When it comes to divorce and children, Dr. Cassandra Friedman, Ph.D, LCPC, CADC has seen and heard her share of stories. Friedman has been an adolescent, adult and family therapist for 30 years, whose patients include dozens of children with divorced parents. That means she hears things. Actually, I bet she hears LOTS of things that are probably very upsetting, not having to do with the kids, but rather the parents.
I met Friedman, who told me to call her Cass, last year while covering a story on her for a local paper. Friedman had just returned from Moore, Oklahoma, where she had spent a week assisting and counseling tornado victims. She’s an amazing person, who I just loved immediately, a first time grandma who is not only really smart, but also, both logical and really sweet.
I asked Cass to guest post about things she hears in her office from kids, specifically what they tell her their parents say. I have to tell you, when I read her post, I was absolutely horrified, but not surprised.
Here is Cass’s post:
5 Things Parents Should never Say To their Kids by Dr. Cassandra Friedman
The purpose of this blog to send a wake-up call to divorced parents. I am a former high-school teacher and professor. Add my private practice to the mix, and I have heard more than my share from children of divorce, telling me things parents say about their ex’s that SHOULD NOT be said!
When parents handle divorce poorly, they don’t realize that they are compromising their children’s emotional welfare, and I ask myself, “What were they thinking?”
Here are 5 common things I hear from kids, things that parents should NEVER say to their children.
1. My Parents Ask Me To Keep Secrets. “Don’t tell mom/dad I said this…” Secrets are never healthy. Asking you children to lie puts them in a no-win situation. Children need to be children, carefree, not bogged down with worry and stress.
2. My Mother Always Tells Me I Am Just Like My Father. She hates my father. Does that mean she hates me? Comments like this make children feel worthless and insecure.
3. My Parents Create Drama Fighting At My School Events. WHAT are you thinking? Children want to be like their peers, fit into the mix, not stand out because their parents are acting out. Your child’s peers will be sure to mention the scene you and your ex caused, and it might even cause your child to get bullied.
4. My Dad always says bad things about my Mom. This will surely backfire on you. This is a guaranteed way for children to lose respect for you and in the future resent you.
5. I saved the worst for last! “We Can’t Afford That Because Dad Did Not Pay This Month’s Child Support.” You are burdening your child with unnecessary information. Children worry about money. Such a comment also makes a child feel guilty when asking for money to buy lunch at school, get a book for a class, etc.
When it comes to your children you need to be selfless. You might be divorced, moving on with your life, but your children will always be connected to you and your ex. If you are guilty of saying even one the five things I mentioned, you need to ask yourself, “What was I thinking?”
The thing is, being someone who went through a divorce, I can understand all of these comments. Divorced people are hurt, angry, frustrated, scared, sad, and most times hold intense resentment for their former spouse for a long time, sometimes for the rest of their lives (sadly enough.)
But Cass is so right. It’s not easy, but you have to try to hold back and not share your feelings with your kids. Vent to your friends, your family, God. NOT to your kids. If your ex is saying these things and you aren’t, your kids will always remember that. Trust me, they will remember the “sane” parent, the one who didn’t bash their other parent.
By the way, in addition to her practice, Cass is also a speaker on divorce and other topics, and has given over 80 presentations! Contact Cass: (847) 272-6902