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Parental Guilt Can Lead to Poor Parenting After Divorce

Posted on in Child Custody

Parental Guilt Can Lead to Poor Parenting After DivorceThe effect of divorce on their children is one of the lingering factors that will cause parents to hesitate before separating. It is common for divorced parents to feel guilty about how their decision may be hurting their children. Divorced parents worry that their children:

  • Have been traumatized by the separation;
  • Are stressed by the co-parenting arrangement; and
  • Will resent them for the divorce.

Though children of divorce face hardship, parents are not helping themselves or their children by feeling guilty about it.

Problems with Guilty Parenting

Divorced parents can respond to the guilt they feel in ways that are not healthy for the children. A common reaction is for co-parents to compete for their children’s love. The parents fear that their children are angry at them because of the divorce and try to compensate by being too lenient in their discipline or spending on gifts or trips. Competitive parents go a step further by trying to outdo or undermine each other. This may include:

  • Following up a co-parent’s gift with a more expensive gift;
  • Defying a co-parent’s discipline efforts to gain favor with the children; or
  • Withholding information about important events so that the co-parent will be absent.

However, divorced parents who decide not to be lenient can go too far by becoming overly strict and demanding. They create unnecessary stress in their children’s lives and drive them away at a time when they need compassion. Strictness is a way that parents try to overcome their self-doubts by asserting control over the children.

Overcoming Guilt

Divorced parents need an approach that balances discipline with leniency and puts the needs of their children above their own insecurities. In order to do this, parents must move past their guilt over the divorce by:

  • Understanding that divorcing does not make them bad parents;
  • Focusing on how they can be good parents moving forward;
  • Trying to cooperate with their co-parent;
  • Talking with their children about their feelings;
  • Not blaming themselves if they must occasionally forgo their parental responsibilities for other obligations; and
  • Finding ways to calm themselves when they feel stressed or guilty about their parenting.

A support group for divorced parents can be a helpful resource in dealing with parental guilt. By sharing their thoughts and hearing others’ experiences, parents can realize that they are not the bad parents they have made themselves out to be.

Post-Divorce Parenting

Parents and children need time together to help them cope with their emotions after a divorce. A Kane County divorce attorney at Goostree Law Group can negotiate a fair division of parenting time with your co-parent. To schedule a free consultation, call 630-584-4800.


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