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The Don't's for parents who are Divorcing

Updated on February 1, 2011

Children are not pawns!

Now I’m going to talk about something near and dear to my heart, children. They are our future, our hope and should be treated as such, with respect. I’m not saying that we should give the little darlings everything their hearts desire. That would be foolish. What I am referring to is their mental health and well being.

Children are not pawns nor should they be treated as such.

Mom - One terrific lady!

I thank the Good Lord that my mom was a wise woman.  She went through a divorce at probably the hardest time anyone could ever do so.  It was in the mid 1960’s when there was no welfare, or if there was her little community never heard of it.  She was told that if she wanted money she needed to get her ex-husband to pay her.  Since he had other plans for his income and she/we weren’t part of it, she had to do her best with what she could.

She had been in a horrific car accident that left her partially crippled.  One leg was smashed beyond recognition.  The Doctors in that time did their best to make it look like a leg, but it was about 3 inches shorter than the other one.  She had to wear a brace to be able to walk.   The home she provided for the 3 of us, me, her and my brother was a small shack of sorts.  I was very young and remember having a picnic table as out dining room table.  It was 1 bedroom.  We lived very close to the elementary school so we didn’t need to drive.

She did the best she could with what she had to work with.  

There were questions

My brother at the tender age of 7, blamed her for our Dad not being around.  He felt it was her fault somehow.  I truly don’t remember him.  But what I do remember as I grew up, she never once criticized our father to us.  Not one time do I ever recall her complaining about him, never calling him names or blaming him for our circumstances.  

As we grew up of course we asked questions regarding him and his whereabouts.  Her answers to us?  “Well, he knows where to find you.”  When there were no Birthday cards, Christmas cards etc and the lack of those were questioned she would reply that “I suppose he has other things on his mind.“  Or just plain “I don’t know”.

She left it up to us as children to think of reasons he wasn’t there for Birthday’s, Christmas or any other special occasion.  I had a wild imagination, so I came up with really good reasons!  He was busy being famous, or he was traveling the world.  I’m sure that my brother did the same.

The child's mind can be in turmoil

My Mother remarried and my brother and I were adopted by our new Dad.  As we grew up the comments from her still remained the same.  When I got old enough she then explained to me the happenings of her marriage and why it ended.  Still, she never had bad things to say about him.  

Eventually my curiosity got the best of me and I had to find him.  I suffered from low self esteem, feelings of abandonment etc.  I never blamed myself for their break up, but the lack of communication from him made me feel unworthy of love.  If I couldn’t be loved and wanted by my own biological father, then what kind of person must I be?  

I had questions

I finally located him and had a discussion with my Mom and Dad, I asked them if they minded if I went to see him. More than anything I didn’t want to hurt the man who raised me and called me Daughter but I just had to know! There were so many questions I had that only 1 person could answer.

I went to visit him, asked my questions. Suffice it to say I was not impressed. That was the last time I ever saw him.

When my own marriage ended I borrowed a page from my Mother’s book of life.  I never spoke ill of my son’s father to him.  When birthday’s and holiday’s rolled around and the visit’s or presents didn’t happen, the questions came.  I answered them the best I could.  “He knows where to find you”.  “He must be busy” or the ever faithful “I don’t know”.

When my son’s curiosity got the best of him and he located his father, I was nervous.  I was afraid that my son was going to find this wonderful man who had changed and things were great.   Yes, I’ll admit it, I was afraid I’d lose my son to the man who had ignored him all of his life.  He spent dinner and the evening with him they talked.  When my son came back from his visit I asked him “Well, what did you think?”  His reply?  “I was not impressed.”  That was 3 years ago, he hasn’t seen him or talked to him since.

I’m sure that my Mom was watching me from above with the biggest smile on her face.  She taught me well.  My son did us both proud.

What you should NEVER do!

There is never any reason to speak ill of an absent parent.  When going through a Divorce a child is NOT a pawn.  They should NEVER be used as leverage.  You should NEVER use a child to get what you want.  A divorce or separation from a parent is going to be hard enough on the child, they are not going to understand why Mommy or Daddy is no longer living with them. 

