Going through a divorce can bring up a lot of uncomfortable and painful emotions. These types of emotions can lead you to unintentionally displacing them onto your children.
Feelings such as anger, resentment, or disappointment towards your ex-partner and the divorce itself can greatly impact you as a parent.
Sometimes when a parent is unable to work through their emotions in a healthy way, they can be transferred onto other people, like your children. Placing your children in the middle of your communication complications with your ex-partner is like dumping a truckload of dirt onto a toy car. It consumes the toy car and can no longer be found. Your children will feel the same way when a truckload of emotions is dumped onto them. They will no longer be able to be themselves. They may not be able to communicate what they are feeling but will show you through their actions.
The best co-parents are ones that take care of their own emotions through healthy mental and physical outlets, such as working out, mediation, journaling, and with the help of a co-parenting coach. Because when you take care of you, the happier your children will be too.
While you may no longer wish to communicate with your ex-partner, it will be an essential part of your co-parenting relationship, not the responsibility of your children.
Here Are 5 Things That Happen When Children Become Messengers:
1. They Believe They Are A Burden
When children are expected to communicate for their parents they often feel like they are a burden. A heavy amount of emotional weight is placed on their shoulders to deliver a message which can sometimes be psychologically damaging to their developmental years. This can affect their internal belief system for the rest of their lives, therefore making things very stressful. When this occurs, children will begin to blame themselves for the divorce which can lead to a lack of self-worth, self-deprecating thought patterns, and an inability to achieve what they desire in life.
2. They Are Forced To Grow-Up Too Soon
Children who have to take on responsibilities before they are ready generally become a parentified child. This leads them to develop feelings of anxiousness from the intense amounts of pressure they feel to do things a certain way out of fear of disappointing their parents. These types of children tend to be very critical of themselves and struggle to achieve their goals and accomplishments later in life. When your children have to grow up quicker than their mindset can handle, they will feel cheated out of their childhood. This can later lead to regression in life, become a compulsive caretaker, or fear of responsibility altogether.
Children are not a communication tool. They are kids who want to play, not relay.
3. They Feel They Have To Choose Sides
When a child feels forced to choose sides they can tend to feel stuck on how to behave and interact around each parent. They question whether or not they are allowed to talk about their other home life when with the opposite parent. When feeling confused about how to behave this can often lead to confusion within themselves, questioning who they are and everything they want in life. The result of feeling like they have to choose sides leads to a lack of trust with each parent. And the number one fundamental humans need for any healthy relationship is trust. When a child cannot trust their parents, it prevents them from feeling safe and not knowing who they can and cannot trust.
4. They Feel Confused How To Handle Conflict
As a parent, you are a role model for your children. Children are beyond perceptive and pick-up on the slight behaviors you may have overlooked. When you are not effectively communicating with your co-parent making your child the messenger, you are showing your children you cannot handle conflict. This shows a lack of respect for your children and yourself. Your children will learn these behaviors and will shy away from conflict later on in life. This will prevent them from knowing how to use their inner voice and setting healthy boundaries, as emotional situations cause them to shut down or disengage altogether.
5. They Become Emotionally Reactive
A child without effective communication skills, due to the responsibilities of playing messenger, often becomes a child who is emotionally reactive to environmental struggles that aren’t ideal. They develop immense amounts of worry and discomfort because they haven’t been taught how to self-soothe when emotions become heightened. When a child acts out, it’s because they are unable to express their feelings or what would make them feel safe. If a child’s needs are emotionally neglected by their parents, then they are forced to take care of their parent’s emotional needs.
If communication has become a source of stress in your co-parenting relationship, then set-up a quick 15-minute consultation to learn more about effective communication channels.