Studies have shown that it isn't the actual divorce that harms children in the long-term, it's the conflict that lingers between their parents. Being successful as divorced parents means finding new ways to deal with the anger or contempt that you may feel for your ex, while also supporting the relationship between your children and their other parent.
If your ex-partner walked out or cheated on you, then you may be in a difficult place. However, unless your ex was violent or abuse, then it's vital you learn to manage your feelings so they don't affect the children. There are several methods you can put in place to protect your children during a divorce, and after.
Follow Court Orders
Perhaps one of the greatest ways to avoid conflict is by following the court order. If you have to pay child support, do it in full and on time. If there is a restraining order in place, respect it. Do not make a unilateral change to the parenting plan agreement. If you believe the parenting plan needs to be changed, then you must go to court and make it legal. If you fail to follow the terms of your court agreements, you are giving your ex power to fight against you. It is also creating a sense of chaos for the children involved, as they begin to feel the stress of the tussle.
In New Jersey, family court judges prefer couples to attend mediation in order to come to a compromise on the details of the divorce and child support and custody. When a couple is unable to do so, the family court will then be left to make the decision. Sometimes the judge will call for court-ordered mediation. This will often involve the children being questioned by the judge, a psychologist, and a whole lot of stress and cost.
The Parallel Parent
Kids pick up on conflict, whether it's verbal or nonverbal. If you cannot tolerate seeing your ex without making snarky comments, rolling your eyes, or raising your voice- then don't put yourself in a position to be in their company. Instead, opt for curb side drop-offs, separate parent conferences, and birthday parties.
Don't Bad Mouth
There is no need, and no excuse, for trashing your ex (or their family) in front of the kids. It only serves to increase negative feelings, and it may result in your children being angry at you later in life. Count to 10 and walk away. If you're on the phone, leave the room, or hang up if you must.
Don't fall into the typical trap of projecting your insecurities and shortcomings onto your ex. Don't focus on what you think is wrong with your ex, instead deal with personal growth.
Kids often bounce parents off of the other to get what they want. Your children may tell you things about their other parents to keep you on side and get around the rules. Unless they're reporting abuse, you should avoid acting as a go-between. This only teaches your children to manipulate.
Parents have one job: to role model appropriate behavior. While it may be difficult to work through the feelings you have for your ex, it's essential to the wellbeing of your children.