Serving the needs of separated and divorcing families

Your Child May Be Harmed by Your Divorce Behaviors

Susan Boyan, LMT

Parents have a tremendous influence on how their children transform into adults. You may be familiar with the phrase that “Children will learn what they live”.  For a parent this is a huge responsibility and needs to be taken into consideration, especially during this stressful time.  Exactly what are your children learning during your divorce?

Stressed out parents are distracted by so many factors that the importance of what they are teaching their children during the divorce crisis may be overlooked.  As a result of all the distractions, parental values may go by the wayside temporarily.  What may be most concerning, is that children are learning even more than before due to the heightened emotional situation.

Adults that are in the process of separating or divorcing should consider the long term lessons they hope to teach their children so they can focus on what their behaviors are demonstrating instead.  So consider, do you want to teach your child to:

  • Blame others rather than take responsibility for their own mistakes?
  • Gossip and talk badly about others or develop tolerance towards others?
  • Be critical and judgmental rather than forgiving?
  • Hold onto bitterness and play the part of the victim versus learning to let go?
  • Be a complainer versus live in gratitude?
  • React destructively during stress rather than learn impulse control?
  • Distort reality to get their way versus being honest?
  • Be revengeful rather than forgiving?
  • Act immaturely rather than take the “high road”?
  • Be a bully who demands their way or someone who can compromise?
  • Be a selfish or a thoughtful person?
  • Play the unproductive game of tit-for-tat or learn to pick their battles?
  • Fight out of principal or learn to resolve conflict?

A more positive way to consider this is to ask yourself,  “What is it I want my children to learn from this painful process of divorce?”   Once you have determined your answer, re-evaluate your actions.   Is that what you have actually been teaching?  Words account for only 7% of what we communicate to each other.  So remember your actions are your child’s lesson plans and they do speak significantly louder than your words.

You could also consider “What kind of legacy do I want to leave my child?” How your child remembers you going forward will be determined at this time. This important life marker will be highlighted in your child’s mind and the lessons in their memory. Will your children:

  • Continue to view you as someone who they admire?
  • View you as someone who is kind and thoughtful to others?
  • View you as someone they can trust?
  • View you as honest and mature?
  • Continue to see you as the person they can count on to love and support them or will you put them in needless loyalty binds and harm their self-esteem by putting the other parent down?
  • View you as someone they respect for being able to apologize when you are wrong?
  • View you as someone they will want to emulate in their own peer and adult relationships?
  • Learn that you can do the right thing no matter how upset you may be?
  • Learn that a good parent may make personal sacrifices for their children?
  • Learn that you have the strength to recover from heart break; that you can handle the difficult challenges life throws you?

Remember that parents are a child’s first and most important teacher. No parent is perfect yet children need our best and even more so during difficult times. Your child is watching and learning the positive and the negatives about you each step of the way.  Memories are typically much stronger during emotional times.  Consider your answers from the questions above and then begin to make the corrections to demonstrate what you really want your child to take with them into adulthood.  If you are not sure how to make these corrections seek the help of a divorce specialist/counselor.

Your child looks up to you; and you have an example to set. Now is the time.  Your child’s future is far too important to make excuses.

Susan Boyan, LMT


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