Tips for parenting during a difficult divorce

Get professional support

If your children turn against you, restoring your relationship with your children can be a long and difficult process. Make sure you are taking care of yourself by handling your feelings about the situation in a healthy, adult way. Seek good legal representation or other professional help, such as counselling, if necessary. Dealing with these situations almost always involves using the legal system to protect your relationship with your children. Make sure your lawyer knows about these dynamics and ask them how the family court overseeing your case views these situations.

Behave with integrity

Just because the other parent is not focused on the needs of the children doesn’t mean you should behave in the same way. You are not helpless. You may not have control over the other parent’s actions, but you do have control over how you respond and how you handle the situation with your children.

Don’t let the situation take over your life

Find some support for yourself from friends and family or, if you feel you need it, from helpful organisations such as MIND or the Samaritans. As much as possible, limit the amount of emotional energy you give to the conflict.

Maintain contact and be consistent with children

Don’t believe that, with time, your children will realise the truth, know that they have been lied to and come back to you.

Maintaining consistent contact with your children is especially important in this situation. When children are being actively influenced to reject a parent, they need an alternate perception of reality. If you do not maintain contact, your children are left with no defence against the hostile parent’s perspective.

Despite their attempts to reject you, continue to follow through with what you say you will do. While it can be incredibly frustrating, do what you can to stay connected to your children, for example through emails and texts.

Do not put your children in the middle of adult issues

If you are angry about something the other parent has done, address that issue with the other parent or the court, not your children.

Don’t blame your children for the rejection

It is incredibly stressful and difficult for children when they are placed in a situation where they must side with one parent over the other. They are being told that to be embraced by one parent, they must reject the other. Consider the stress you are experiencing as an adult in dealing with this issue and imagine how your children feel having to live with this stress day after day.

If the relationship with your children is in jeopardy, the first and most important goal is to preserve your relationship and emotional connection with them.

Avoid taking the rejection personally

While it is incredibly painful to be rejected by your children, it is important to understand it is not a situation your children can control or successfully manage without support.

Offer children an alternate perception of reality whenever possible

It is okay to say that you do not agree with how the other parent is handling this situation. However, be careful not to blame, judge or criticise the other parent – these actions may push your children further away.

Because this is such a difficult and frustrating situation, some parents may feel that if they tell their children the ‘truth’, try to set the record straight and aggressively fight the situation, their children will see they are obviously the victimised parent. In most cases, this will not happen. Furthermore, when parents do this they are also engaging in inappropriate behaviour by asking the children to choose one parent as right and one as wrong.