jealousyMarried parents are proud of their children, want them to succeed, and rarely feel any jealousy of them.  Moreover, children in happy married families rarely feel jealous of their parents.  However, divorcing parents often feel jealous if their children form a close bond with one parent and the children often feel jealousy when a divorced parent begins dating.  Jealousy within a divorcing family is caused by insecurity, dependency, and fear of abandonment.  Divorcing mothers most often feel jealous of their daughters while divorcing fathers most often feel jealous of their sons.  Daughters most often feel jealous when their father starts dating while sons most often feel jealous of their mother when she begins dating.

Causes of Parental Jealousy 

A divorcing parent often feels jealous when their children establish a close relationship with the other parent.  The parent may criticize their children because of his or her jealous feelings, and the negative messages have a damaging effect on the children’s emotional development, making the children feel they are “not good enough” to deserve love.

Distorted Relationship with Parents

A divorcing parent who feels jealousy can give his or her children confusing emotional messages.  Children need to feel loved by both their parents, but if they get too close to their divorcing father, their mother may feel threatened and the divorcing father may feel jealous if the children get too close to their mother.  But, if the children stay away from one parent, they lose that parent’s love and support.  These children are caught in an emotional bind.  To avoid this damaging situation, divorcing parents should strive to maintain a close relationship with their children, support them, and offer the children love and encouragement.

Avoid Feeling Jealous During a Divorce.

There are two main ways for divorcing parents to avoid feeling jealous of their children during divorce.  The better method is to opt for collaborative divorce rather than litigation.  By choosing collaborative divorce, the parents will learn how to communicate, develop better parenting skills, minimize the stresses of divorce, avoid feeling insecure, and have a good chance of avoiding jealousy.  If the parents choose litigation and one of them later feel jealousy toward their children, the jealous parent should see a counselor about their jealousy.

Jealousy and Control

When a divorcing parent feels jealous and insecure, he or she often attempts to control the other spouse’s relationship with their children.  However, the more a divorcing spouse tries to control how the other parent deals with their children, the more resentful the other parent will become.  The divorced parents’ relationship deteriorates and creates more insecurity, forming a negative cycle that just makes the jealousy worse.  The solution is for the jealous parent to stop trying to control the other parent and allow him or her to discipline the children without being second guessed.

Jealous Children and Dating Parents

After a divorce, children need to establish a new relationship with their divorced parents.  Daughters need to reconnect with their divorced father and sons need to love and protect their divorced mother.  Parent-child relationships get especially complicated when the divorced parents begin dating or get re-married.  Boys typically become protective of their mother, resent their father abandoning them, and feel angry and jealous of mother’s new boyfriend.  After a divorce, parents are usually not dating and have free time to spend with their children.

During this post-divorce transition, children become reattached to their divorced parents.  However, when a divorced parent begins dating, the new relationship can cause jealousy among the children.  The daughter may feel displaced by her father’s new girlfriend and the son may feel displaced by Mom’s new boyfriend.  Additionally, Mom may worry about what would happen if the children decided they wanted to live with their Dad and his new spouse, and that may cause her to feel jealous of his bond with the children.

Most children of divorced parents experience jealousy when their parents begin dating and divorced parents may feel jealous of their children’s bond with the ex-spouse.  Jealousy is a natural reaction when family dynamics shift.  And, the dating parent is usually so happy to be in a new relationship that he or she may neglect the children for a while.  The best way to handle family jealousy is to hold a frank and open discussion between parent and children about their feelings.  Also, the children should make an effort to get to know father’s girlfriend or mother’s boyfriend—they may actually find they like them.

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