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Making Empty Promises to Children During Divorce

Broken promises are always hard on a child. Making promises that cannot be kept can occur without even realizing it. Children during this vulnerable stage are much more sensitive and can interpret any statement as having a lot more meaning than it does. Children tend to over-analyze words and expressions, so care should be taken with sensitive subjects and word choice.

A broken promise creates a lack of trust and enhances the unpredictable feelings. All promises must be kept in order to build trust, comfort, stability and security.

When a promise must be broken, a full explanation is in order, and one that makes it clear that the broken promise is not the fault of the child.

Both parents must work together to make sure promises are honored. Many children believe that they are the reason a parent breaks promises. It is very difficult to control what another parent does or doesn't promise.

Some parents use the "open ended" solution, qualifying each promise with "maybe." These open-ended promises falsely raise expectations, and they should be avoided.

A common broken promise is a parental default on a scheduled visitation time. This will happen on occasion, due to unforeseen circumstances, like a change in a work schedule, but if it begins to happen on a regular basis, it is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Another very common and most traumatic broken promise is the suggestion -- implied or stated -- that the parents may be reunited. A parent may not see this as a promise, but a child will read deeply into what is said or implied and hear what he or she desires to.

Strategies and Tactics To Prevent Broken Promises:

- Do not overextend your time or capabilities.
- Think long and hard before you make a commitment or promise to your child and understand the repercussions if the commitment or promise is broken.
- Do not leave things open-ended just in case something better to do comes along.
- Realize, whether small or large, every broken promise hurts.
- You are the parent and there is no substitute. Getting a baby-sitter, friend or relative to fulfill a promise is not a solution, but instead an absolute last resort.
- If you must break a promise and you know in advance, do not wait until the last minute to tell your child.

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