Divorcing parents who put children in the middle

Jeffrey Kluger, Science Journalist and Author, shares advice for parents going through a divorce on the importance of not putting your kids in the middle
Divorce And Children | When Your Ex Puts The Kids In The Middle
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Divorcing parents who put children in the middle

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One of the greatest mistakes parents can make during divorce is enlisting one child as an ally. Now often this will be the oldest child, particularly when you are the parent with most of the custody. It is damaging in a whole lot of ways. The child's loyalties are already deeply torn between mom in one house and dad in the other. It's a little bit like iron filings moving between two very powerful magnets. Any attention a child shows to one parent often immediately feels like a lack of loyalty to the other parent. When one parent enlists the child as an ally, as a colleague, as a confidante, it only makes it worse for that child, and it also can strain that connectedness between that child and the other kids. Now this doesn't mean that the rule against doing that should be applied too sweepingly. If you're a single parent either through divorce or through the death of the other parent and you have an older child, particularly one that seems responsible, it's a waste of resources not to enlist that child as a caretaker as a co-disciplinarian or as just someone to keep an eye on the younger kids. But that doesn't mean you should be having family huddles with the older child. That doesn't mean you should be consulting them, "what do you think we should do about your younger brother's grades?" All that means is it's alright to deputize the older child to babysit, to try to keep order in the playroom. Funnily, kids when they've lost a parent in the house will often tumble happily into that role, the submissive role, because they're down to one caregiver. If their older brother or sister can step in a little bit and be a de facto caregiver, they're happy for the help.

Jeffrey Kluger, Science Journalist and Author, shares advice for parents going through a divorce on the importance of not putting your kids in the middle

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Jeffrey Kluger

Science Journalist & Author

Jeffrey Kluger is a senior editor and writer at Time magazine, covering science, health and other fields. He is the coauthor, along with astronaut Jim Lovell, of Apollo 13, the book that served as the basis of the 1995 movie. His more-recent release, Splendid Solution, told the story of Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine.  His novel, Nacky Patcher and the Curse of the Dry-Land Boats, was published in June 2007, and his newest nonfiction book, Simplexity: Why Simple Things Become Complex, was published in June 2008.

Before coming to Time, Kluger worked for Discover magazine, where he was a senior editor and humor columnist. Prior to that, he was health editor at Family Circle magazine, story editor at The New York Times Business World Magazine, and Associate Editor at Science Digest magazine. His features and columns have appeared in dozens of publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Gentlemen's Quarterly, The Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Omni, McCall's, New York Magazine, The New York Post, Newsday, and, of course, Time. He has worked as an adjunct instructor in the graduate journalism program at New York University; is a licensed—though non-practicing—attorney; and is a graduate of the University of Maryland and the University of Baltimore School of Law. He lives in New York City with his wife Alejandra and their daughters, Elisa and Paloma.

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