Guilt can be a very powerful emotion. If you are getting divorced, you are likely battling with some amount of guilt regarding the end of your marriage, especially if you are a parent.
Parents often struggle with guilt when they divorce because they realize that it will change things for their children. Thankfully, there are resources to help parents cope with these difficult feelings. In the meantime, however, parents would be wise not to push this same emotion onto their kids.
Kids are extremely vulnerable to guilt after divorce, especially in shared custody situations. Going back and forth between parents can make a child feel like they are, quite literally, in the middle of their parents, which puts them in the very precarious position of trying to protect their parents.
For example, if your child sees you crying and upset when he talks about all the fun things he did with his other parent, he can feel like he has done something wrong. This issue is examined more closely in this article.
If you badmouth the other parent, or talk to your child about all the ways your ex has hurt you, he can feel extremely guilty about still loving and wanting to be with that parent.
If you and your ex launch into a bitter battle at every custody exchange, your child can feel badly about going back and forth between parents because it causes so much anger.
Each of these experiences has the potential to cause great anxiety and guilt in a child. Kids who see their parents in pain will often do whatever they can to make you feel better, but this can play out in some unfortunate ways. A child can stop communicating with parents, or he might start resenting one or both parents. He might even develop some troubling emotional problems because of all he is struggling with.
Considering how significantly a child can be affected by guilt, it is crucial for parents to take whatever steps they can to keep their children from experiencing it. Staying focused on providing a loving, supportive, open and secure family for your child — even if you and your ex are constantly fighting between yourselves — will be in your child’s best interests.