Divorce Positivity

The Prohibition List was blatantly clear on numbers 1, 2, 7 and 8. What the positive alternatives are to the remaining numbers are key to steering children of all ages through a divorce.


Regardless of your child’s age, you are not to use your child as a confidante. If you have no friends, seek professional (medical, psychological, psychiatric or spiritual) help. Otherwise, you are spreading the pain to an innocent party. Your child:

Just do not do it.

  • is not the cause of your divorce.
  • is not equipped to provide advice.
  • cannot help you circumvent divorce.
  • cannot provide reconciliation.
  • should not be validation for your negative feelings about (situation, Mate, divorce).
  • may be angry at you.
  • is not the person who fills the space Mate left.
  • has real pain and does not need yours, too.
  • does not want or need to commiserate with you.
  • has little or no concept of the mechanics of marriage or divorce.
  • needs your help to cope with the situation.

Letting Kiddo talk helps.

Instead of adding emotional baggage to your child, explore Kiddo’s feelings about the matter. In focusing on healing for your child, you may well find the solace which heals some of the divorce hurt. Validate Kiddo’s feelings, but do not identify your feelings, even when they are the same. These conversations are about your child…not you.

If Kiddo asks how you feel, be careful. Safe statements include:

  • You are not the reason for the divorce.
  • Adults make mistakes, too.
  • I wish things had turned out differently.
  • I am worried about how you are handling this.
  • I want us to get to a place where we can function as a different type of family.

Eventually, you will say all of these things. Mean them when you do.


Even when telling your child the absolute truth about the culpability of Mate will make you appear less villainous, keep quiet. As difficult as it may be for you to know your child thinks badly of you, assassinating Mate’s character will make you infinitely more evil than your child already imagines.

Children identify in themselves characteristics of both parents, both good and bad. During a divorce, bad characteristics are highlighted as the cause for the divorce. Your child will be more vulnerable to believing negative things about both of you. While it may appear evil wins the battle, in the end, good wins the war.

The children who believe you are demonic because Mate spews (true, altered, exaggerated, false) information about you are the ones who will grow up and see others (and possibly themselves) divorce. The change in perspective will likely cause introspection and reevaluation of the events of your divorce. Kiddo will then respect your restraint.

When faced with Mate’s negative press, simply decline to comment when it means saying something your child will find derogatory about Mate. You are welcome to point out there is more information than what Kiddo currently holds, but do not take the bait. Mate specifically said these things in an effort to break Prohibitions 2, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10.

Make Coffee

You can do this!

Rather than making the discussion one of what made your marriage fail, teach your children about the steps necessary to find a suitable mate for themselves. Discuss the positive aspects of marriage. Let your divorce fall away from the conversation altogether. Kiddo will likely ask why you did not do all the things you are espousing. Tell the truth. If you had, you may well not be where you are today.

No Waterboarding

When you child returns from a visit with Mate, do not pull out the spotlight, telephone book and electrodes. Ask well-worded questions to keep your child comfortable sharing with you the things done with Mate.

  • Did you enjoy your weekend?
  • How did you like doing _______________?
  • Where did you go this week/end?

Where is the tush cushion?

What is noticeably missing from these questions? Mate. Your interest is not in what Mate did during the visit, but what Kiddo did and felt. Keep the subject about your child and Kiddo’s (feelings, comfort, enjoyment).

If Kiddo brings up Mate during the conversation, you do not have to change the subject. You do, however, need to approach the subject carefully to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Refer to Mate in reference to the familial connection to Kiddo.

  • I am glad you had a good time with your Parent.
  • I bet your Parent looked silly on roller blades.
  • Your Parent loves you.

We cannot afford it.

Moths and Lint

Childhood is a magical time where such mundane subjects like personal finance and due dates never intrude. Divorce should not change that. Many adults admit they grew up poor, but never knew it. This is a lesson for divorcing parents. Your child need not know splitting of the marital finances is to blame for the lack of disposable income.

If the change in funds means a lifestyle adjustment, keep the blame on the lack of money itself sans the qualifier which names Mate as the cause. Choose instead to introduce savings to Kiddo. Make it a learning experience.

Comfort Me

Kiddo has problems. As if childhood did not hold the enough agony with teenagerhood, life as Kiddo knew it has disappeared. One of the lead thespians in the movie of life has exited stage left. It is your job as a parent to alleviate Kiddo’s strife.

Ask about Kiddo’s feelings, but do not pressure for answers. When your child is ready to talk, discussion you shall have. Offer it regularly, especially if you first meet with resistance.

If you notice telltale signs of emotional distress, seek professional intervention. If you do not know what the symptoms of depression are, read extensively.

Create a safe haven in your home where Kiddo is not threatened. Make special time for the two of you to engage Kiddo’s enjoyable interests. Schedule time for Kiddo to spend with other family and special adults to replace some of the time Mate would have otherwise occupied. Most importantly, tell Kiddo the magic words: I love you.

