SHIELDING YOUR CHILDREN FROM THE CUSTODY BATTLE
When two parents decide that they can no longer live together, this does not of course mean that either of them loves their children any less. On the contrary, relationship breakdown tends to intensify the love parents have for their children, and it brings out the protective instincts in both parents.
For this reason though the children can also become convenient weapons, used by one partner to damage the other. The tragedy, of course, is that this tends to damage the children even more than the parents! I
f your primary concern is really for the welfare of your children, you must guard yourself from day one of your relationship breakdown, to avoid criticizing or make derogatory statements about your former partner in front of your child. Niggling away at your ex through little payback statements that are difficult to challenge becomes painfully obvious to your child after a while, and such complaints only serve to perpetuate the battle with your ex.
Be the adult in the situation, so that your child, and only your child, gets to be the child. Countless times, angered parents give in to the temptation to have a shot at their former spouse by returning kids a little later than arranged, thus making a point of rights, or they deliberately change arrangements at the last minute, just to stay on top in the pay-back stakes.
Once you have divorced, you need to let go of the desire to punish your ex for the pain you have experienced together. If something seems unreasonable, discuss this with your ex and don't let it build up, and take out the; "this is so typical of you" tone, especially when in view of the children.
When your child returns to the other parent, they should not have to bear the brunt of hearing about how the other resents their behavior, potentially ruining what should have been a positive time with the other parent. Remember that while you might resent having to be involved with your ex for the rest of your child's life, you are required to fulfill the responsibilities that have been born of that time together. Your child should not have to pay the price for that.
At a psychological level, you are both a fundament part of your child's identity. You dismantle that identity when you put down your ex, as you not only create conflicting loyalties within your child, but also inadvertently destroy the view they have of themselves, which in younger years is inextricably linked to their understanding of their parents.
It will always be in the best interests of your child to have the unconditional love of both parents, and the working through of a difficult custody arrangement must be directed by the deliberate actions of the adults involved. Relieving your child of the stress of dislocation, and helping them to retain their connection with both parents is generally the best you can do for a child.
Managing your anger and removing your personal frustrations with your ex can be one of the best things you can do for your child. For ultimately you do want your child to learn that sometimes relationships do break down and that things do get tough, but that, in the end, they turn out ok. This is what resilience is all about and developing this in your child has got to be in their best interests.