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Shielding Your Child | The Rejected Parent Newsletter

This newsletter is for parents who are being rejected by their children and those who support them. I will be sending regular newsletters to give suggestions and support to parents dealing with rejection from their children on all levels. I generally support parents whose children are 18 years and under; however, some of this will apply to parents with adult children as well.

Parents going through a divorce or custody dispute can often become so engrossed in their own personal struggles that they overlook the emotional journey their children are also undertaking. Recognizing and prioritizing your child's need for emotional support during this challenging time is crucial. This involves adopting a child-centered approach, focusing on all aspects of your child's emotional health and well-being.

It's essential to shield children from the harsh realities of legal disputes, parental conflicts, and negative comments about either parent. While you might think that involving your child in these discussions is a form of education, it's important to recognize the potential harm it can cause. Exposing children to the stress of a custody dispute or family upset can have long-lasting effects on their mental health and well-being, potentially influencing their future relationships.

In Benjamin D. Garber’s book Keeping the Kids Out of the Middle, he emphasizes the importance of parents having a shared script to explain their breakup to their children. This script should support the child’s relationship with each parent and make it clear that the child is not at fault. Garber argues that this unified approach, where both parents act as a team in the child’s life, can help prevent emotional harm to the child during this crisis. By keeping children out of the parents’ dispute in all ways, it also reduces the risk of them rejecting a parent and allows them to grow up in a conflict-free environment.

According to Garber, some consequences of not presenting a unified front and not shielding your child from the conflict adults experience are “Social withdrawal, declining grades, moodiness, anger, worry, or even their physical pain.” 

You may wonder, “But how do I know what is okay to tell a child and what may harm them?” The two ways to determine whether a child should know something are: if it will positively benefit their growth and development and if it doesn’t hurt a child’s perception of the other parent. An example of a positive benefit would be for them to know the parenting schedule between their parents’ homes. Knowing the schedule will help them understand which home they are going to next and reduce their anxiety about what’s happening in their schedule. 

It’s unnecessary to share anything that could hurt your child’s perception of their other parent, if it wouldn’t help your child in any way. When you are about to reveal something to your child, ask yourself, “How will it benefit or help my child if I tell them about ______?” If there is nothing in their future growth or development this new information could positively help them with,  then that information doesn’t need to be shared.

Letting children in on anything that puts the other parent in a negative light could damage that parent-child relationship, even if it helps to defend you from accusations being made against you. This information doesn’t just hurt that parent; it hurts your child. So, to protect your child, please try to shelter them from all information about the details of a custody dispute or other arguments between you and your co-parent. You will gain a more adjusted and resilient child by doing so.

-Cathy Himlin


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