Out of the Mouths of Babes ….. Top 10 List of Do’s and Don’ts for Parents Going Through Divorce

I work with parents and children experiencing divorce every day. Sometimes I’m the lawyer for Mom or Dad, and sometimes I’m the lawyer for the children.  As the lawyer for the children (called a Guardian ad litem), I’m appointed by the court to represent the “best interests” of the children.

Many states provide for these appointments in contested custody cases. After all, Mom has a lawyer and Dad has a lawyer, but it’s really about the children. Shouldn’t they have a voice? I enjoy this role of advocating for the children because it gives me the opportunity to work with them and their parents together to try to achieve a solution that will work for the whole family. And staying out of court is always the goal.

There are vast differences in how divorce affects children and families.  I’ve found it to be immensely helpful to the parents to hear directly from the children. The truth is that all parents love their children, worry about their children, and want to do what’s best for them. Often during a divorce, though, they are so caught up in their own emotional hurt and pain, they can’t see how their behavior is affecting their children.

So here are some of the things children want to say to you:

  1. Please spend as much time with us as possible.
  2. And please spend time with just us. Don’t always have your new girlfriend or boyfriend or other people around.
  3. Please don’t say bad things about the other parent in front of us. We love both of you.
  4. Please don’t ever ask us to choose between the two of you.  This is not our fight and we don’t want to be in it.  We are part of both of you and want to see both of you as much as possible.
  5. Please don’t argue or fight in front of our friends or at school events or at our games. That is so embarrassing to us. It’s hard enough that you are getting divorced.
  6. Please tell us the truth. We always know or will find out if you lie to us.
  7. You don’t need to buy us “stuff” for us to know that you love us. We know you love us.
  8. We know you are sad right now, but please don’t use that as an excuse to start using drugs or alcohol.  That is very scary for us.
  9. Please don’t argue about the “time” we are with each of you, and don’t ever tell us that the other parent “isn’t being fair.” We need for you to talk to our other parent about the schedule and not us.  Don’t try to get us to take sides!
  10. Always tell us that you love us.  It helps us to hear that.

BONUS TIPMost of all, no matter what you are going through, please be the adult and let us be the children.  You may be divorcing my other parent, but we are still your kids, and we’ll still ALL see each other for the rest of our lives. Please, please, please . . . keep that in mind and do your best to keep the peace as much as possible.

And there you have it. Out of the mouths of babes comes the raw, honest truth about what they need from you at this very challenging time.  I’ve found that most parents just need to hear this information or see these words, and they get it.  Let me know if this makes a difference for you, because if it does, it will make a difference for your children.

This post has 6 comments

  • Carol Hess says:

    Marcy, I think you just wrote the Bill of Rights for children going through divorce. This should be required reading for all divorcing parents.

    • Marcy Jones says:

      Thanks Carol! I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve seen really make a shift in their behavior and the way they talk to their children when they hear some of these tips. They just don’t realize how the things they say can affect their children, but once they do, they stop. I love the “Bill of Rights” idea!

  • Nichole says:

    Marcy, As a child of divorce (even though I was 19 at the time), I WISH my parents had known this – wish I had been able to tell them for my sake and for my little sisters’ sake. I am so moved by your advocacy for the kids. Thank you for sharing such a powerful perspective here.

    • Marcy Jones says:

      Thank you Nichole. I wish your parents had known this too! And all parents in this situation. Part of my passion has to do with my own “less than stellar” behavior during my own divorce, but even then, my ex and I did pretty well. It’s a tough time for all, no doubt, but I’ve found that when parents are armed with this insightful information, they are much more aware and really do manage themselves better around their children. And that’s the goal. Thank you for your thoughtful comments!

  • This is such wonderful insight! Parents should be team players, as far as their kids are concerned. Of course that’s easier said then done, but insight like yours can help us all stay on track.
    .-= A Serious Girl´s last blog …Thursday Night Family Dinner =-.

  • Marcy Jones says:

    And those of us who have been through this totally understand that we need constant reminding of that “team player” concept! It might “take a village” to raise children…. but sometimes it “takes a village” to help raise good parents too! We need to keep putting it out there -:)