A child should never be held from a parent as punishment because you are angry.  It doesn’t matter what the parent has done (with the exception of abuse).  A child’s mind is a jumble of things and speaking bad of a parent does nothing but cause confusion.  You might be hurt or angry, that’s fine, get a friend in whom to confide.  NEVER use your child to confide in.  They WILL NOT understand. 

They will have enough hurt on their own.  If you’ve been hurt they will hurt as it is.  You should NEVER add to their misery by calling the parent names!  EVER!  No matter what, those names should not cross your lips in the presence of your child!

If the spouse remarries, as hard as it is, swallow your pride for the sake of your child and do your absolute best to get along.  If your child wants to like the step parent, suck it up!   You are the adult here, act like it!  Don’t make it harder on your child.  The mistakes of the parents are not the fault of the child.  Even if you were absolutely perfect and did nothing to deserve being left, divorced, dumped or whatever it is that happened to cause the separation.

Gotta break it down!

Let’s break it down:  For the purpose of this exercise we are going to use the absent parent as a man.  You call your EX names, such as loser, asshole, jerk, waste of air, Dead-beat, creep, cock sucker, or any other filthy name that you can think of.  The next thing you are doing as they grow is say “You are just like your father!!”  What has your child just heard?  They have heard THEY are a loser, asshole, jerk etc…  

Your child will make you proud

It doesn’t matter if the absent parent is the biggest loser the world has ever seen, DO NOT tell this to your child.  If you have done YOUR job right, been the absolute BEST parent that you could be, your child will do you proud.  

The world has enough problems, don’t add to it by being a bad parent.


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    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Susie-I just caught up with your response you left for my comment. Well, one of my two kids is a hubber here. Check out her site (also a michigander) and see what a great kid she turned out to be. cardelean is here hubber name. Cara is her name. :) Thanks for your comments.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

      I was blessed at not having to hear it, but I grew up with kids who did. To see their faces as their Mother berated their fathers are memories I'd like to forget. The same goes with adults I know of today. Telling a child "You can't have new shoes because your Dad is a lazy S.O.B. who won't work" (I cleaned it up a little bit!)... Yeah, those are things I'd really like to forget, along with the many others.

      There are many other ways of speaking to a child to tell them they can't have something, without putting down another person.

      You only get 1 childhood, if we can help them make the most of it, then we will have happy productive adults!

      Thank you for stopping by and reading!

    • Dusty Snoke profile image

      Dusty Snoke 6 years ago from Chattanooga, TN

      Thanking you for sharing this part of you life with us. So many people do not think of their children when speaking of their ex. It has to hurt children to hear one of their parents constantly put down, deserving or not.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

      Thank You! That is so wonderful! When a child feels love from all sides they grow up to feel secure in who they are. When there is hate and anger, they feel bad for just 'being', and a lot of times blame themselves.

      I agree there is plenty of time for them to find out the cause of the relationship ending when they grow up. By that time it becomes information rather than judgments. I think it also helps teach them tolerance for others.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • JillKostow profile image

      Jill Kostowskie 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      This was wonderfully written. My fiance and I each had children before we met. My children see their father when it is convient for him, and his son sees his mother more frequently because their situation is through a court order. We have primary custody of all the children so our house is full most of the time, plus we have a son together. Although the other parents make us angry, or whatever, we never, ever talk negatively about them infront any of the children. I agree that you do not want to form negative thoughts for the children of their parents. A child's love is unconditional, so to try and make them feel different only affects them and their emotions. My children are told the reason me and their father are no longer together is because we didn't get along, but now that we are apart we are good friends and we can work together to take care of them. As for my fiance and his ex, his son really doesn't know the extent of the dimise of their relationship, and it is something that has to wait to be discussed when he is older. But all in all, no harsh words are ever spoke about the other parents. The children are blessed to be loved by so many, and they have parents and step-parents giving them love and guidence!!

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

      Denise - How brave you are!! It can sometimes be difficult to 'zip the lip' but to insist that of your family!! What a terrific lady you are! The true colors always come shining through, without fail! Unless of course there is a life altering change, that would be rare.

      I bet your kids are well adjusted, and if asked, they say they had a great childhood. When their mental health and well being comes first in the mind of the parent, they can't help but be so!

      It actually helps the parent as well, when you let hatred/anger/rage fester inside of you, you no longer live for yourself. You are living to feed that rage, which in turn can cause physical illnesses.

