Should divorced co-parents ask their children to keep secrets?

One of the fundamental struggles of sharing child custody is the need for cooperation and communication between co-parents. The reason this is difficult, obviously, is that recently divorced spouses often have high amounts of animosity toward one another.

Unfortunately, children are the ones who suffer most when there is any fighting or lack of cooperation between their divorced parents. And things can get even more dicey when mom and dad ask the kids to keep secrets from their other parent.

The phrases “don’t tell your mother” and “don’t tell you father” are common ones in many single-parent households. If you’ve ever said this to your children, your intentions may have been perfectly innocent. Maybe you were dating again and didn’t want your ex-spouse to have hurt feelings. Or maybe you were trying to do something for your children that you knew your ex would disagree with.

But even if you have innocent intentions, asking your kids to keep secrets can be very hard on them. They may feel like you are asking them to choose sides. Or, without knowing the full context of the request, they may be left to wonder why they can’t tell their other parent. If both parents start asking the children to keep secrets, the kids may begin to lose trust.

When it comes to co-parenting success, the golden rule is often a good moral guide. If you want your co-parent to share important information with you, then you should probably do the same for them. And if you want your children to be trustworthy and to have trust in you, asking them to keep secrets may be counterproductive.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Don’t Tell Your Father, Don’t Tell Your Mother: A Major Mistake in Co-Parenting,” Diane L. Danois, March 4, 2015

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