Parenting through divorce? Don't make these 5 common mistakes!

You have given up half your belongings. You have recovered from the headache of legal jargon and legal fees! You think you are almost out of the woods when the reality of co-parenting hits you. How are you going to parent through divorce?

Parenting through divorce can be difficult. Every divorcing couple has different degrees of civility and animosity. The more animosity – the harder it is to co-parent. Sometimes it feels impossible to co-parent. Regardless of your ex-partner – you can control your behavior and how you handle your parenting.


Here are the 5 most common mistakes parents make when going through a divorce:

Fighting over clothes, toys and other belongings.

Money is often the source of contention between divorcing couples. Your children may have had plenty of clothes and toys when you were together, but now their stuff has been cut in half. Parents are often bitter about child support, spousal support and other financial decisions that happened throughout the divorce. It is easy to understand why parents tend to get concerned about what is brought to the other parent’s house and what comes back.

In a perfect world – you and your ex would divide the children’s belongings and would supplement them with new purchases of clothes and toys at each house. You might allow clothes to come back and forth freely.

If this is your situation – this discussion isn’t for you! Unfortunately some people have limited funds and a hostile ex that make this issue a struggle.

The key is to not let your child feel guilty about what they wear or what they bring back. With everything you do – you never want your children to feel like they are responsible for adult issues.

You can only control your household – you may not have the cooperation of the other parent. There are no perfectly ideal answers for this dilemma. One way to limit the frustration of losing newly bought clothes to the other household – is to wash your child’s clothes when they come to your home and return them in the same set of clothes when they go back to the other house. That way clothes that you have bought never get lost in the black hole never to return to your house again.

Having your child decide where they want to stay.

Some divorced couples have their children decide when they should stay with the other parent. One would think that giving the child the power to make their own decisions would be empowering – but often this is not the case. The number one complaint I hear from children in my child therapy practice is “I hate when they make me decide who to stay with. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

You may not always have your children decide. Maybe it happens only on holidays or unique situations that fall outside of your usual custody arrangement. Ask your child if making the decision is too stressful. Some children feel guilty about making that decision – others may not.

Having no predictable custody arrangement.

Living in two different houses is overwhelming enough! Having no predictable custody arrangement can make a child’s life extra chaotic. In a perfect world – have a custody arrangement that helps your child get into a new routine.


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Some work schedules do not permit the same custody arrangement from one week to the next. If this is the case – have a calendar in your child’s room that highlights when the child will be with each parent. This helps eliminate the unknown and reduce their stress.

Talking poorly about the other parent.

This may seem like an obvious no-no, but many parents struggle with this one. Parents will often tell me that their children do not hear any negative talk or fighting, but when I talk with children they can often recite verbatim their parent’s arguments or feelings towards each other.

Children snoop. Yes, even your children. They tell me that they hide around the corner or listen through the walls. They want to know what’s happening – even if they act like they don’t. You need support and you need to vent. Just be careful when and where you do it. Little ears are listening!

Making your child be the go between for you and your ex.

This can happen subtly and build over time. You don’t want to talk to your ex. He rehashes old issues when you talk to him. She is cold and aloof every time you call her. You would prefer to avoid contact at all costs. So – you tell your child to let the other parent know they need to buy their school clothes. Or they need to pick them up on the other parent’s day.


Children will often feel the pressure of being the messenger. They might be given a nasty message to deliver back to the other parent. This can cause stress for the child. In these cases technology is your friend. When you want to avoid conflict – text or email. Your email doesn’t have an emotional reaction to telling your ex it’s their turn to pay for school supplies!

Parenting is hard – add divorce and it can be a major challenge! Just remember – you are in control of your behavior and how you decide to parent through this divorce. You cannot control the other person. Although this can be a scary notion, it is reality. Avoid some of these common mistakes and you will be off to a good start.

