Doing assessments within the child protection system, I also find myself involved in divorce cases. They are usually referred because of various allegations, sometimes true, sometimes exaggerated, sometimes fabricated. As I have considered these cases, it has become increasingly clear that there are 10 quite clear ways to ensure that, as a divorcing parent, you can guarantee that your children will be screwed up by the process. Here are my 10:
1. Before you actually start the divorce, begin to bad mouth the other parent. Start a campaign that shows your kids what a horrible person the other parent is and how much more you love them. Create the environment where your children's loyalty to you is rewarded so that they come to your side.
2. After the separation, do as much as possible to sabotage time that the other parent spends with the children. Effective tools include changing schedules at the last moment; not being home when the parent is to pick the children up or fail to answer phone calls made from the other parent.
3. If you are the visiting parent, don't show up regularly for the visits. If you do come, take as much time as possible to blame the other parent for what has gone wrong. You can also come back early; feed the children junk food that gets them hyper; come back quite late so that the children don't get a good night's sleep. Finally, make a scene during the exchanges so that the children are embarrassed.
4. Be over reactive to the other parent or anything even slightly negative that the children tell you. This will allow you even more opportunity for put downs, name calling and threats that the other parent will never see the children.
5. Don't pay child support on time or regularly. This will leave the other parent guessing; limit funds for children's activities and again allow the other parents opportunities to lambast what a worthless parent you are.
6. At the last minute, refuse permission for important opportunities like a trip to Disneyland. Tell the children that you had to do this because you were sure that the parent who was going to take them away, was really going to kidnap them.
7. Accuse the other parent of child abuse or sexual abuse. When doing so, take the child to the doctor so that they can be subject to a difficult physical examination. When making these accusations call both the police and child welfare.
8. At parent teacher meetings or school events, make a scene when the other parent shows up.
9. Alienate the children from the other parent by telling them that that person is unsafe; doesn't care about the kids; has replaced their own kids with a new partner's children; share the gory details of the divorce and let them know that you are the only one who really cares for them
10. Refuse to consent to therapy. That would only allow your children to tattle on you anyway.
Of course, there is Number 11 - Litigate, Litigate, Litigate. This will ensure that your kids are subject to endless court processes, interviews, constant complaining about the courts and multiple opportunities for the children to be interviewed by professionals (like me) putting them in the middle. Really ensure that you make it clear that you expect their loyalty.
I am sure that there are other tips that you might come up with that will help to screw the kids up.
This may all sound very cynical. Yet, day in and day out, I see parents who apparently loved each other once, so engaged in battle with the other parent that they do these things. The battle, and winning it, is much more important than their own children's well being. If only they could stop and see the harm.