Keeping Children Out of Divorce
Recently I was told of a young boy whose parents obtained a divorce when he was eight years old. The mother was granted custody of the couple’s two children, a boy and a girl. The boy had asked to live with his father; however, since he was only eight years old, the judge granted custody of both children to the mother, probably thinking that keeping them together would decrease the amount of trauma. In normal cases, this is probably true.
The mother told her son he could see his father only if he agreed to support certain accusations against his father. These accusations resulted in charges against the father. Visitation was subsequently denied. Confused, hurt and angry, the son began to act out at home. (Which is not surprising.) Eventually he attempted bodily harm against himself and his mother.
The son was hospitalized and when he was able to be released, the mother no longer wanted custody. With charges against him, the father was not allowed custody. The boy was put in the care of the state and spent the next three years in foster homes, group homes and hospitals. Once the father got the charges against him dropped, he was not allowed to take custody of his son because he had not maintained a relationship with him during this time. (The Catch-22 of the situation is heart-breaking to me.) Family court did agree to allow him visitation with his son so that he could re-establish their relationship and petition the court for custody after a period of time.
Some readers may sympathize with the mother or the father for various reasons. However, the real victim in this case is the son. There is no doubt that his relationship with both his mother and his father is permanently damaged. It will take years of therapy to work past through his issues with relationships and to develop proper coping skills. I cannot imagine all the emotional damage that is and will present roadblocks to this young boy’s success in life.
Regardless of how messy a divorce, parents should NEVER place their children in the middle of their problems. There is no justification sufficient to support the use and abuse of your children against your ex-spouses (or for ANY reason!). Never talk bad about the other parent in front of your children. Never feed negative information to your children about their other parent. Never ask your children to bring back information to you about the other parent’s home life, personal relationships, or any other aspect of their life when they are visiting them. Never use child support or visitation as a leverage to get what you want from the other parent. Never ask your child to make statements or support statements that are false. In fact, keep your child out of the business between you and their father/mother. No ifs, ands or buts. Children should not be expected to take on the burden of adult responsibilities. They are not spies or tools to be used against an ex-spouse to assuage your own pain.
Children are precious gifts. They should be cherished and nurtured. They should be allowed to be children for as long as humanly possible. They trust their parents to care for them and to protect them; do not betray that trust! When it comes to your children and divorce, take the high road. You will never hear me tell any parent that they should “stay together for the sake of the children.” (That can be just as harmful!) But I will always support the advice that parents, when dealing with children and support, should always put the good of the child as their top priority.
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