Here is a simple guide for coParents; their family and friends; and professionals, on how to act in front of children of divorce. Children are constantly learning from us and this includes the way we act towards and around them.
Parents: Recent research shows that we have mirror neurons in our brains that prepare us to do the exact same actions that are performed by those around us. This means that we have to be much more careful about exposing children to our extreme behavior, because they may do the exact same actions someday. It also helps to tell children that extreme behaviors are not socially tolerated, so that if they see a bad behavior they will also learn that they should not do it. Try to limit your child from seeing bad behavior as much as you can, as it’s the sights and sounds that get mirrored. This could include the people around you, as well as TV and the internet.
Family and Friends: Be a positive role model. Be careful to avoid behaving in a manner that you would not want your divorcing family member or friend, or their children, to behave. Explain mirror neurons to those who might benefit from this information. Encourage positive activities, especially with people who would be good role models for the children, as well as for your friend or family member.
Professionals: Be professional and civil with everyone involved in the case. Act as if everything you do will be mirrored by your clients, and then by their children. Teach your clients strategies for providing positive behavior in response to negative behavior by the high-conflict parent. Educate the court about how children learn from everything they see and hear, but don’t use this as a reason to try to eliminate the other parent. Encourage the use of moderate coping methods for dealing with HCPs in the divorce process.