Sometimes a Child Blames One Parent for A Divorce: What if Its You?
Six Tips to Help Dads Salvage Your Relationship with Your Child
Divorces are emotional for everyone involved, and they’re not simple. Often, it can get so complicated that children end up as collateral damage. One way that this shows up can be in their relationships with you. During and after a divorce, it’s not unusual for a child to blame one of the parents for a divorce because their world is changing so significantly.
Chances are that a divorce is a final resort, and in the fighting that may have led to it, children can gather ideas about who’s more responsible. Children also tend to target the parent they feel safer with, whether or not they initiated the divorce. So what happens when the kids blame the dad?
What to Do When a Child Blames One Parent for a Divorce: Dad
Here are some suggestions of actions dads can take—a map of sorts—to rebuild that broken relationship.
1) Be Curious About Your Kids
It’s easy to ask the standard sorts of questions that you’re used to asking: “How was their <insert sports/extracurricular activity here> practice?”; “How is school?”; and so forth. But branching out the types of questions that you ask your kids can help deepen the nature of your interactions with them. Instead, see if you can get them to open up about fears, challenges, aspirations.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to find an activity that you can do side by side. Having a task to complete, like painting a wall or fixing a door, makes it less awkward and can help them (and you!!) be less self-conscious in this new(er) territory. Plus, who doesn’t love learning how to play with hammers and drills? Really, though, be safe with the power tools. You want to engage your kids AND keep them alive. Not handy with power tools, or have a kid who’s too young to try? Driving places is a good back up for having some of these conversations—you (and they) can avoid eye contact, making it less intense! Play around with it. Have fun
2) Acknowledge Their Feelings
When you’re listening to your kids express their feelings, make sure to remember that it’s not all about you! Really. Although you might want to jump to your own defense, if they’re expressing their anger or displeasure, just let them do it. They’ll feel better for sharing how they felt. Acknowledge that you see the impact of your and your ex’s choice on their schedule and circumstances. Don’t downplay the change or try to make it better in the moment. Let them be upset, within reason. If there was a reason that the marriage ended primarily because of your own actions—like an affair or an addiction—take accountability. Your kids will come to respect you for it, and it will help rebuild trust.
3) Listen With Wide Open Ears
Ensure that your kids know that you’re listening and concerned about all of the different parts of their lives. If they’re talking (and you’re not working together on something), give them all your attention. Put down the phone—even if you’re playing Clash of Clans—and listen. Your undivided attention will let them know how much they matter to you.
4) Don’t Speak Badly About Your Ex In Front Of The Kids
Save that for your buddies or your mom. Really. When kids hear their married parents arguing, it upsets them and adds unnecessary stress and worry to their lives. After a divorce, the same is true. Definitely avoid fighting in front of your kids, and don’t badmouth your ex, either. As tempting as it might be to bond over shared frustration, it doesn’t help build trust in their relationship with you. If your son or daughter comes to you to complain about a parent, you can listen, but don’t jump in and commiserate. Hold your tongue—literally, if you have to! Speak well about your ex to your kids, even if your ex is badmouthing you to them. Don’t blame your ex for the changes, and don’t share details about the divorce. Let your kids stay kids. Eventually, they’ll notice the difference.
5) Keep Reaching Out To Your Kids, Even If They Don’t Respond
If your kids are really upset about the divorce, even if you try these tips, they may still blame you for a while, and that’s okay. Your job is to keep showing up. Send cards to celebrate birthdays, holidays, special occasions. Text or call and leave a voicemail, even if they don’t reply. If all else fails, get Snapchat and use the goofy filters to send them pictures that will make them laugh. Who doesn’t love a good Snapchat filter?
6) Be Consistent
With so much change occurring in their world, consistency will be huge for helping you salvage your relationship with your kids. If you’re supposed to pick up your kids or take them somewhere, do so on time! Divorce is stressful enough without waiting or being uncertain about a ride. If you say you’re going to do something, follow through. Over time the repetition of showing up and following through will override (or at least lessen) their stress levels and anxiety.
And a bonus, so you have one for each day of the week! ….
7) Share Your Feelings With Your Kids
Okay, so we don’t mean you should tell your kids how’re you feeling about adult things like bills or relationships or your own problems. But, talking about your own emotions will help them know that it’s okay to feel things. It’ll also strengthen your relationship because that sort of open communication encourages your children to share reciprocally.
There Is Hope: Your Child Won’t Blame You for the Divorce Forever
Even though it might seem like things will never get better with your kids, with time and with attention to your relationship, they will improve. In time, your child may no longer blame you for the divorce. There’s always chocolate and bribes for the kids if our 7 tips don’t work (just kidding!).
If you’re considering a divorce, our team at MR. Men’s Rights Divorce & Family Law of New Jersey by Schultz & Associates, LLC, is here to support you with candor, transparency, communication, and quality. We’ll fight for what’s in your and your children’s best interest, with the highest professionalism and ethics, and a heavy dash of levity. Call us today at 201-880-9770 or contact us online.