When two married individuals undergo the divorce process, it can be difficult enough to convey simple messages of picking up belongings, let alone bigger topics, such as things that have to do with children caught in the crossfire.
In navigating the new waters of being a divorced parent, no one is going to be perfect, because nobody knows what perfect is. Given the amount of emotions, not to mention disputed finances and assets, between the two of you, it is difficult to imagine a new normal, when interacting with an ex-spouse.
Using children for communication
Unfortunately, given the fact that you share children and are co-parents with your ex-spouse, it is inevitable that on some level, the two of you will have to communicate with one another. Whether it is regarding the disciplining of a child, a child’s routine, or for some other reason, it is going to have to occur, and the responsibility of seeing that through falls on the parents.
Many parents look to their children, as a way to avoid the responsibility of communicating with one another. This transference of responsibility creates the illusion that the child is to blame for any miscommunication that may occur in the process and to blame for any consequences that their miscommunication creates.
Misinformation and false sense of duty
For example, a child can find themselves being subjected to parental alienation and their thoughts of one parent can influence how they communicate the messages from one parent to another. Misunderstandings can ensue, and the child is made to feel like it is their fault that the constant fighting keeps occurring, when the reality is that the two adults in their life put them in this situation.
In addition to misunderstandings, a child can be made to feel like their duty is to be the telephone that connects their parents. This can be uncomfortable when the subject of the message is not appropriate for a child to express to a parent.
In “When Divorce Hits Home: Keeping Yourself Together When Your Family Comes Apart” by Beth Joselow and Thea Joselow, a child can find themselves dreading their position of telling Dad that he owes Mom money for food, clothing or shelter. Using a child as a way of discussing finances is not recommended, especially if they are young.
If you are not ready to take care of your own issues, you might want to avoid using your child or children, who are not always the most equipped to process the situation for themselves.
Many parents also use children to send objects to the opposite parent, so that way, they do not have to deal with their ex-spouse in person.
However, it is important to understand that unless you, or your ex-spouse are unaware of each other’s addresses, the post office is a viable option that does not create discomfort in children that are caught in the middle of the ugliness of this situation.
For those that don’t mind
Many children convince themselves that they do not mind sending messages back and forth, and it is up to the parents to identify their age and maturity as acceptable for the given task. However, it is important for children to understand what they do and do not feel comfortable communicating to the other parent.
For example, a child needs to be aware of the potential reaction and consequences of telling one parent that it is their turn to pick up a medical bill. The child needs both parents to be aware that this is not coming from the child and that this request is coming from the opposite parent. Both parents also need to be aware that emotionally reacting at the child will not solve anything and will only hurt the child.
Children who wish to deliver messages between parents also need to be able to communicate when you do not wish to express something to the opposite parent. Some subjects regarding future time spent with a child or things related to school may make a child uncomfortable and not want to open up.
This is understandable, given the fact that divorce can be traumatic for a child. They may feel like they have to retreat into themselves, and for those children, it is important for parents to recognize this and get them the professional support that they need.
This also is why communication between co-parents is so important. Co-parents need to be able to communicate to one another what a child needs. They need to be able to relay messages to one another, if a child is struggling in some aspect of their life, and they need to reach a level of polite civility, where they can collaborate on strategies that best help their shared child.