15 Things Children Want You to Know About Divorce

Torn apart drawing of unhappy familyChildren often feel or actually are voiceless when their parents divorce. It is a highly emotional time for parents, and kids sometimes become part of the fabric of the conflict as each parent decides what he or she thinks is in the best interests of the children.

There are some parents who can continue to parent their children and maintain a civil, if not friendly, relationship with the person from whom they are disengaging the rest of their life. For those who cannot, it appears children have a great deal to say about this. If and when they do tell you what they think, it is a good idea to really listen to some of the words of wisdom they have to offer. Here are some examples based on Cooperative Parenting & Divorce Parent’s Guide (Boyan & Termini, 1999).

Kids don’t want:

  1. … to see their parents fighting. It makes them feel bad about themselves.
  2. … you to talk with them about the divorce and grown-up things they don’t understand anyway.
  3. … to hear about money or child support. They feel less like kids and more like possessions.
  4. … you to ask them questions about what is going on at their other parent’s home. They feel like they are being asked to spy.
  5. … to be used as a messenger for anything needing to go back and forth between their homes. It means they’re the ones who have to deal with the reaction of the other parent, and it makes them feel scared and anxious.
  6. … to feel bad for loving their other parent. They feel protective of both parents, can’t figure out what is the right thing to do, and feel guilty.
  7. … their parents to talk to them when they are on the phone with their other parent. They feel tugged at from both of you, they don’t want to have to choose between you.
  8. … to be stopped from seeing their other parent. It is too upsetting to be caught in the middle with everything and this too.
  9. … to be called constantly by the parent they aren’t with. They want to be able to love you both completely and without guilt.
  10. … to hear either of their parents blaming the other for what is wrong with their lives. They think they’re too young to have to deal with all that, and it is very upsetting to them.
  11. … either of you to ignore the other when you are at one of their sporting or other kinds of events. Just act like normal adults and don’t embarrass them.
  12. … to have to worry about what they can or cannot bring with them when they go back and forth between your homes. They just want to be able to have their things when they want them.
  13. … to be asked questions that make them choose between you, especially about where they want to live. They think it is unfair.
  14. … everything to be so rigid. They like it much better when everyone can be flexible and stop making their lives the place where things get fought out and then they don’t get to do the things they had always been able to do before.
  15. … you to talk with them about everything. They would rather you found a friend or a therapist to talk to instead.

If you are in any stage of divorce, you might want to take these ideas into consideration when you interact with your children.

© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Shendl Tuchman, PsyD, Divorce / Divorce Adjustment Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Laurie Bryson

    December 6th, 2012 at 5:29 AM

    Great article and terrific reminders. Spot on.

  • barney

    December 6th, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    its so important to ensure kids are not in the line of fire between the two parents.this sort of happened to me in my childhood and my parents were not really great at following what’s written here.I ended up feeling depressed even at that age and I think it still has an effect in the way I perceive marriage and conflicts amongst other things.please don’t do this to your children.

  • lacie

    December 6th, 2012 at 11:34 PM

    having been in this exact situation ever since I was five I can definitely vouch for the validity of these points. it makes no sense to bring kids into the conflict. it could cause them immense harm.

  • stuart goering bs,cadc

    December 8th, 2012 at 8:06 PM

    Nice, basic information to use as discussion topic or as a handout for divorced parents. Even amicable divorces with enlightened parents result in some triangulation.

  • july

    July 10th, 2013 at 8:33 PM

    I am guilty of some of these,i left a abusive relationship he was to me and the oldest. After leaving he still did things that were abusive,stuff like in front of our oldest smashing household stuff with sledge hammer then burning them,taking my vehicle out of my yard and making the kids walk to school 1111/4 mile in -15 to -25 weather some mornings in the dark we could not even see in front of us and walking right in front of his house him outside never even saying a word. there is lots more so how do you hide this stuff from kids without some sort of explanation. I choose to tell my oldest the truth rather than hide it and have to tell her a secret when she is older.

  • jessica

    May 20th, 2015 at 5:39 AM

    That stuff sounds dangerous and it seems time for a restraining order. You and the children should not have to live a life like that. Not to mention stealing a car. I said a prayer. I hope you guys are well.

  • july

    July 10th, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    that was 1 and 1/4 mile

  • Jasmine

    July 10th, 2013 at 10:11 PM

    Though I have a hard time dealing with my daughter’s father being he makes horribly poor choices, taking the high road will ensure that she will be happy for the most part.

  • Carol Gordon Ekster

    November 1st, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    What a wonderful list! I hope you’ll take a look at my children’s book on shared custody that touches on responsibility and hope as well as helping children understand they are not alone in their feelings about their parents’ divorce. Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?-A Story of Divorce, Boulden Publishing, 2008, is actually modeled after a former student of mine. I taught 4th grade for 35 years. Thanks for all you do in helping families through this difficult time in their lives.

  • Rachel

    July 15th, 2018 at 6:08 AM

    I am struggling here to try and do the best for my child.
    I am listening to all your comments especially those of you who have been the children of separated parents. I am making mistakes but I am doing my very best to be a good mum. I am learning all of the while and yes I still need to make alterations to what I say and do.
    i am afraid that I may have caused angst in my 11 year old that he should not experience. i will work harder on myself to get it better
    thank you

  • B L

    September 30th, 2018 at 11:00 PM

    My ex husband has been so emotionally abusive to our kids. He is quick to be derogatory of me in front of them on a regular basis. He has moved in with a new person and both my 14 yr old son and 12 yr old daughter sleep in the living room and have for the last 10 months. My daughter cries everyday and he allows the gf to say mean things including that she hopes my daughters dog dies. All of my kids have been exposed to listening to them have sex on regular basis to. I dont even know where to start. He is very abrasive and aggressive with any attempts to co parent.

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