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Seven Golden Rules For Separating Parents

The turmoil children go through when their parents are separating is unmeasurable. Not only are they facing the prospect of everything they’ve ever known being ripped apart, but they often question their own role in the break-up. Ever watched a movie or television program where a child thinks she must have done something wrong to cause her parents to separate? There’s a reason that storylines like these are often featured – it’s because it happens. Children do not deserve to feel responsible for their parents’ relationship breakdown, and parents owe their children the very best possible care throughout the bumpy road of a separation or divorce.

Here are 7 crucial rules to note and remember:

Rule 1: Do not, under any circumstances, argue and shout about your separation in front of your child. This is particularly important if you are fighting about the child. It’s so easy to let your frustration and anger lead you into yet another heated session of name-calling and blame-giving, but keep it out of earshot of your child. If she hears an angry debate that is about her then she might think the whole problem is with her. The last thing you want is your child to start thinking that she is the causes of her parents’ pain and anger. Take deep breaths and calm yourself down. Nothing you say at that moment is important enough to override the potential damage to your child if she hears you scream at one another about her.

Rule 2: Even without your child overhearing arguments between her parents that are about her, she may still blame herself for your separation and needs to be constantly reassured that it’s NOT her fault. Tell her that Mommy and Daddy have some trouble getting along. Tell her that NOTHING she has EVER done has caused this problem. Explain in kind and simple terms that no matter what happens both of you love her deeply and always will. Get the message through to her, and be sure to tell her again and again, as often as is needed. Do not assume that just because she hasn’t approached you to ask if it’s her fault that she isn’t blaming herself anyway. She is likely to be very confused about her role in your problems so do your absolute best to take away any guilt she may be feeling.

Rule 3: Do not use your child as a pawn, or a bargaining tool. For example, do not threaten to take your child away from your partner forever just to get what you want. Your child is there to be nurtured and raised in the best possible environment you can both provide. She is not a means to an end. If there is a genuine danger to your child from your partner then you should protect her at all costs with official intervention if necessary.

Rule 4: Do not use your child as a message carrier, a go-between, or try to poison her opinion of your partner. You may feel complete and utter hatred towards your partner but your child still loves her parent dearly. When it comes to bitter exchanges, “Tell your father this”, or, “Give your mother that”, is always a bad idea that will influence her opinions and actions. Encourage and plan positive meetings, pleasant phone calls, happy stay-overs, and fun days out, but messages of hatred delivered by an innocent child are not good for her.

Rule 5: Talk to your child. She is facing one of the most confusing and traumatic times of her young life, so talk her through it. Using her own terminology, explain what is happening and what is expected to happen next. Do not make wild promises to her that you will be forced to break, instead concentrate on spending as much time with her as you can and offering reassurance and explanation. You might think you are protecting your child, but shielding her from the reality of your situation is non-beneficial. She will be able to cope far better if she understands in her own terms what is going on.

Rule 6: Your child is not there for information gathering. No matter how tempting it may be to gain the edge in a messy divorce or separation, intrusive questions or spying techniques are to be avoided. The pressure on a child who is keeping secrets from a parent is immense, and similarly a mission to gain knowledge for a parent carries too much pressure. It’s simply not good for her to be deceitful in this way.

Rule 7: Remember to listen to your child. Many parents overlook the fact that their child wants to feel she has some control at a time where she has very little. Give her some control. If you are moving to a new area discuss the new living arrangements. Talk to her about her new school, get her to make simple decisions about simple things, like the decor in her new room, or deciding that a certain day of the week will be her day and what she wants to do. A few small positives will help her during a time when negatives are likely to be prominent.

Divorce, or separation is often unavoidable and the impact on any child or children involved will be huge. The potential for psychological and emotional damage to your child during this distressing time for her should be kept to a minimum. Seek professional help if you can, and use common sense always. Do not let your high-running emotions cloud your judgement or decision making. Your child is number one and she needs both parents to be thinking of her welfare before any other matter.


What Are The Effects Of Divorce In The Personality Of Babies?

No studies can really tell us how your particular baby or toddler will react to your divorce; each baby is unique. Babies are born with their basic personality, namely, his or her own particular way of eating, sleeping and eliminating. These basic qualities determine how this little individual will react to stressful situations, from infancy all the way to adulthood. Basically, the baby at birth has all the qualities for the personality that will come later.

Baby temperaments may vary, but the need for consistency and love during these first vulnerable years is important to every baby. For example, in visitation, a baby under two should not be moved between parents, but should stay in one home while the absent parent visits him.

A baby needs a relationship with a “primary caretaker,” one adult who provides a consistent relationship. Psychologists have found that young babies develop human attachment by bonding with just one person. It’s all right to have many people in a baby’s life, but there must be one constant person so he or she can develop a bond. Be very careful not to use your baby as a pawn in your divorce. There was a recent article about a baby that was regularly “kidnapped” by one parent from the other. The mother said she was the better parent and the baby belonged with her. The father said the mother suffered from postpartum depression, and the baby would be better off with him and his girlfriend. But neither parent was truly consistent in bonding with the baby. And this baby was born prematurely, so he was especially in need of consistent bonding.

