As a family therapist, I’ve witnessed the psychological damage done to kids by parents at war with each other—even after divorce. Consistent battling affects the children. Sometimes both parents are hateful, while other times only one parent is unreasonable. And kids are not equipped to be peacemakers, referees, message-relayers, spies, or counselors. Children should not become casualties of divorce war. Parents, stop expecting your children to act more mature than you. And divorce is never a kid’s fault.
The techno world is ripe for social media shaming during a contentious divorce. Blaming and shaming each other in private as well as in public is hurtful to the children. Unplug from your ex and unfollow him/her after emergency contact information is shared.
Although blood is thicker than water, grandparents and relatives need to zip lips in front of children—no parent bashing. Family feuds bring out the worst in adults.
True story. On Christmas Eve, a custodial parent called the police to arrest the other parent for nonpayment of child support—in front of the kids.
Advice from a 2013 article in Psychology Today: “Avoid talking badly about the other parent or blaming the individual, even if you are angry. Children love and need both of their parents. They can easily experience a loyalty conflict and feel badly and this will deter an open dialogue. Children need to feel both of their parents are valuable because each child is a composite of their two parents.” Read more at www.psychologytoday.com.
“A high conflict divorce is where marriage ends and war begins. Children are frequently unwittingly used as pawns in this high stakes, emotionally bloody demolition. Kids find different ways to cope in a system that includes children and two parents who absolutely despise each other. This is a hatred that doesn’t ease up over the passing of time; no these bitter feelings tend to increase and escalate as the years go by.” Read more at www.mentalhelp.net.
“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” —Confucius
Loving Your Children More Than You Hate Each Other: Powerful Tools for Navigating a High-Conflict Divorce is a powerful book (2018) for divorcing or divorced parents. Psychologists, Lauren Behrman and Jeffrey Zimmerman, go straight to the core of the matter.
Description of Book
Hate your ex but love your kids? If so, this much-needed guide offers practical tips and strategies to help you manage intense emotions, deal with shame and blame, and create a peaceful, loving environment for your children. Let’s face it—divorce is tough. In a high-conflict divorce, your ex may attempt to undermine your relationship with your children, blame you for the failed marriage, and be hostile toward you in general. Unfortunately, this negativity can affect your kids, too. You need to break the cycle of rage and conflict now, for their sake.
Ohio Mediation Resource
According to an article on the website for the Ohio State Bar Association:
Mediation is a way for people to improve communication and create solutions with the help of a mediator. A mediator is a specially trained, neutral person who helps with communication and discussion of your concerns so you can reach a voluntary agreement that meets your needs. A mediator is not a judge or arbitrator, the mediator does not decide your case or give opinions about how the Court will decide. The mediator may discuss options and encourage you to think creatively about how you can agree on ways to settle you case.
It is the mediator’s job to offer a way for you to resolve your dispute successfully. In some cases, the mediator may ask you to agree to some basic ground rules during the discussion (e.g., to respect each person’s right to talk without interrupting, to listen carefully to the other person and, to help you use your time wisely by not making accusations, arguments, shouting, or calling the other person names. Visit www.ohiobar.org.
Contact the Supreme Court of Ohio Dispute Resolution Section at (614) 387-9420 or visit www.supremecourt.ohio.gov to see a list of court mediation services available in every county in Ohio. You can also contact the court where your case is pending to ask about mediation. If you and your spouse want to mediate before you file your divorce you can look on-line for mediators in your area.
Melissa Martin, Ph.D. is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Scioto County.