In our third installment of our Communicating With Your Ex series, we look at specific tips for separating parents. When you have children with an ex-spouse, a whole new set of issues can arise. As a parent, it is your responsibility to put your children’s best interests first. By taking control of your communications with your spouse, you can help make the transition easier for your children. Here are some guidelines for parents during the separation and divorce process:
1. Be civil with your ex in front of the children. Arguing in front of your children will not only make them uncomfortable and fearful, but it will also teach them bad communication habits that may be hard to break.
2. Always assume your children can hear you. Chances are that your children are with you or your ex at all times. One of the most confusing things for a child is to hear his or her parents fighting. Keep this in mind if you’re having a late-night argument with your ex on the phone. Always try to conduct yourself as if your children are listening, which they might very well be.
3. Do Damage Control. If your children do witness a fight between you and your ex, speak with them as soon as possible about the situation and explain why your reaction was not appropriate. Turn a bad situation into a learning opportunity.
4. Don’t engage in parental alienation. No matter what your spouse did to you, do not badmouth your spouse to your children. If your statements create a rift between your spouse and your children, your children may end up resenting you in the future. Further, the issue of parental alienation is taken seriously by the courts, and badmouthing your ex-spouse may affect your custody and access rights.
5. Commit as parents to putting your children’s interests first. Put your own issues aside to speak to your children about your separation. Encourage them to ask questions. Consider attending individual or family therapy to help them adjust to the separation. Reassure them that your issues have nothing to do with them. If at all possible, continue to support them together as parents (attend school events, recitals, soccer games, etc.)
For more information on separation, divorce, and other family law matters, please visit MyOntarioDivorce.com.
Robert Berman B.C.L, LL.B
Founder & Family Lawyer