Divorce in and of itself sucks. That is true. No way around that. Divorce is hurtful, even in the best cases. No way around that. However, it doesn't have to be damaging forever.
Let's take the smaller percentage of divorce cases that involve abuse, addiction, and extreme personality disorder issues and address these first. Of course, in most of these cases, you don't want to continually damage your children by exposing them to abuse over and over. That's a given. However, you can talk to your kids (in an age appropriate manner) and let them know that Mommy or Daddy has an issue—with addiction, anger management, mental health—and can't be the parent we need them to be right now.
See how that works? We didn't have to say that Mommy/Daddy is a loser, crazy, drunk, pill head, psycho, or whatever other derogatory term we might be compelled to label them with. Two reasons: it doesn't make you look like you made a good choice; and secondly, you did procreate with this person, and your children are half of that.
Let's say it's just a nasty divorce, and egos are flying everywhere. You still don't have to bring your kids into the deal. Here are three ground rules:
Your children are not messengers.
Don't put them in the middle of your "telephone" game with your ex. The last kind of stress junior needs is having to play ref and deliver messages for two adults who can't get along. They are kids. You are the adult. Use text or a parenting app. If you don't, you are showing your kids how to act like a child. That is a disservice to them, and to you. You don't want to play baby games—do you?
They don't need the details.
I know you are hurt. Your ex sucks, and I hate that he/she cheated on you; but please, your kids don't need to know the details. They don't. Tell your adult friends, and then let it go and make your life better. Ask any kid how telling them the details about your divorce makes them feel. I'll save you the time—they say it SUCKS! Picture your parents—do you want to hear about their sexual escapades? Yep, thought not.
Seek professional help.
No shame in asking for help; in fact, it's not only brave, it's smart. Why wouldn't you give your kids the tools to work through their emotions? Having an outside-the-family adult can really give them the space they need to express their feelings. Working through issues when you have them saves you years of heartache later in life when all the feelings you stuffed down come to the surface. And it happens. You can't stuff your feelings forever.
Written by Marina Sbrochi
Marina Sbrochi Spriggs holds a Masters in Professional Counseling from Amberton University and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from The Ohio State University. She is a member of the North Texas Society of Clinical Hypnosis, The American Counseling Association, and a Certified Instructor of Infant Massage. Marina counsels adolescents, individuals, and couples. She is the author of Nasty Divorce: A Kid's Eye View and Stop Looking for a Husband: Find the Love of Your Life. She also writes positive divorce advice for The Huffington Post. Learn more about Marina at www.AnotherWayTherapy.com .