" I am very glad that I did not use my children as a tool to hurt my ex-wife or put them in a position to become private investigators in trying to see what my ex-wife was up to in her personal life." -Divorced Dad


When you get off the phone with your phone company, and they are saying they CAN'T make any improvements to your service because you are in a contract and your crap service is just going to continue...
if you are like most, you get off the phone and share your frustration with whoever is within

Even if you are at work, don't you probably go give your coworker an ear full about how dumb your phone service is?  

As aggravating as a disagreement with a phone service is, a disagreement with someone you've shared a life and a home with is even more intense.  Moving forward, the nearest person in earshot when you get off the phone in frustration will sometimes be a child who loves that parent as much as she loves you. 

Even though you may wish you never had to interact again with your former spouse, your children make it necessary for him or her to remain in your life. 

And here is your opportunity for growth. 

"As a Dad who has gone through a divorce, what I found to be very helpful was to not express my anger and frustrations regarding my ex-wife when I was within earshot of my children. It was suggested to me to go through a program called "Kids First." It was an online course I took, and I learned that the issues between my ex-wife and I were not a matter for my kids to hear about. I found adult friends and professionals who I knew I could talk with, rather than dumping a whole bunch of heavy feelings onto my children. Today, I can see how that approach has really paid off. I feel I have been a more respected father in the eyes of my children as well as friends because I chose to handle my feelings and emotions in a healthy, drama free manner."
If we are telling our children that the divorce is not their fault, we have to follow that up with actions to prove it. 
It is not your kids' responsibility to listen to your frustrations about the custody arrangements.  It is not your kids' responsibility to listen to your complaints about their parent. 

Beyond keeping them out of the conflict, other ways of supporting your children through divorce include the following:
  • Let your child's teacher know about the separation at home so he or she can support your child.  You or the teacher can also let the school counselor know.  Counselors sometimes provide groups for kids of divorce to share what is going on at home and feel less alone about the changes. 
  •  Don't be afraid to let your child know that although you will miss her when you aren't together, you will still enjoy your life.  Your kids aren't responsible for your happiness and they need to feel free to enjoy themselves while in the other parents' custody.  It helps for them to know it is okay to simultaneously miss one parent, but also have fun and carry on with life. 
  • Try to make the custody plans clear to kids.  Give advanced notice about changes in the routine.  This helps kids feel a sense of ownership about their role in the family, rather than just being a pet who gets passed around. 
  • Remind your child often that you love him or her- with words and actions. Be available to talk about feelings and logistics as often as possible. 


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Kathryn Martin, LMFT practices couples and family therapy in Downtown Austin.  Kathryn works with divorcing couples to do it amicably, maintaining appropriate boundaries for their kids.  Defining a co-parenting relationship, relocation of one parent or the kids, and how to manage shared holidays are all topics of focus with split and step-families.   
Appointment requests can be made online or via phone: 512.814.6580.
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