Child abuse and divorce: red flag warning signs

Don't fall into being abusive to your children

Photo courtesy YWCA West Central Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.  (WOTV) – Divorce is one of the most emotional things parents can go through.  Parents who have been loving, kind and attentive to their children during the marriage can disintigrate into becoming emotionally and verbally abusive to their children, sometimes without even realizing it.  Emotional and verbal abuse is just as destructive to your children as physical abuse and cannot be taken lightly.

Emotional abuse of a child is defined as acts or omissions that can seriously interfere with a child’s behavioral, emotional, psychological or social development.  It can result in severe damage to a child’s psyche.  Parents who fall into emotionally abusing their children during or after their divorce may exhibit some of the following behaviors:

Red flags for adult behaviors

  • Making negative or snide comments about the other parent
  • Fighting with the other parent in front of the children
  • Asking the child to choose between parents
  • Making the child feel guilty about wanting to see the other parent
  • Telling the child they are the reason for the divorce
  • Using your child to relay messages to the other parent
  • Revealing details about the divorce in an attempt to get the child on ‘your side’.
  • Using your children as someone to ‘unload on’ or talking to them about adult subjects like child support
  • Refusing to acknowlege the other parent exsists
  • Blaming the divorce on the other parent
  • Telling the children you are poor because of the other parent
  • Ignoring your children because you are so wrapped up in your own issues
  • Questioning your child about the other parent’s activities
  • Refusing to allow or creating problems over parenting time with the other parent
  • Not allowing the children to communicate with their other parent
  • Buying the children through excessive gift giving and activities to ‘show up’ the other parent and buy the children’s affection
  • Not informing the other parent about special activities and achievements of the children in an attempt to exclude the other parent

To avoid falling into the trap of becoming an abusive parent during a divorce give yourself a reality check every so often.  Are you shielding your children from the conflict between you and your ex or soon-to-be ex?  Do you speak positively and kindly about their other parent?  Do you take your children’s feelings into account when it comes to birthdays and holidays and help them celebrate with their other parent?  Have you brought dates and new friends into their lives before they have had a chance to fully adjust to the idea that their family is no longer together?

No parent wants to intentionally harm their children, but when you are in a high conflict situation such as a divorce it is imperative that you model mature behavior.  If you find that you are having a difficult time achieving this get yourself to a therapist and be honest about your struggle to leave your children out of your divorce conflict.  Their self-esteem and future mental and social health are on the line.

Nothing herein constitutes a legal opinion

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