Don’t put children in the middle of a divorce

Published 4:47 pm Saturday, August 4, 2012

QUESTION: What are the hurtful ways that parents can put their children “in the middle” of a divorce?


ANSWER: There are several.

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I SPY: Can be translated as “I want to snoop and I want you to tattle.” While we don’t want our children to discuss our personal affairs with their other parent, we often see no problem asking them to find out similar information for us. Initially youngsters may enjoy feeling important for the information they can share; eventually, however, they resent feeling like a traitor to either of their parents.

LET MERCURY DO IT: This refers to Roman mythology; Mercury was the swift messenger of the gods. This game makes our children pass on information we would rather not have to share directly. If our youngsters ask, “When are you going to pay the back support check?” or inform, “Mom doesn’t want us to stay overnight at your house next weekend.” it saves a parent an unpleasant communication task, but the children hear one negative reaction when they carry the messages from us and another negative when they receive the response.

TUG OF WAR: This is described well in the words of a 12 year old: “Sometimes I feel like a rag doll two little kids are fighting over. My parents always fight over what I should do when. Dad says I must come to his place; Mom says he’s taking advantage of her generosity in visitation rights. Nobody ever asks me how I feel about it, or what I’d like to do. They just tug and tug and I’m caught in the middle.”

SANTA CLAUS: This making a habit of buying expensive gifts as a way of showing love or gaining loyalty. It’s not a realistic family situation. While children may be initially thrilled, they will also experience the tension the extravagant gifts create. The result of the game may end up being blackmail, for the more children receive, the more they come to expect.

LET’S PRETEND: This is when a parent pretends the child is a substitute partner or friend.

It may begin with a child hearing confidences regarding a parent’s personal life, but it often ends with the child bearing burdens beyond his/her years. Kids should not hear the details of adult dates or be expected to help solve adult problems.

Games between divorced parents are played over the issues of parenting time schedules, children’s expenses and who’s the better parent. Unfortunately, neither parent ever wins but the children generally lose.


If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine:1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo: 877-434- 9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out