      My Mom, yep she was a one of a kind for sure! Most definitely in a lot of pain for a lot of years. Very few of us saw her pain, she kept a smile for the world to see. She gave me so much, when she told me "You are a much better Mother than I ever was" it was the best gift she could have ever given me. In turn my being a good mother spoke volumes of the tutelage she gave me.

      Tinsky - Thank you.

      Thank you both for stopping by and commenting!

    • Tinsky profile image

      Tina Dubinsky 6 years ago from Brisbane, Australia

      A wise and thoughtful message. Thanks.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Amen, Susie. I could not agree with you more. When I divorced the father of my two children I made it a point never to talk badly about him. I also did not allow my mother, who despised my ex, or other people to talk him down in front of my daughters. I supported the children's visits with them and some of my friends would ask how I could do that, knowing he was not paying child support. I did it for my children. I hated that they were away from me for 5 wks out of the summer, and I knew his lifestyle was very different than mine. But, I also knew they had a family of relatives that they were a part of that deserved to know my children. I trusted and had faith that my ex would show his true colors and they would see him for who he was w/o one bad word from me.

      My philosophy rang true. Today my children have a solid relationship with the family members of my ex who love them and whom they visit once a yr during the summer. While they visit my ex's bro and sis in law my ex will take time to see them, but it isn't a strong bond. My girls found out why I divorced their dad and know he did not support them financially growing up. He created that mess w/o one derogatory remark from me.

      Give 'em enough rope and they'll hang themselves.

      But, I truelly believe that the thing that helped my children through it all is that through every step of the way I kept their best interests in mind. They are victims of the breakup and their lives need care and nurturing.

      Thanks for sharing such a beautiful story. Your mother was a strong woman. No doubt she was in a lot of pain from that accident. I admire her for what she gave you. Rated this hub Awesome, eautiful and useful.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

      It is hard, I will admit that. There were times that I wanted to say things. I ended up finding a friend to vent with, just so he didn't hear. I like your phrases!! They are not too harsh.. They get the point. More often than not, they really know what is going on... The feelings they have for the parent are confused...

      BRAVO to you and your sister!! They will thank you when they grow up, maybe not in recognizing what you have done, but by making you proud with their actions.

      Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • profile image

      Healing touch 6 years ago

      I really liked this hub. As a single mom, I do have words that I use for my ex, like " he is just a bug on the wind shield, a bug on the wall, but I do not tell the kids what an ass he was. I tell my twin sister and she does it with me. I am not saying I am perfect, as I have made mistakes with the kids about their dad, but more often than not, I am very careful

      Great job.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

      Bless you!! It's so hard to do that I know. After a while it gets easier and easier.. In the end it's worthwhile! The children eventually figure it all out. They will see the wisdom and perpetuate it...

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

    • profile image

      sharon 6 years ago

      Susie, You are SO right with your words of wisdom! It was actually written in the Court papers, that my daughter couldn't say anything negative about her ex. If this infraction occurred, the guilty party would be held in contempt of court.Trust me, we had to BITE our tongues!!! LOL His true colors came out & the children could come to their own conclusions. Thankfully to say, he is NO longer in their lives. Your mother taught you right & you did right by your son as well. VERY GOOD article!!! I know it's hard...but always show respect even through clenched teeth!!

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

      Thank You! I have felt this way for the longest time. I have tried speaking to people quietly regarding this issue, apparently my words didn't come across. So now I'm doing my best to speak loudly.

      I never thought about the bumper sticker... What a GREAT idea!! Hmmm, wonder how one goes about that?

      My mom used to say "If you don't have anything good to say about someone, don't say anything at all!" She did her best to keep to this. From time to time someone would make her angry and she'd slip, her next comment would always be "Shut up Sharon, just shut up!!" My Mom's name? Sharon.... None of us are perfect, but we just have to keep trying.

      Thank you so much for your comments!!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 6 years ago from south Florida

      Thank you for telling this story, susie, and for telling it so beautifully and so well. I agree, your mom would be very proud of you for the way you brought up your children.

      And your last line should be adopted as a national bumper sticker required for EVERY car: "The world has enough problems, don’t add to it by being a bad parent!" Amen.

      Well done, susie!