Often parents get caught up in the emotional drama and pain that they are suffering that they lose sight of the effects that the litigation or changes in family dynamics are having on the children. In doing so, parents may do some of the following:
Use the children as SPIES: Some parents are extremely sensitive to this issue and fear that asking questions like "Did you have a good time at Dad's house?", "How is Mom feeling?", "What did you guys do this weekend?" or "What did Mom fix for dinner?". These are NOT spying. Obviously, these are just stepping off points to start a conversation with your child. If you start asking about MONEY, NEW PARTNERS, or things that don't relate specifically to the child, you're probably spying. For example, asking if Dad bought new furniture or if Mom is dating anyone is spying. If you ask what the child did at the other parent's house and the child said they went to a movie or furniture shopping, that's not spying (just don't ask how much the sofa was). If your child volunteers that mom's new boyfriend came over, asking how they felt about it is not spying (the question is about the child). If you ask if they kissed in front of your child, that's spying.
Using the children as MESSENGERS: Some messages are fine. For example, "Can you tell Mom I'll be a bit late this weekend? I'll be here to get you at 1:00 instead of noon, okay?" is a fine message. This type of message relates directly to the child, too. If Dad gives the message to Mom and it isn't relayed to the child, feelings may be hurt when Dad shows up an hour late. Of course, the message can also be given to Mom directly, but it's harmless to have the child relay this message. Never count on the child to actually relay the message, make sure any message to give your child to give to the other parent is also given directly to the other parent via telephone, text or email or whatever method is most common for you.
If the message is one that might upset the other parent, do NOT have your child deliver the message...PLEASE. Do not have the child relay messages about money, significant parenting time changes (changing a Tuesday to a Monday), negative messages, messages that can hurt people's feelings, messages that require an answer, messages that criticize, messages about personal relationships or habits, or any question you think the child may not be comfortable delivering.
Leaning on your children too much: They are children, not friends. If you are having a bad day, just give your child the mile-high view of the issue. Did you have a bad day at work? Are you worried about money (if so...don't mention money, just say that you're stressed about something)? Instead of focusing on your problem, it may help you to talk to them about what their life is like.
Punishing the child for the other parent's mistake: The most common punishment is, unfortunately, not allowing your child to see the other parent because the child support has not been paid or because of some other issue. This punishes the child for something completely out of his/her control. It's also illegal. You've heard that two wrongs do not make a right. Well, there is a court order for parenting time just like there is a court order for child support. If the other parent violates a court order, that doesn't give you carte blanche to do the same.
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