Are Your Behaviors in The Best Interests of The Children

Though we often consider a separation or divorce to be a time when parents engage in behaviours that may be emotionally and psychologically damaging to children, the concern of children could be expanded in general to marital distress.

Consider the following, if you engage in any of the behaviours listed, it might be helpful to consider what messages these behaviours are sending to your children. Try to put yourself in the place of your child who needs a healthy relationship with both parents.

  • Are you Placing Your Child in The Middle? Children should not be placed between two parents communicating information from one to the other. Parents need to act like adults and communicate directly
  • Do You Put Your Child in The Position of Having to Choose to Be With One Parent Over The Other? Parents are supposed to be in the family leadership role. This means that children are supposed to be able to rely on parents to make decisions that are best for them. Allow your children to be children, not to take on adult worries and stress. Parents protect, nurture and encourage children.
  • Do You Use Your Child As A Confidant? Do you speak to your children about the adult issues that you struggle with, do you speak to your child about your view of the faults of other parents, do you try to get the children "on your side" against the other parent.
  • Do You Allow Your Child To Be Responsible For You Emotionally? If children are exposed to your emotional displays of anger, fear, sadness and so forth, they may start to believe they are responsible for protecting you and making you feel better because they see you as fragile and unable to fulfill aspects of your parent role. They may see you as a victim.

Johnson (2004) suggests if you engage in any of these behaviours then something is wrong, as a parent it is helpful to stop thinking about your own needs and take responsibility for what you are doing to your children. If you need support, understanding and problem solving skills to deal with your  own difficult feelings, get help so that you can learn to do things differently before you damage your children and their relationship with the other parent.

Children are entitled to the following:

  • To be a carefree child who does not have to worry about your adult issues.
  • To have a healthy relationship with both parents.
  • To be able to trust that their parents will protect them and their emotions.
  • To be encouraged and supported in their lives.

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