For further help – download the Divorce Workbook. A $4.99 downloadable workbook to help your child process the divorce. Exercises taken directly from child therapy sessions.


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17 responses to “Avoid These 5 Common Mistakes When Parenting Through Divorce”

  1. Dr. Becca Ballinger says:

    Hi Natasha! I really liked your article and thought my readers would like it too so I will be posting it tomorrow on Twitter. Of course I linked to your website, but I couldn’t find your twitter address so I couldn’t link to your that way. Anyway, I just wanted you to know you were appreciated 🙂

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Thanks Becca! I appreciate you sharing my article 🙂 I am on twitter @anxioustoddlers. I will check out your site too!

  2. Jenn says:

    Talking badly about the other parent is so heartbreaking to see. Particularly in front of their children. It’s so conflicting for their kids, because kids tend to try and understand who’s right and who’s wrong, so they keep score according to what they hear. It’s hard to refrain from talking negatively about your ex, when you’ve heard some of the things they say about you behind your back too.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      I agree Jenn. I think there is a way to represent your side of the story to your child – without speaking poorly of the other parent. When parents don’t represent their side – their children only have one version of events that might be very skewed. If they talk negatively about the other parent the child won’t trust either parent. I always tell parents to talk about what they know – such as, “I am sorry he feels that way. He might be pretty hurt and angry right now. What I remember happening was —-” Divorce is so tricky! It can feel like you are walking in a minefield.

  3. Laurie says:

    It is horrible for children to have to be a witness of their parents being negative toward each other in any manner. Getting custody and child support arrangements worked out through the legal system should help cut down on some of these issues. Thanks for sharing.

  4. My son has been divorced for 4 yrs. He has a 13 yr old son who he shares joint custody, but mom has physical custody. The divorce was messy, my son ended up with all debt and ended up in a bankruptcy. Mom has not been very mature during or after the divorce and has not missed any opportunity to belittle or be negative in front of my grandson about his father. He has started to become very disrespectful with his father on his weekly visit and weekend visits. Twice he has taken his son back to his mothers because of his disrespectful behavior. My son feels and has indicated he won’t allow his 13 yr old son control the household with this behavior. He has tried to enlist his mother to co-parent on his disrespectful behavior, with little success. I think she is fine with it, and suspect she may be encouraging some of it. Of course, my son is not perfect but I can say when it comes to his son he is very diligent when it comes to quelling any disrespect his son starts about his mom. My concern is whether sending him back to his mom’s, either at my grandson’s request, or my son’s style of not putting up with such disrespect from a 13 year old is the right course of action.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Hi Parm – I try to avoid giving advice on specific matters – as I don’t know the big picture. It sounds like it might be helpful to seek out the guidance of a therapist to help with the relationship.

  5. Morgan says:

    You’re so right about all of this! Divorces are tough on everyone involved, but there are certainly things you can do to make it a little easier for your kids. Nice job highlighting what works and what doesn’t!

  6. Rachel says:

    My heart goes out to all the parents and children that are dealing with divorce. I can only imagine how difficult and upsetting it can be. These are some good tips for approaching parenting through a divorce, so thank you for sharing.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      I agree Rachel, divorce can be very difficult on kids. When parents fight and do the things I talk about, it makes it so much worse.

  7. Zequek Estrada says:

    Custody battles sound really stressful when they’re children involved. I would agree that it’s best if you can get a predictable custody arrangement. Unpredictable things like this never do any good for anyone involved.

  8. JL says:

    Divorce is the hardest situation a couple could ever decide specially when there are kids to consider.

  9. Christina says:

    You make an interesting point about each parent providing new clothes and toys for the child. Also, the washing tip could prove especially useful for avoiding the loss of clothes.

  10. Selina Marie says:

    Hey Natasha,

    What a fantastic article and you touched on some key points that add real value to any couple going through this. The child (or children) should always be the number one priority.

    Great idea for a blog and keep up the great work on your content.


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