Divorced parents are often advised on ways to connect with their children after divorce. This recent article from helpguide.org is no different: it provides some time-tested ways to connect with your kids. This type of article can be very helpful when a parent is feeling their parent-child communication strained. However, a less talked about, less written about topic is what not to talk about with your kids during or after your divorce proceedings. Often, is it just as important to not say the wrong things as it is to say the right things.
One example of how not to communicate with your children is to use them as a messenger between you and your ex. This is especially true when the messages you are asking to be conveyed involve a contentious issue. When parents do this the child has to carry the stress of worrying about whatever reaction your ex may have or letting you down by failing to deliver the message. Instead, if possible, communicate with your spouse directly (in writing if necessary).
Another (unfortunately) common mistake parents make is to have conversations with other people regarding the status of their divorce, or how terrible their ex is, within the hearing distance of their children. As every parent who has let a swear word slip out under their breath knows, kids hear everything we say – especially when we don’t want them to hear it. The minute they hear you say your ex’s name, their little ears zero in. As such, keep your vent sessions limited to times when the child is residing with the other parent, or when you can have a babysitter and head out with a friend or adult family member.
A last communication no-no is using a child to get information about the other parent. Let the proverb about the cat keep you from using your children to satisfy your curiosity about your ex. Putting a child in this position is unfair: it forces them to choose between competing interests of pleasing you and being loyal to their other parent.
While most of the advice in the article linked above makes recommendations based on the best interest of children, the advice could also be used as advice on making the best appearance before the court. If the court finds out that you are using your child as a means of communication with your ex (especially if the communication is critical or unfriendly) the court will not be pleased. Nor will the court be pleased to find out that the child has been in earshot when you have had a disparaging chat with a friend about how terrible your ex is. Most of the time, information gleaned from communication with a child regarding the other parent is equally damaging to the parent obtaining the information because the courts are unhappy to hear the way the child is being used.
If you are concerned about you or your ex’s communication with your children during or after divorce, please feel free to make an appointment to speak with us about it. We will be able to provide you with legal advice on your specific situation.