It is particularly important that a single parent tries to avoid the temptation to over or under-parent a baby. Babies do need stimulation and cuddling, but they also need peace and tranquility. If a parent is distant emotionally, and ignores a baby’s cry, the baby will sense this and become irritated or tense. Or a parent will often use the baby as a source of their own comfort after a divorce, effectively transmitting their own anxiety to the baby. This, too, can make the baby irritated and tense. Babies will pick up on the parent’s anxiety during the divorce process, and then this anxiety becomes the baby’s, as well.

Sometimes the parent is just too preoccupied or depressed and cannot effectively care for the infant or the divorce is causing too much chaos in the household. At these times the baby may be better off staying temporarily with a guardian or relative until the parent is ready for full-time parenting. The parent who needs to do this may feel guilty about their perceived inability to cope, but it’s far better for the baby to live in a secure environment outside of the home and then return to it later when the environment is more stable.

Babies are very resilient, and they can endure, even when faced with early stress. Many children, through the years, have grown up emotionally whole and psychologically strong, even though they may have had adverse childhood experiences. And even those babies who do suffer emotional abandonment do not have to carry the wounds through a lifetime. Child development experts agree, if the child’s circumstances improve and change, especially during the crucial ages of two and six, the negative effects of early childhood neglect can be reversed.

Abby Johnson is a staff writer at and is an occasional contributor to several other websites, including

Effects of Divorce on Children – 4 Parenting Tips to Help Your Child Cope

How will my child handle the divorce? Is the earnest question almost every divorced parent asks. Divorced parents not only have the hard task of adjusting to the divorce themselves, but they also need to lead their children through the adjustment stage. Many parents have a lot of concern about helping their children adjust. The parents have so many questions that it can seem impossible to help their child figure everything out with the divorce. There are ways of helping your child transition though-and you can be the one who initiates these to help your child deal with the effects of divorce. Here are four suggestions you can start immediately to help the adjustment period go smoothly.

  1. Keep open communication. It is absolutely vital that you are talking things through with your child. Tell your child what is going on-and give as much information as you feel comfortable. Talk in neutral tones without resorting to anger or bitterness over your ex. For example, if you and your ex are having trouble agreeing on things in court, you could tell your child “Your mother and I are having trouble agreeing on some important things. Because of that we are having a judge help us make the best decision. We both love you very much and we want to make decisions that will make everyone happy. The court will help us do that.” This gives the child information so they know what’s going on but doesn’t assign blame. The child is going to come to conclusions regardless of the information that’s given-so you want to be the one who is giving that information and helping them draw appropriate conclusions.
  2. Reassure the child of your love. The worry that most parents have is that their child will blame himself for the divorce. You can easily combat this idea by directly telling the child that it isn’t his fault and that you love him. Repeat this often. Any time any new complication with the divorce comes up, reassure the child that it isn’t his fault and that both parents love him. Also, ask direct questions to your child so that you know what she is thinking. Ask if the child feels like it is her fault the divorce happened. Then let her know that it isn’t her fault and her behavior wasn’t the cause. Then reassure her of your love.
  3. Let your child grieve. Don’t expect your child to hide any negative emotions. Just like you will have to grieve over the lost relationship, your child will need to as well. Let your child be sad-and talk to her about her sadness. Let her know it is okay to feel sad and that she will work through it. If your son is angry, talk to him about his anger. It is normal for the children to feel this way.
  4. Come up with a good child custody schedule. This is vitally important because the visitation schedule will determine when the kids see their parents until they are 18 years old. Come up with a custody agreement that allows the children to see both parents as often as possible (or as often as is reasonable considering the parents and the cause of divorce). Try to have both parents allowed to come to various events of the child (like baseball games or piano recitals). And, as you’re making the schedule, inform your child of what is going on. Tell them who they’ll be spending time with, and ask for any appropriate input. This will let your child feel enabled and also let them know they will get to see both of their parents.

Children can make it through a divorce. If you are proactive as a parent and lead them through the process, you can all make it through to continue leading a happy life.

Chloe Nelsun is a relationship expert who studies ways of communicating between families.

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The Effects of Criticism, Verbal Abuse and Judgment on Children and the Adults They Become

published in Factoidz


My friend and I were talking about how similar our past was. Yet, she was brought up the American South and I was brought up in Montreal, Quebec Canada. You see our past is similar because it is a common past shared by many adults and many children of today. The commonality in our past was the fact that we grew up as children who never felt validated. We grew up as children who were always criticized by our parents, our peers, and everyone in our lives.

That past of criticism led to psychological scars, which lasted long into adulthood. I was one of the lucky ones. As student of psychology, and later a therapist by training I learned to overcome most of the scars. Unfortunately, many people do not. The scars affect their behavior well into the present day.

