Family boundaries should always be maintained, and in a divorce situation, family boundaries are very, very important to maintain. There should be distinct boundaries between parents and their children as well as between family members/caregivers and children.
Parental appropriateness and boundaries
Regardless of your child’s age or your similarities, your child is not your best friend. Your child is also not your therapist. What you share with your child should always be appropriate, regardless of what is happening in your life. Your adult friends and/or your therapist are the ones you should approach to discuss personal issues and struggles.
As a parent, your job is not to ensure that your child really likes you. Your job is to do what you believe is in the best interest of your child because you love them and you want what is best in the short-term, intermediate, and long-term. Sometimes that may result in your child not understanding you and possibly being quite upset with you at the time. If your insecurities are so profound that you need your child to like you, you will be unable to set appropriate boundaries when it becomes necessary, granting your child the ability to run rampant over you. Children will quickly figure out your emotional needs, and they will hold you emotionally hostage any time they want something.
Parents must enforce boundaries on their children
A parent should always offer an open line of communication with their child, allowing them the opportunity to tell their parent almost anything. But parents should exercise caution as there are times when the information being shared can cause problems.
Problems most often occur when a child wants to discuss their relationship with their other parent or the relationship you have with another adult. That process is called triangulation, and it’s very destructive. In these situations, you must maintain appropriate boundaries, otherwise, your child will force you into discussing issues where you will be required to determine who is more important – the other person or your child. If it’s not a life-or-death or an emotionally-relevant issue, it can cause fractures in relationships, leading to greater instability in your relationships. In addition, it becomes a model for your child, creating difficulties and instability in major relationships throughout their lives.
Extended family and caregivers also require boundaries
Whether it’s extended family or a caregiver, the boundaries should remain the same as they would with a parent. Neither have the right to badmouth the parent’s former partner. Similarly, they should not undermine the existing parent, complaining about the various problems they must now “clean up.” Their job is to be the same loving caretaker they were before. Their job is not to comment, criticize or dump on the parent, the parent’s ex, or the parent’s relationship with the ex. It is not appropriate.
Boundaries between adults and children should always be enforced. Regardless of a changing family structure, children require appropriate boundaries and consistent rules/appropriate behavior will comfort children during and after the divorce.