How to hurt your children when divorcing: A top 20 guide

"Why on earth would I want to do that?" You might be asking yourself.

Yet, hundreds of parents consciously or unconsciously behave in ways that effectively make sure a great divide is put between one parent and the other when divorcing, essentially making things much, much worse for the children.

Crazy, right?

The reality of the situation is that your children are not your possession, nor permanently yours; your children are a product of you and the other parent: Criticising the other parent is, in reality, criticising 50% of your child. This sets up patterns of psychological damage that last decades - in essence, every single time you pit yourself against or put down the other parent-your ex-partner, you tell your child half of you is no good. And it messes with their brains for years, perhaps forever; it is perhaps the cruellest thing you can do as a parent.

Look, being a parent might just be the most difficult, yet most rewarding job in the world. This is especially so whether we get it wrong or get it right, or we meet difficulties with our partners on the way. But if we separate as parents, the pain and subsequent struggle after separation tend to exacerbate any difficulties, producing in parents very different parenting styles and often bitter battles that only serve in reality to tear children apart.

But if you really want to screw up your children for the rest of their lives, try these:

1. Let them see and hear you complaining about or blaming each other.

2. Give them adult information that is way over their developmental level about the reasons for the divorce or details about child support.

3. Ask them to choose one parent over the other.

4. Tell them how poor you all are now and how well the other parent is doing.

5. Make sure you get in the way of them seeing the other parent’s family, thereby cutting them off from vital support.

6. Make sure you persuade them that school counselling is a really bad idea; perish forbid they should develop and own their true thoughts and feelings.

7. Give them messages from one parent to the other.

8. Interrogate them when they return, about what is was like over at dads/mums.

9. Make them feel like an outsider in one parent’s home.

10. Don’t encourage them to talk about the divorce.

11. Weep in front of them over old photographs.

12. Ask them to call your new lover “dad/mum”.

13. Make sure you are either not there during handover (“oh yeah sorry, delayed again”) or pick this time to have an argument with their other parent.

14. Make sure you argue with the other parent in their presence and make sarcastic remarks or lose your temper in front of them.

15. Hold the other parent totally responsible for the separation.

16. Squash all attempts for your ex to spend quality time with the kids.

17. Spread the word around the community and social media about how bad the other parent is and how happy your life is now.

18. Use your children as emotional crutches for your heartache or, worse, your general bellyaching, effectively turning them into your parent.

19. Say “you’re just like your mother/father”.

20. Make sure the other parent is the “nasty” disciplinarian and you are the cool one.

It was Philip Larkin, in his poem 'This Be The Verse' that perhaps said it best:

"They f*** you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had.

And add some extra, just for you."

But you don’t need to do this. And remember, your children grow, and in time might see the truth, or in other words: Karma’s a b****.

Be the best parent you can be.

Should you need a non-judgemental space to talk, contact a counsellor in your local area.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Newcastle Upon Tyne NE2 & NE3
Written by Graeme Armstrong, MBACP
Newcastle Upon Tyne NE2 & NE3

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