Divorce can bring out the worst in people. It can cause even an exceptional parent to lose focus on what is best for his or her children, which in turn can cause the children to feel mistreated.
Some parents can’t separate their bad feelings for an ex-spouse from their feelings for their children. When those negative feelings bleed over, their relationship with their child(ren) is fractured.
A parent can turn their child’s anger over the divorce into acceptance if they are there to help their child cope with the stress of divorce. It’s important that divorced parents put away their own anger and hurt feelings in order to heal their relationship with their child.
A parent needs to set standards for themselves that will help meet their child’s needs. These standards, along with the help of a therapist, can be very helpful when attempting to heal a relationship with an angry child.
Below are 11 guidelines for dealing with a child who is angry about your divorce:
- Love your child and be there for them even if their words are hurtful. It's important to remember that your child's feelings, regardless of how negative, are more important than your feelings.
- Show your child love by expressing it openly. Show love by your words and actions when you talk to your child, no matter how hurtful you feel they are being toward you.
- Hold your child accountable but do not abandon them because the pain is too much for you to deal with. Be there to show them what is and isn’t proper behavior. As a parent, it is your responsibility to be available for your child and to take the low-blows until the issues have been worked out. You don't get to avoid your child or the anger your child is feeling.
- If they won’t communicate with you, write them letters on a regular basis. Keep a connection going, even from a distance. With technology, it is easy to reach out to a child who is refusing to communicate. Send a weekly text or email to reassure the child you love them and will be there when they are ready to communicate.
- Show an interest in their life. Ask what they are doing and how they are feeling. Don’t allow your new life to cause you to lose interest in the needs of your children.
- If the anger continues, be willing to go to therapy with your child. Show your child that you will stop at nothing to rebuild your relationship. If your child refuses to go to therapy with you, go alone. If your child is that angry, you will benefit from talking to a trained professional who will help you deal with the pain and stress.
- Don’t internalize and take things your child says personally. Keep in mind that the anger is coming from fear of losing you as a parent. Wear a thick layer of emotional armor, but don't allow disrespect for who you are as a parent.
- If your child has questions and needs to talk about the divorce, be willing to listen and respond. You need to try and see things from their perspective. Do not tune them out because this will only cause the anger to grow and them to lose trust in you.
- Ask other family members to intervene. Ask them to talk to your child in a positive manner about the importance of the parent/child relationship. Only ask one or two, though. You don't want the entire family ganging up on your child, or that may push their anger further.
- Heal your own pain. You may feel rejected and hurt but it’s important you stay strong for your child’s sake.
- Do not put new relationships above the relationship with your child. You may have a new love interest and that may go a long way in distracting you from the fact that your child is angry. Just keep in mind that no relationship is as important as the relationship you have with your child. So, don't put new relationships before mending the fractured relationship you have with an angry child.
A single parent support group can be key to the survival of your relationship with your child. Talking and sharing ideas with parents who are experiencing the same problems will generate new options and ways to deal. Don’t bottle up your feelings and refuse to talk about them or deal with your children’s anger. You stand to lose the most important relationship you have if you do.