Do your kids blame you for your divorce — even if you’re not the one who initiated it? Here’s how everyone can gain a new perspective.
Children often target the “safe” parent during divorce because they know that parent will love them no matter what. If your marriage ended primarily due to your ex’s behavior, your children’s misdirected anger can make you feel depressed, guilty, and resentful. The next time your kid tells you you’ve ruined his life, try not to go down the rabbit hold of despair. Instead, take a deep breath and follow these tips for a productive conversation.
- Acknowledge their feelings. When you listen to your children’s feelings, don’t get defensive, and don’t tell them the divorce is “for the best.” Just because you were miserable in the marriage doesn’t mean your kids were too. In fact, most kids don’t really care if their parents are happy, as long as their basic needs are met. Accept your responsibility for a decision that hurt them. If you refuse to acknowledge the impact of your choice, you will just give your kids more reason to blame you.
- Model resilience. As long as your children blame you for the divorce, they won’t accept it and move on. Children often mimic their parents, so take a good luck at your own behavior. Are you blaming your ex for the end of the marriage? Your reduced lifestyle? Your frustration that life didn’t turn out the way you dreamed? If so, you need to start modeling resilience. Regardless of who wanted the divorce, or who got the worst end of the deal, you must accept the consequences and handle them with maturity. The best thing you can do for your children is to teach them how to bounce back when life knocks you down.
- Don’t shift blame to your ex. It’s natural to feel guilt and shame when your kids blame you for the divorce, but make sure you don’t pass the blame buck on to your ex. Are you bad-mouthing your ex? Sharing too many details of the divorce or the marriage? Using your kids as a weapon? Blaming your ex for your reduced lifestyle? Criticizing how he or she spends child support? If so, your children may be reflecting your behavior. If your ex was the one who left, don’t pretend otherwise, but don’t blame him for your kids’ unhappiness. Instead, tell your kids that the marriage didn’t work, despite both your efforts. You must take responsibility for your part in the end of your marriage, even if the consequence is that your kid is angry with you.
- Make amends. If the marriage ended primarily due to your own behaviors – an affair, active addiction, anger management issues – your kids have a legitimate right to be angry with you. You can’t change the past, but you can control how you behave from this point forward. Take accountability for your actions. Acknowledge how your choices impacted your ex and your children. Apologize. Explain what you are doing to work on your issues; your children need to know that you are taking steps to prevent them from being hurt again.
When bad things happen, people search for concrete reasons. Kids, in particular, have a tough time tolerating ambiguity. Blaming one parent for the divorce gives them a sense of certainty, which is much more comforting than reality: life is unpredictable and bad things happen to good people. Remember that you’re listening to a young person’s interpretation of events, which will change over time. By giving them space to be angry, you’ll allow them to move through the grieving process and adapt to the changes in their lives.
Do you have questions about your custody arrangement or parenting time schedule, and how your child are being impacted? We can help. To speak with one of our highly skilled family law attorneys, please contact us today to schedule your initial confidential consultation. Call today: (888) 888-0919.