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How can we keep children from picking a side?

When parents divorce, they often hear the same refrain over and over: it is important to keep kids out of the middle of it all. Parents typically share this hope and do everything they can to help their children through this process.

Despite this effort, many families face challenges when children witness disagreements or hear one parent badmouthing the other. In cases like these, children might side with one parent over the other. While parents hope to prevent this from happening, how can they accomplish this?

Three tips parents must consider to prevent kids from “choosing sides”

The strategy that works best for parents will vary depending on what their children and family need.

However, it often helps if parents:

  • Show kids they are a team. Parents know they must communicate with each other throughout the divorce, but they must make sure their children can see that their parents work together and communicate to provide for their best interests. It is helpful to start this from the beginning. For example, parents should demonstrate a united front when informing the children about the plan to divorce. If children see their parents as a team, they often feel less conflicted.
  • Always be respectful. We have discussed the dangers of badmouthing the other parent, especially in front of the children. Remaining respectful during interactions with the other parent – as well as when the other parent is not there – is critical to help children avoid the need to take sides. It is also imperative to make sure that third parties are being respectful about the other parent in the presence of the children.
  • Listen to the children. When both parents make it clear that they will support their children and help them, children will feel more secure and comfortable, even in this time of change in their lives. When both parents commit to putting their children first, it can often prevent children from choosing one parent over the other.

Regardless of whether or not parents divorce, they are still a family to their children. If North Carolina parents take these steps and protect their child’s best interests during and after the divorce, they can proactively help their family avoid this challenge.