We all say things we regret from time to time, but there is no more crucial time for parents to mind their words than during a Massachusetts divorce. Not only can the things they say come back to haunt them in divorce court, but, more importantly, they can harm children and the people around you. So if you're feeling frustrated, fed up or ready to explode, take a deep breath, count to ten and, above all, bite your tongue because there are things you should never, ever say.
Here, a few experts offer some specific examples of statements to never say to kids during a Massachusetts divorce.
"Your father/mother is a deadbeat."
Saying anything bad about your spouse, whether it's running down the father or saying mom is greedy, is an invitation to problems, as it puts the children right in the middle. Children are half of each parent, so when the parent is berated, the child feels berated, too according to divorce experts. Children may become defensive and protective of the criticized spouse, damaging the relationship with the criticizing parent.
"I'll be lonely until you get back."
By saying something like this, you might think that simply you're letting your kids know that you'll miss them while they're with your ex. However, what you're actually doing is making them feel as though your happiness is somehow their problem, which can put undue stress and worry on your kids. Never parentify your children by making them feel responsible for your happiness experts advise. It should be the other way around. Kids should not have to worry about their parent's unhappiness.
"I have to take your father/mother to court to get more money."
Sharing financial problems with your children is way out of line and puts a weight on their shoulders that not only are they unequipped to carry, but that they should never have to in the first place.
"If you weren't so difficult, we wouldn't be getting divorced."
When divorce happens, children will automatically blame themselves anyway, and phrases like this just confirm to them that their feelings are correct. It's the parents' responsibility to manage stress and disagreements between them, not the child's," says psychotherapists for children, adolescents and families. These statements make the child feel that if the child were somehow better, the parents wouldn't have so many problems leading to divorce.
"You are just like your mother or father."
Think about the message that this is sending to your child. You obviously no longer want to be with your partner, so if you tell your child that they are somehow just like them, what will that make them think? Statements such as this cause the child to question whether they are at risk of losing your love,and can cause the child to question whether they can remain loyal to both parents.
"Daddy's just moving away for a little while."
Avoid white lies or evasive answers to questions. Offer your kids the truth in an honest and age-appropriate manner. Kids need to know they live in a predictable universe that they can understand and predict to some degree. A parent moving out of the home, along with a divorce, will require some explanation. Otherwise a child may think the world is unpredictable. Both parents should agree on a gentle version of the truth, which can help a child navigate a very big change.
"Go to your room if you're going to cry."
It can hurt to know the heartache your divorce is causing your child, and it can hurt even more to see them express that heartache in front of you. But, as hard as it is, you have to let them express those feelings and, under no circumstances should the ever be suppressed. Divorce is scary for kids, especially when they aren't old enough to express their emotions as precisely as adults. Saying this shows your kids that you don't want to see their 'negative' or 'bad' feelings and as a result they will hide their emotions from you.
"You're the 'man/woman of the house' now."
The thinking behind this phrase might be that you're instilling in the child a sense of responsibility, but in reality you're simply burdening them with the notion that they somehow have to now assume an "adult" role in the household. Especially with younger children, statements like these tend to be taken literally,. Nochild regardless of age, should be made to feel as though they need to assume adult roles and/or responsibilities.
Should you be in the midst of a divorce or contemplating divorce, Contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.