Whether you are going through a separation, a divorce, or getting used to joint custody, it can be tempting to vent to your kids, but it is precisely the wrong thing to do. Here are some tips for successful conversations with your kids when going through a separation or divorce
Getting divorced is up there with the most stressful life events you will ever experience. Getting used to shared custody can make a divorce seem even harder. This is especially true since your children are likely to ask you difficult questions about your separation and what it means for them. It is completely normal for your children to experience confusion and distress – after all, previously solid ground is shifting beneath their feet too. Based on our experiences as family lawyers at Goldwater, Dubé, here are some guidelines on the best ways to talk to your children about your separation.
While this is one of the most challenging aspects of getting used to a split in your family, it is among the most important. Young kids are more perceptive than most people realise. They can can very easily detect hostility between parents and this can quickly lead to a conflict of loyalties. As a consequence, children can begin feeling anxious and start acting out. Such behaviours might include testing authority figures, or becoming withdrawn, depressed, and secretive. To avoid a negative situation unfolding, always speak well of your ex when your children are in the house. However difficult this may be, however tempting offloading your irritation may seem, avoid portraying your ex in a negative light.
Speaking disrespectfully about your ex in front of your children will not achieve anything positive. This behaviour will not bring your child closer to you. Instead, it could damage your relationship with your child (e.g. making them feel guilty for loving the other parent equally) and encourage them to internalize the parental conflict. This damage might show up now or later down in the line.
Speaking negatively about your ex can also create difficulties with joint decision-making. Children may say one thing to one parent and something different to the other in an effort to please or show alliance, given the parental discord, suppressing their true wishes. This can then lead to the parents arguing about what the child really wants, aggravating parental conflict.
Judges, psychologists, and anyone else tasked with assessing custody will examine and take into account whether any parental alienation is present. Parents who speak negatively about their ex in front of the children are likely to be assessed less favourably than parents who speak about their ex in a positive or neutral manner. Judges may consequently decide to award more custody to the alienated parent in order the strengthen the parent-child bond. Do not underestimate the ability of the Court to detect alienation. The same applies to any psychologist or social worker tasked with assessing custody or parental capacity. Alienation is one of the first things they look for and they are trained to detect it.
Goldwater, Dubé is a family law firm based in Montreal, Quebec. We help families dealing with divorce, child custody, and the protection of assets. We treat all cases with compassion and expertise. We will put you and your loved ones first, protecting you and all that you hold dear. Book a consultation with one of our expert family lawyers today.