Fighting and Using the Children as Pawns
Key Points
  • Children feel vulnerable in the midst of a divorce; they are often scared even if they do not show it. This is the time to be nurturing and help your child feel secure.
  • Children are not pawns to be used against the other spouse in a divorce. This is harmful and emotionally damaging to the child.
  • Do not fight in front of your children and put down the other spouse. Children are part of each parent, your child may begin to think since you stopped loving your spouse it may only be a matter of time before you stop loving the child as well.
Quote: We cannot heal the wounds we do not feel. (S. R. Smalley)

Children are not pieces on a chess board. They are not to be played as pawns. Ask yourself, are you and/or your spouse guilty of this common but entirely counter-productive and damaging habit among divorcing spouses?

When you and your spouse put on the gloves for another round of verbal boxing whose corner do you think your children go to? They most likely run to their own rooms or out the door to a friend’s house. What’s worse, they most likely will go to some private internal space within their own hearts and minds, a place where despair festers and guilt eats away at them. "Mom and Dad are fighting. Is it my fault? Wouldn’t they be happier and have more money if they didn’t have to raise me?" The bottom line is you should not need to be reminded that your children are part of your divorce!

Children under 10 tend to "absorb" the atmosphere that surrounds them. They will tend to become moody or withdrawn when their parents fight. They become scared. To them, their world is falling apart. The security and nurturing they felt when both their parents used to cuddle and talk softly together with them is gone. They sense hostility and anger when they see or hear the arguments. Children soon believe that no time is the right time to approach either parent.

Children feel powerless and vulnerable when this pattern emerges. Children in divorce are often alone, feeling very lonely and sad. Their comfort is fading fast, replaced by the world of guilt, where everything (by their own perception) is their fault.

Children change their behavior, usually for the worse. Misbehaving gets them attention. "I’ll just be bad, and they’ll turn to me instead of each other. The nightmares that come later, well, I’ll just deal with them in my sleep. Losing the guilt can wait, too. Right now, I just want their attention, and being bad will get it. At least that’s what works for Mom and Dad with each other."

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ONE DAY AT A TIME -- There is no single right way to survive a divorce; there is no universal right way to start over. A person does it by doing it. Anything within reason that gets a person through the day is perfectly acceptable, but even with help such as counseling and support groups, the emotional part of divorce survival is a self-help project.

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