Even when you share a home, being on the same page with parenting decisions takes a lot of effort. After a divorce, co-parenting in a way that supports your children’s emotional growth and well-being can become even more challenging. If you are not careful, you and your ex can end up making decisions that can do more harm than good. Here are five parenting mistakes that can hurt your child’s self-esteem:
1. Putting Your Kids in the Middle
One of the worst things for children is when their parents put them in the middle of their conflicts. Kids can’t help but internalize what is happening, and their self-esteem will suffer if they are made to pick sides or listen to their parents argue about them. When parents can refrain from airing their disputes around their children, they can help them feel more secure and reduce their anxiety.
2. Becoming the “Friend” Parent
As parents begin spending time with their kids according to their placement schedules, it can be tempting to do things to please them. While there is nothing wrong with having fun with your kids, when time together involves too many late nights, unhealthy eating foods, and lax rules, the dynamic can shift into more of a “buddy” relationship. On the surface, your kids may appear to love hanging out with the “cool” mom or dad who does not enforce the rules but that’s not what they need. During placement time they need you to be a parent who sets and keeps structure and boundaries in their lives.
3. Pressuring Them to Accept the New Partner and Family
For kids, your divorce meant losing the only family they have ever known. Having to adjust to life without married parents is hard enough. Adding a new partner and his or her kids to the mix can be even more difficult for your children to accept. When parents pressure their kids to accept new romantic partners and their kids too soon, they can end up feeling resentful and as if they are being replaced. Integrating new members of a family is a slow process, and it’s essential to check in with your kids along the way and provide consistent reassurance that their relationship will always be a priority to you.
4. Confiding in Your Child
Divorce is painful for parents, and your children are going to notice when it’s affecting you emotionally. Kids often want to take care of their parents and make them feel better when they are sad. When you are going through intense feelings during this time, it can be tempting to lean on your kids for support. No matter how mature your child may seem, he or she is not an appropriate confidante. The things you need to talk about are far too much for your child to know or handle. Find a friend or therapist and maintain healthy boundaries with your kids when it comes to talking about the divorce and your feelings.
5. Negative Comments About the Other Parent
No matter what your ex has done to you or how bad the divorce was, this person is the mother or father of your children. Like it or not, you are going to be in one another’s life and raising your kids together. Children identify as being part of both of their parents, so when you say something negative about each other, on some level, they believe the comment to be true about themselves. As a general rule, keep hostile remarks about the children’s other parent out of their hearing.