Worst Parenting Mistakes in Divorce!


What are some of the worst mistakes divorcing and divorced parents make that negatively affect their children?

— Rosalind Sedacca, “The Voice of Child-centered Divorce.”


Hi Rosalind,

Thank you for sending in this excellent question in honor of International Child-Centered Divorce Month. I am going to start with three mistakes that I know right off the bat. However, please feel free to chime in and fill out the picture in any way that you want.

1. Talking negatively to your child about the other parent. It is very important for children to continue to have respectful relationships with each of their parents, and such talk will make this almost impossible.

2. Forgetting to make time daily to talk to your child about his or her feelings. Sometimes children think they have caused the divorce. Often they experience a lot of guilt. However, no matter what the situation, it is important to be available as much as possible to lend a sympathetic ear, listen carefully, and then give sound advice. No need to pry or put words in your child’s mouth. However, you can explore what he or she does feel and build your support around that.

3. Not considering your child’s preferences when carving out your plans to change the current living arrangement.


January! The Month of the New Beginning

If you are part of a family in transition now, take advantage of this new month and year to give a positive spin to your “new” situation.


  1. Thank you for thosel important answers, Dr. Sally. Here are a few more major mistakes to avoid:

    1. Fighting around the children. It affects who they are, they are powerless to stop it and it creates fear, anxiety, guilt, shame and other negative emotions. Keep your battles private — whether married or divorced!

    2. Using your children as confidants: It’s tempting to want to share your side of the divorce with your children to win their sympathy and favors. But don’t! It robs them of their childhood when you burden them with adult information which is hard to understand and impossible for them to fix!

    3. Using your children as spies. Don’t pressure your kids to tell you everything going on in their other parent’s home, tempting as it may be. Children feel torn about protecting both mom and dad and guilt if they are used as spies.

    4. Using your children as messengers. Use an online coparenting tool like OurFamilyWizard.com to schedule pickups and other details. Don’t put the responsibility of scheduling your life on your kid’s shoulders.

    Lot’s more detail about this at http://www.childcentereddivorce.com.

  2. Thank you Rosalind. These points you brought up are very important. Many are common pitfalls that are easy to fall into… and not so easy to solve. Many parents do not even realize they are making these mistakes, and these cautions are very helpful.

    All parents deal with the issue of arguing in front of children. We all have different points of view, and arguments can spring up out of nowhere. Different couples have different ways they try to deal with this difficult problem. However, do you suggest any particular strategies that you have found to be most successful?

  3. Yes, Dr. Sally, avoiding conflict around children can be a challenge for parents. Many studies show that parental conflict is a big negative influence on children. So try to agree as parents to keep the fights out of ear-reach for the kids. We’re talking about conflict that brings up disrespect and poor communication skills. Disagreements handled well are fine influences on children. But bashing your ex or your spouse around the kids hurts them emotionally and psychologically.

    So learn effective communication and listening skills that you can use and also teach your children to use. Learn how to disagree without being disagreeable. Watch your language and intonation around children. Take a conflict resolution course or read a book to master alternative approaches to getting your voice heard. And apologize to your children if they are present during a fight. Explain what you did wrong and how you will handle circumstances next time. Then practice it!

    Your children will benefit on many levels!

  4. Hi Rosalind,

    Your lesson to parents is excellent. You provide advice that carries with it a most important code of behavior–respect. Once you respect the other person, ex-spouse, child, or anyone else with whom you are having your discussion, you are on the right road. With this quality in mind, communication to all involved will be most effective.

    Thank you so very much for your insight.


  1. […] We take this topic seriously because it is easy for parents to make mistakes that affect their children without them even realizing it. Here are three common ones as expressed in our post Worst Parenting Mistakes in Divorce […]

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