Serving the needs of separated and divorcing families

You May Be Harming Your Child During Your Divorce

Loving parents pride themselves in protecting their children from unnecessary harm. However, in the midst of a conflicted divorce or separation, when parental emotions and tensions are at a peak, there are times divorce abuse may occur.

Divorce Abuse is a specific type of emotional abuse committed by parents specifically during and after their divorce.  Emotional abuse is defined as “acts or omissions that have caused, or could cause, serious behavioral, cognitive and emotional disorders.”  Although not as overt as physical abuse, emotional abuse is no less dangerous for children.  While it can cause severe emotional pain and hinder a child’s emotional and social development, many parents don’t even know they’re committing it.  Parents may unknowingly inflict divorce abuse on their children when they choose the following behaviors:

  • Putting their child in the middle of their parental conflict
  • Making negative comments about the other parent or their family members
  • Having blaming arguments with the other parent when their child may overhear
  • Using their child to manipulate the other parent
  • Making their child think they have to “choose” between their parents (loyalty binds)
  • Involving the police at transfers when there is no physical threat
  • Video or audio taping their child for court purposes
  • Sharing legal information with their child
  • Telling their child “the truth” in an attempt to turn them against the other parent
  • Leaning on their child for emotional support
  • Talking openly about putting the other parent in jail or taking them back to court
  • Playing the part of victim with their child
  • Continuously blaming the other parent for the divorce or its results
  • Refusing to mention the other parent’s name or even acknowledge they exist
  • Using their child to communicate messages to the other parent
  • Neglecting their child’s physical or emotional needs to focus on winning in court
  • Overindulging or avoiding discipline in order to become the “preferred” parent
  • Interrupting or blocking their child’s time with their other parent
  • Withholding their child’s possessions to control or punish the other parent
  • Neglecting to take their child to their activities just to upset the other parent
  • Interrogating their child to get information about the other parent
  • Withholding parenting information so that their child misses opportunities to share activities with both parents.

 The reason these behaviors are abusive to the child is because they create significant anxiety, loyalty binds confusion and physical symptoms.  Furthermore, the child’s self-esteem is connected to both parents so if either parent is viewed in a negative light the child will believe that also have the same negative qualities.  Parents should allow their children to discover over time what the true character is of the other parent.  Their help in this process will only backfire.


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