
With many of our lawyers being Guardian Ad Litems, or court-appointed lawyers who advocate for children who are often unable to voice their own needs, we have the insight and special training to address the emotional and psychological needs of children, and help parents insulate them from the harsh realities of hostile litigation.
In addition to working with experienced attorneys who prioritize children, divorcing parents can also explore therapy, classes, and other avenues of support that help both them and their children process what’s happening around them. Our attorneys are happy to discuss what parents can do to help their kids. We also have many resources about children and divorce on our website:
- Protecting Your Children from the Impact of Divorce
- Helping Your Kids Cope During the Divorce Process
- Therapy For Kids As Young as Two Years Old
- Questions Kids Ask Regarding Divorce
- [VIDEO] Minimize Conflict and Protect the Children
Challenges in Divorce: Potential Pitfalls for Parents
A divorcing parent’s most immediate challenge is to assure children they are not responsible for the divorce. When bad things happen, many of us tend to ask ourselves whether we are responsible. A child under the stress of divorce has even less ability to make sense of adult behavior than the adults, and often has a dangerous tendency to blame him or herself for the divorce.
Because financial survival is usually a primary issue in divorce, custodial parents may be tempted to deny parenting time to a parent who is denying them money, especially child support. Colorado law explicitly separates the issues of child support and the exercise of parenting time. This is because judges and the Legislature recognize the importance of children having frequent contact with both of their parents, particularly when they are divorced or divorcing.
Parents who look to manipulate parenting time in this manner demonstrate for their children first-hand the potential dysfunction of a married relationship. As such, parents risk damaging their children’s own abilities to create cohesive families when they become adults. There are plenty of legal strategies for dealing with unpaid child support other than making the children pawns in ongoing divorce battles – and caring lawyers can help you explore them.
In addition to navigating legal pitfalls, parents should be careful of over-reliance on their children. Some parents faced with being alone for the first time in a long time may turn to their children for comfort and support, even relying on the children to act as counselors. First, by being put in this position, children may learn more about the divorce than they should; and second, the pressure of being given this role adds even more stress to the child’s divorce experience.
Divorce is an adult problem, from which children should be protected. There are healthier therapeutic options for lonely parents. The Harris Law Firm has compiled a number of resources for parents during divorce and post-divorce:
- Individual Therapy
- Living Alone
- Dating and Divorce: Parents and Non-Parents
- Exploring Family Therapy
- Network of Family Therapists, Counselors, and Helpful Outlets
Divorce, Communication & Children
A remarkable percentage of divorced and divorcing parents fail to see the potential damage they can cause their children and their relationships with their kids by communicating with each other through the children. Parents may even use their children in attempts to gain information about each other. In such communications, the children again see first-hand the dysfunctional relationship their parents have created. Additionally, the children may feel they are being forced to choose sides. Witnessing such turmoil can make the hope of finding a healthy relationship, as an adult, seem even more remote.
Making children active participants in the divorce also provides them opportunities to play parents against each other for the children’s own purposes. What may have been relatively good parent-child relationships can deteriorate as children seek to meet their own heightened needs at their parents’ expense, or seek attention and support in unhealthy ways.
In some cases, a frustrated divorcing or divorced parent may be tempted to disparage the other parent to the children. They forget they are talking about one of only two biological parents their children will ever have. No one, not even a parent, has the right to destroy a child’s relationship with another parent, no matter how inadequate they believe that parent may be. The day will come when the child is capable of making his or her own decisions about the parents.
Help Is Available. Speak With A Caring & Compassionate Attorney
Divorce certainly has the potential to change the lives of parents and children, and while it is a difficult process, it is not insurmountable. Help and support is available.
At The Harris Law Firm, our award-winning attorneys have been trusted by individuals and families across Colorado not only because we have the experience to guide them through the legal challenges of their cases, but also because we take the time to help our clients address their emotional needs, and the emotional needs of their children. Our attorneys have extensive resources and connections to a network of therapists, family counselors, and community resources, and can help you find the support you need to get through these difficult times.
If you have questions about how our firm can help you navigate divorce while protecting your children, please call or contact us online to request an initial consultation.