Disclaimer: Even if your child exhibits advanced maturity or is over the age of majority, choose proactive positive behavior to minimize the trauma of divorce. These suggestions are offered as general guidelines for adult behavior during a divorce and are not intended as psychological advice in lieu of professional help. Information offered in this blog series derives from the author’s personal observation of families in divorce situations. In the event of emergent symptoms of psychiatric disruption, seek immediate medical/psychiatric assistance.
To follow this series from the beginning, start with It Is Over and Children Do Not Divorce.

How can you add positivity to the life of a child of divorce? Have you been a special adult for a child of divorce?

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© Red Dwyer 2011
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  1. As you have probably guessed from my previous comments my abuser father used us as weapons to get to mum and was ‘nice’ to us for the first time in living memory only as long as we didn’t say anything against him – by this time he was unable to hit us having been investigated by social services for child abuse and managed to lie and act his way out of trouble, blaming it all on my mother’s infidelity when she had never been unfaithful.

    The divorce was nasty, friends of his tried to get involved and told us how bad our mother was for leaving us, Olive saying she would be our mother from then on, so I let their tires down!

    My first (and only) act of vandalism…

    When the divorce went through dad lied about everything, took £90,000 out in a loan, paid mum £5,000 in settlement and told everyone that she had taken him to the cleaners – yet another blatant lie.

    • You are a mischievous one! Tehe. You make a good point about friends of either Mate staying exactly out of it. Thank you for sharing, Pren. {HUGZ} Red.

  2. Bear

     /  December 30, 2011

    It is so sad what one adult will do to make the mate look bad in front of the children. My children were told horrible things about me, none of which were true. As I said in a previous comment in this series I still don’t know the full extent of the damage because my children think I’m an ogre. And do not speak to me.

    As Prenin has written about his abusive dad, it brings back a lot of memories about my parents. They were to say the least a soap opera Dad was a workoholic who had LOTS of Friends. Mom was and still is just plain nuts. They both used me and my sister as battering rams against the other. I remember weeks upon weeks of screaming and physical abuse and hatred between them. I still carry their battle wounds 34 years later, although my sister and I seem to be somewhat normal.

    Only years later while talking to my sister did we agree that it wasn’t all dad as had been portrayed. Years of manipulation caused my dad to be the way he was. As my dad grew older, I saw him mellow then he passed away. I spent the last 2 months of his life with him. My father didn’t speak to me or my sister and I think he was saving his energy to say goodbye to his close friends which he did. He passed a week later.

    Ok so what does this have to do with this topic here? It is IF my parents had divorced who knows how my life would have turned out. Would I have been a happier child? YES. But I wouldn’t have learned what NOT to do. Life is hard enough without putting your kids through hell. Stop and think before you say or do anything that could have long term issues with your child. Reassure them make sure they know they are loved by you and your ex. Let them be children and help them through the tough times, set an example.

    • Helping the children cope is often healing, and revealing. It shows how our actions really affect them, and is a great reminder it is not all about us. Thank you for sharing, Bear. Red.

  3. This brings back so many bad memories. My mother still bashed our father and he has never said one negative word about her, even when she continued to leave us and come back. Regardless of what happened in their relationship…I always respected him for that and had no respect for my mother.
    I am not perfect and I’m sure I have screwed up here and there when dealing with the kids in regards to their father, but I try to recognize when I do and correct it.

    • You are singing an all-too-often refrain. When the hate-speak is constant, and even when it is only occasional, the children all come to the same conclusion you did: Respect the parent who kept the children shielded from the negativity. Thank you for doing the same for your children.

  4. I have the blessing of having parents who did not divorce. They had their flaws, but they were good parents. In fact, I learned a great deal of life from their ministry to others.

    I divorced my oldest son’s dad early on. I had a lot of things I could have told my son, but I never did. I answered questions if asked, but only said we were both young and foolish. I worried it would backfire on me, but it didn’t.

    I do see the pain inflicted on my oldest two grandchildren by their parents, however. They argue like they are still married and talk bad about each other in front of the children. The girls hate it! I have worked to make sure the girls know they are loved no matter what and that they have a wonderful dad who loves them very much. He is in their lives (shared custody) and loves them. Things have gotten better as mom has gotten closer to God, but the damage is still there.

    Parents should NEVER EVER do any of the things on your list. We are here to meet our children’s needs, not the other way around. My youngest two children apprecate having both their parents together and know exactly how rare that is!

    Great post, Ann Marie!

    • Thank you for sharing, Angie. I cannot stress to parents enough how they truly need to be the adults, instead of middle-school-playground-bullies. Often, parents make the mistake of assuming (therein part of the problem) since the children are in the house and attuned to the negativity, they have both the capacity and maturity to properly assimilate the negative information and possibly hold some camaraderie or solution. Sadly, none of it is true, and the damage can be lifelong and horrific.

      Congrats on a long and healthy marriage, Angie.

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