For
many of my years as a family lawyer I was asked by judges to represent the
interests of children going through divorce. 
As an “ad litem” or “amicus attorney”, it was my duty to talk to my
young charges to find out what they were thinking and what was bothering
them.  In many cases their parents
couldn’t agree on where the children should live after the divorce, which
parent should have the power to make decisions regarding the children’s
day-to-day life, or whether one parent should have the right to move to a new
location, far away from the other parent. 
My experience gave me an insight into how many children think during the
turbulent period of their parent’s separation and divorce, and the best way
parents can deal with some of the children’s assumptions and
misunderstandings. 

            Insight
#1 – children often think that it’s their fault that the marriage is ending;
that it is something they have done that has caused the problems plaguing the
adults in their lives.  Parents need to
make it very clear that the children have had nothing to do with the issues in
their divorce and that it is not the children’s job to solve the problems.  Sometimes I heard from parents that the
children were doing just fine – in fact, they had never behaved better than
they have since the separation.  This may
be a warning signal that a child thinks that if he just behaves perfectly that
the divorce will do away.  A parent would
do well to reassure the child that they are loved and will be loved by both
parents no matter what happens between the parents.

            Insight
#2 – if encouraged in any way, a child will take sides in the battle between
the parents, sometimes acting as a spy in the other parent’s house and
reporting back to the “preferred parent” negative things they’ve seen and
heard.  Taken to the extreme, this can
lead to parental alienation, destroying the formerly loving relationship with
the other parent and causing the child resentment and a sense of abandonment.  A wise parent will avoid making negative
comments about the other parent, encourage the child to spend time at the other
parent’s home, and generally support a close and loving relationship with their
ex-spouse…and definitely do NOT encourage spying!

            Insight
#3 – children have no compunctions about being manipulative, pitting the
parents against each other in a contest to see which parent can be the most
generous gift-giver, and the most lenient disciplinarian.  Parents, do not fall into this trap!  If at all possible, work with your ex-spouse
to enforce behavioral rules consistently in both homes, and communicate with
each other when problems arise with the children.  If you are working together in a
collaborative divorce, plan in advance how you will react when problems
arise.  Many collaboratively divorced
couples schedule weekly or monthly conferences with each other to discuss the
children’s development and schedules and enforce each other’s rules
consistently.  In a world in which it’s
them (the children) against us (the parents), it’s in the children’s best
interests that the parents win.

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