There’s no doubt about it; divorce is a difficult thing for all involved parties to deal with. Divorced parents agonize over the guilty feelings and anxiety regarding their children post divorce. They feel guilt because they’ve hurt them and become anxious about whether or not their children will love or like them anymore. This is especially true for the non-custodial parent who does not get to see his children as often as he did prior to the divorce. As a result, many non-custodial parents overcompensate by doing at least one (usually all) of the following:
- They turn into the “funhouse” or “disneyland” parent; making every visitation the biggest party of the year. They shower them with expensive gifts, dinners and whatever else they want. There is no sense of normalcy during these visits.
- They spend the rest of their lives apologizing for the divorce and using the divorce as an excuse for their children’s bad behavior. For example, a divorced parent might say, “She just called you a bitch because she’s hurt as a result of the divorce,” (even though the divorce happened 8 years prior).
- Numbers 2 and 3 usually go hand in hand. Parents may let their children do whatever they want with few rules and little to no consequences. While they make excuses for their bad behavior they allow them to avoid consequences simultaneously.
Parents must realize that their children will encounter many difficult situations, trials and tribulations throughout their life time and it’s important that through it all, we raise children who grow up and contribute to the world in some way instead of believing that the world owes them something.
When divorced parents overcompensate due to guilt, it may satisfy them in the short-term, but there are long-term consequences as a result. These children don’t just grow up and learn; they become products of the world that you alter for them. If they learn and are allowed to manipulate everyone and use the divorce as excuse, then they become the manipulative adult who manipulates and blames everyone for his or her shortcomings. For example, if you spend your child’s whole live giving him or her a bunch of excuses for their behavior, they will do the same as they get older. Instead of being accountable for his or her actions it becomes everyone else’s fault. I got a bad grade because the teacher didn’t like me. I didn’t do well in the baseball game because the ref didn’t like me. I don’t have any friends because everyone hates me. All the while these type of kids never ever stop to think that it could be them!
As parents, it is our instinct to protect our children from all hurt and pain. As the mother of a five week old, I know how intense this feeling is from the very beginning of their life. You just want your kids to be happy all the time, but the reality is that experiences can evoke happiness, sadness, pain, anger and all kinds of emotions. It is best to teach our children to deal with these emotions properly instead of protecting them from something that is inevitable – pain. Instead of creating unlikeable adults, let your children grow and learn from their painful situations as they will undoubtedly experience many more throughout their lifetime. Remember, your children depend on you to remain their parent and never reverse that role out of guilt.