Divorcing Parents – Kids Caught in the Middle | Burlingame Therapist

by Barbara Seifer, LMFT and Dianne Thomas, LMFT

All too often, parents involved in the divorce process have difficulty separating their hurt and angry feelings toward the other parent from how the children feel. Some parents tend to confuse their needs with those of their children. The resulting stress on the children causes them to
feel pulled between one or both parents…in other words, caught in the middle of their parents’ conflict. When children experience this kind of stress, what is primary to them- school and friendships, can take a back seat to making sure that one or both parents are taken care of and feel loved.

Examples of being caught in the middle include…when one parent purposefully buys the child excessive gifts and the child feels he has to favor that parent. Another example of this is when the parents are so angry with each other that the child feels he has to say things to each parent that is not true in order to maintain that parent’s love and affection.

A child caught in the middle of the divorce may not be able to talk about his life at either parent’s home for fear the parent will be upset about his life at the other parent’s home, particularly if the child is happy there. Many children are acutely aware of this and take pains to not disclose what goes on in the other household.

Remedies- Build an imaginary bridge between the two homes. In order for kids to adapt well to the divorce they need to know that their parents can communicate with one another about the child in a civil way. One way to do this is to build a ‘bridge’. Email or text something about your child’s life at your home that may have occurred such as a skinned knee or something the child was engaged in doing. So, when the child is at the other parent’s home and that parent tells the child that he/she heard this information from the other parent, this simple comment lets the child know that the parents communicate and it gives the child permission to begin to talk about his life at each parent’s home.

If your child needs help with Divorcing Parents please call Barbara Seifer at 650-344-3168 or Dianne Thomas at 650-349-0461

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