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Ask a Therapist: I’m divorced and I feel like my kids have to choose sides. What should I do?

Posted at 1:26 PM, Nov 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-21 15:26:23-05

Therapist Anastasia Pollock answers a viewer question once a month. You can submit your questions to

Question: My adult children don`t seem to like me or want a relationship with me since their mother and I divorced. I know she is saying mean things about me and that they feel the need to take sides. What should I do?

1. Be aware of that which you can control and that which you can`t.
We do not have control over what other people do. The only thing we can control is our own actions. You can`t make anyone listen to you but you can make choices in your approach that will make the likelihood higher that your message may be received.

2. If and when you decide to approach your children, do so gently and with respect of their feelings and experiences
Divorce is hard on kids, no matter their age. The ramifications of a divorce often follow people into adulthood. Be mindful that they may still be experiencing pain related to the divorce.

3. Communicate clearly
Be clear about what you are hoping for in terms of contact and possibly a relationship with them.

4. Move at their pace
Be open to the pace at which they wish to move. They may want to move slower than you were hoping but respecting their boundaries is key in building trust.

5. Do NOT bad mouth their mother
Even though you suspect she may have said negative things about you, doing the same will not make this situation better
Be open to answering questions they may have but be very mindful with the way you answer.
Be as diplomatic as possible when discussing issues from the past, stating the facts and not bringing emotion or blame in your answers.

6. Respect their decision
If they decide they do not want contact with you, let them know the door is open if they ever change their minds.
You could write a letter from your perspective but be careful to avoid verbally bashing their mother. The letter should focus on your experience of not having them in your life and what you hope for in the future.

7. Take care of you
Make sure you have support from others in your life as you attempt to reconnect with your children
Practice good self-care to manage any strong emotions that may be triggered through this process

You can get more advice from Anastasia here.