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Don't Punish Your Children for the Other Parent's Bad Behavior

January 19, 2016  | 

{3:36 minutes to read}
If you were to ask any parent if, under any circumstance, he or she would want to punish their children for something they had nothing to do with, they would think you were out of your mind. However, I’ve seen people do just that, though I doubt they are aware of it.

I’ve seen it happen most often in these situations:

  • The other parent had an affair
  • The other parent worked night and day
  • The other parent ceded any responsibility for the children.

Now, here is that person sitting across from you, looking for substantial parenting time while you are thinking that right was squandered by past behavior. Why should he/she have the right to now spend so much time with the children? The simple answer is because it’s better for your children to have a good and healthy relationship with that parent than not.

The parenting plan is not designed to be in the best interests of either of you; it should be focused on the best interests of the children. And having a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with both of their parents is best for them. 

You might want to ask if it’s fair that someone can mess up so terribly and then still get to take those children that you practically raised all by yourself, for overnights and vacations? Yes, it is.

Just because the other parent hurt you and betrayed you and maybe even was not as good a parent as he/she could have been, doesn’t translate into his giving up the chance to ever be a good or better parent. Often parents are actually better parents after the divorce.

I understand that it hurts on two levels:

  • First, it’s likely that during the time you were together, you took on most of the parenting. The thought of being without the children, even for a night, is heartbreaking to you.
  • Second, there can be a very real part of you that wants the other parent to hurt. But you don’t ever want to hurt your kids.

You might need help in coping with either the absence of the children or the anger, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Or maybe you will need a parenting plan that starts slowly with overnights until both you and the children are comfortable with all of the time that the other parent wants.

So, go to a therapist to deal with the loss and anger and/or if necessary, both of you go to a child specialist or co-parenting specialist to work on these issues. Establish a plan for addressing any concerns you have about parenting by starting slow and building up over time.

But don’t punish the children for something they had nothing to do with, by stopping them from enjoying a relationship with both parents.

If you found yourself in this type of situation, how did you cope with your anger?

Clare Piro Attorney and Mediator

Attorney & Mediator
500 Mamaroneck Avenue | Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
Tel: 914.946.0848

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Comments
Maryann M
February 27, 2016 - 5:05 PM
Ms. Piro is correct in that this is a parent problem and should not spill over into the child. Unfortunately, in divorce people are hurt and resort to childish behaviors using the children as pawns. A therapist can help you understand your responsibility as an adult. However, this only works if both parents act accordingly. It is difficult when one parent takes the high road but the other does not. Through mediation and therapy a good parenting plan will be beneficial to not only the children but to the parents as well.
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