Several studies have determined that divorce can cause behavioral problems in children. The age of the child, the way the child was told about the divorce, and the relationship between the parents post-divorce all play a role in shaping any behavioral problems that may become apparent. Parents who are concerned about the emotional health of their children during and after a divorce will often overlook or miss subtle behavioral issues including attempts at manipulation. The ability to identify signs that your child is manipulating you or your spouse can make it easier to discuss the manipulation and stop it before it causes any long-term problems.

Understanding Manipulation

When a person thinks of manipulation, it is hard to associate the behavior with a minor child or anyone whom you love. In reality, manipulation is something that most children do unconsciously from a very young age. Once a child learns that certain extreme behavior leads to a result that is favorable, he or she continues to indulge in it for as long as possible. The average child will begin doing things like throwing a temper tantrum in public to get a parent to purchase something or crying when a parent walks away in order to be taken along. During a divorce, children will use feelings of guilt that their parents display, their inattentiveness, or other things to their advantage in order to get things that they want.

Common Separation and Divorce Manipulation Tactics

The form that the manipulation will take varies from situation to situation, but there are a few ways to recognize that your child is attempting to use your relationship status to manipulate you.  A child may start by keeping certain pieces of key information away from one parent in order to avoid punishment, knowing that his or her parents will not speak to each other. As time goes on, the child may begin “punishing” one parent by refusing to speak with him or her or avoid visitation if that parent does not give the child something he or she wants. Older children of divorce may even begin threatening to leave the home of their custodial parent in order to live with a non-custodial parent if they believe their custodial parent is too strict.

Possible Repercussions

When you are going through a contentious divorce, every misstep you take personally or as a parent runs the risk of affecting your ability to get a fair settlement. If your child begins manipulating you and the manipulation goes unnoticed, it could lead to serious repercussions.  Accusations that you are encouraging your child to alienate the other parent or violating your custody agreement by not adhering to a visitation schedule could lead to you returning to court.

Talk to an Attorney

If you are concerned that your child is manipulating you and your spouse, it is a good idea to discuss your concerns with a qualified family law attorney. Most attorneys who have dealt with custody, divorce, and other family law cases are familiar with situations involving manipulative children. A skilled attorney can give you advice regarding how to proceed in a manner that will keep your rights protected. The compassionate attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum realize that a divorce with children is never easy and we are prepared to give you the legal assistance you need. Contact our conveniently located Atlanta metro office today to schedule a private consultation.