Children cannot thrive when they are caught in the middle of their parents' conflict. Surprisingly for most children, HOW parents resolve disagreements is more important than the solution itself. Mediation can help you manage conflict in a way that keeps children out of the middle. Parents rarely put children in the middle of conflict on purpose. So how does it happen? For one thing, children naturally like to be at the center of things. For another, parents often don't realize what kinds of things put children in the middle.
Parents need to communicate directly with each other without involving their children. Sending messages to the other parent through the children puts them in the middle and makes children feel responsible to solve any problems the messages create.
Asking children about the personal life of the other parent or discussing these matters with a child makes the child feel awkward, uncomfortable and like a spy. If children have questions about the other parent, encourage them to go directly to the other parent.
Most post-separation conflict is about children. Children logically figure that if they weren't around, parents wouldn't be fighting, so children naturally feel responsible for the problems.
When children hear their negative things about their parents, because they are like each parent in some way, they believe what they hear is also true about themselves. These comments make children feel worthless and bad. Whether the comments are true or not, negative or critical comments about one parent make it very difficult for a child to receive comfort from the critical parent because it feels like the child is taking sides. Children need to be allowed to feel proud of each parent so they can build healthy self-esteem. Please give your children convincing and genuine permission to LOVE both parents.
No matter how children make a decision about where to live, they suffer feelings of disloyalty and guilt. They worry they have hurt a parents' feelings. Some children choose the parent they think needs them the most. Some children choose out of fear. Teens need to have some say in the schedule, however experts recommend that it be clear that the final custody schedule is decided by the parents.
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