What criticism will do to Children

Harsh criticism can shake the very foundation of a child’s self esteem and make children feel like they are bad, worthless, and useless. The scars do not heal on their own. If the child is not given support he or she becomes an adult with low self-esteem. The effects of low self-esteem are devastating. In adulthood, people suffering from low self esteem often hold themselves back from great opportunities because they just do not feel “good enough.â€Â

Verbal abuse can have more negative impact than physical abuse

Research from the University of Calgary shows that verbal abuse often has more psychological impact and subsequent psychological damage than physical abuse. The sad part is that parents are not always aware that they are verbally abusive and that their criticism is not helping shape the child into a productive vibrant individual, but rather a shell of a person who is very insecure, very afraid of life, and afraid of doing something wrong. Sometimes they are not even sure what that wrong would be because they are criticized for everything they do anyhow.

Parents do not always realize that very young children will believe everything they say. Given a steady diet of this constant criticism and children internalize these feelings “If mommy says I am lazy and dumb then I must be.â€Â It sometimes takes a lifetime to break this cycle of self loathing brought on initially by parents and or key people in a child’s life.

Comparing children to others

Parents rob their children of good self esteem when they ridicule, belittle, put them down, humiliate, judge or criticize their children. They can even do that when they compare their children to other children with the intention of showing how the other child is doing better. Their intentions may have been to motivate the child into doing better. Yet, often the message comes across, as the child is “just not good enough.â€Â

How unresolved self-esteem issues can play out in childhood and even into adulthood

Both my friend and I were compared to other people. In my friend’s case her brother could do no wrong and she could do no right. She was made to feel that she was bad, yet she didn’t know why.

In my case I didn’t feel bad, but I felt I was never good enough. My mother always compared me to my sister and my sister was her favorite. It was always, “How come you can’t do this, Linda can?â€Â Or, “Why don’t you style your hair like Linda’s?â€Â and so on. It was only when I grew up I stood up to my mother and said, “I don’t do anything like Linda because I am not Linda. I am me! We are two very different kinds of people with two very different personalities.â€Â

However, being compared all my life was devastating for me and for my friend as well. My friend felt she was bad, I felt I was invisible. Both these reactions are very typical reactions of children who are not validated and have very low self-esteem.

In adulthood it has had its toll on our lives. Both of us have missed opportunities because we did not feel good enough. I know that I have not applied for certain jobs in my life because I felt there was always somebody else that was better. I know that it did not even go to university until I was 37 for the very same reason. I have written about these events in several articles about my personal life.


In adulthood children that have been verbally abused may transfer the feelings of their abuser from the past onto the people they are dealing with in the present. They will assume everything said to them is negative or has some kind of hidden meaning that just has to be negative. These statements can be very neutral with no hidden meaning, but the abused child automatically believes it has to be negative and so the adult will react as if the statement was negative. For example, the statement of personal feeling, “I am surprised,â€Â translates to being sarcastic when actually it wasn’t, or a helpful tip such as “If you would add this statement to your paper it would make it clearer, is translated to mean, “you hate my work, you think it is not good enough,â€Â when that was not the intention either. Positive criticism is often mistaken for negative criticism.

Personality shaping

In my situation the feeling of being invisible has shaped me into be a direct person. As a direct person I am far from being invisible. Some people may not like my directness but I do. I am able to say all the things I could not say as a child because I was invisible and nobody really listened anyhow.

However, other people will remain invisible and they will not share their true feelings with other people because they feel bad, or they feel they don’t have a right to these feelings or thoughts, or others may get mad at them if they did speak their true mind. This again is the thoughts and feelings of the inner child who was never allowed to express herself, and still has not learned as an adult to do so.

Passive Aggressive

Many of these people are what used to be termed as passive aggressive. They don’t like what a person says or does, or how others treat them. Yet they accept it. They allow other people do it and they just stew inside until they eventually blow up in some way such as telling the person off, or quitting a project, or ignoring the person all together, and still the other person has no idea why they are being ignored.

These people often do not understand the difference between aggressiveness and assertiveness. They never learned as a child to be assertive because everything they did was criticized, ignored, or devalued in some way.

Aggressive people push people around making sure their needs come first over others. Assertive people let people know what their needs are and ask that they be met in a polite way.

Passive people let others take advantage of them and their needs are never met. For example, let’s take writing as an example. A passive person may take on more work than can be handled because he or she does not know how to say no. They may mistake saying, “no thank you I have as much as I can handle,â€Â as being aggressive when it is not.

In actuality aggressive people have a demanding style which is very different from getting their needs might. They might say, “Listen I am not doing this work for you and I demand that you pay me more than that for any future projects.â€Â Why that is aggressive and not assertive is the demand, there is no room for negotiation. An assertive person might be saying the same thing but in a milder fashion. “I am sorry but I cannot take on this job because it does not pay the rate that I require, but if you have some better paying jobs in the future I would appreciate if you keep me in mind.â€Â

Can people change their past beliefs?

Some people will just continue to be what their parents or other influential people in their lives thought of them. For example, if they were told as children they were lazy and would never amount to anything this may be what they become as adults; lazy people who do not get a job or do anything productive with their lives. The trouble is lazy is just a label and this label does not have to remain just because somebody in the past felt that way about them. As adults we must put the past behind and forge our own lives and let our true personalities shine through. We cannot change the hurts from the past. We cannot change what other people thought of us way back then, but we can certainly change who we are now. We can be who we want to be. The bottom line is that we have to believe in ourselves.


Personal experience

Training in psychology