The Dangers of Forcing Children to Pick Sides in a Divorce

October 31st, 2022
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Forcing children to pick sides in a divorce is incredibly harmful for their mental wellbeing. Sometimes parents don’t even realize that they’re subtly asking their children to choose sides. But whether overt or unintentional, the damage can last for years. To avoid making your children pick sides in your divorce, you and your ex need to agree to show respect towards one another. In addition, it’s important to keep your divorce private and not go into detail with your kids. As long as you and your ex agree that the most important thing is the wellbeing of your children, you can work together to make sure that you aren’t forcing them to choose sides.

Why is It Harmful?

Kids love both of their parents. Forcing children to pick sides in a divorce is like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. It can create a lot of stress and anxiety. It can even scare them because they might be afraid of losing the love of whichever parent they don’t choose. The most important thing that parents can do for their children’s wellbeing during divorce is to assure them that they love them no matter what and that they’re going to stay in their lives forever.

Long Lasting Effects

The negative consequences of forcing children to pick sides in a divorce can create life-long guilt and resentment. A young child doesn’t understand the scope or context of a divorce. If they pick sides and lose a relationship with one parent, they might resent that when they grow up and learn more about how relationships work. Or feel guilty for the rest of their lives about something they were too young to understand. In addition, you aren’t modeling healthy conflict-resolution for them. They might suffer as a result in their interpersonal relationships.

Showing Respect

One way to avoid forcing children to pick sides in a divorce is to have an agreement with your ex to keep their wellbeing as your first priority. That no matter how ugly the divorce gets, you will always treat each other with respect. Showing children that you can still interact and be respectful with somebody that you disagree with shows them how to handle conflict without burning bridges.

Keeping Things Private

Another way to avoid forcing children to pick sides in a divorce is to agree to keep things private. You don’t need to let your children know all the details of your divorce. They shouldn’t be the person you go to to vent about your ex. Trash talking your ex in front of them can also be harmful. It’s also important not to try to “one up” each other when you have your time with the kids by showering them with gifts or upsetting their schedule. Kids thrive on consistency, so keeping things as normal as you can is best for their mental wellbeing.

Forcing children to pick sides in a divorce can be harmful and can create life-long scars. Children can be perfectly healthy going through a divorce. And they can thrive afterwards with successful co-parents. But involving them in the divorce and forcing them to feel like they need to pick a side can cause a lot of damage. To avoid this, always show respect towards your ex, even when they are using dirty tactics in the courtroom. In addition, keep your divorce details private from your children. They are not mature enough to understand the ins and outs of how a marriage works. Instead, assure them that you and your ex both love them and will work together to stay in their lives as peaceful co-parents.