Divorce is one of the most difficult situations you’ll ever have to face. When children are involved, however, an already complicated experience becomes gut-wrenching. Kids at the age of 12 and older are allowed to express their personal desires regarding where they’ll be living post-divorce with the court judge; provided the chosen parent is responsible and capable (both financially and emotionally) of caring for them, they will receive sole custody.
If you aren’t that parent, however, the ruling can be hard to accept. You’ll feel angry, heartbroken, and maybe even betrayed — since those emotions will pass with time, the best thing you can do is maintain your relationship with your child as best you can, while resisting the urge to make the following mistakes.
- Avoid the conversation. Refusing to address the situation, especially when dealing with an upset and emotional teen, doesn’t make it go away. In fact, it can do considerable harm: repression has been proven to cause problems in the future, so try to keep the conversation as open and honest as possible. The better your child understands what has happened, the better your odds of maintaining a close relationship.
- Take it personal. Your child’s interest in living with your ex-spouse does not reflect on your ability to parent. It is not a failed evaluation of who you are or how successful you’ve been raising your child. This is an exceptionally difficult interpretation to master, so if you find yourself struggling, contact a therapist or counselor about how to separate your child’s request from your identity as a parent.
- Badmouth your ex. Even if you truly believe that the other parent is harmful to your child’s development or security, avoid making negative comments about them in front of your child; this will only lead to anxiety in their lives as they struggle to reconcile their love for each of you with your dislike (or hatred) of each other.
Roughly 50% of American children are affected by divorce; don’t beat yourself up about what’s happened. People change, grow apart, and make mistakes. The key is to learn from them so your child can continue to live a happy and stress-free life. It’s not going to be easy, but if you can stay away from those three major mistakes, you’ll find that everything will turn out alright.