Parents who are divorcing typically are thankful that their children have each other to turn to for support. They may hope that petty sibling squabbles will be set aside and their kids will become even closer amidst their parents’ break-up.
All of that can happen. However, in some cases, parental divorce only exacerbates sibling rivalries.
One common reason for this is blame. While children often blame themselves, at least to some extent, for their parents’ divorce, siblings may blame each other. They point to problems a brother or sister has caused as the reasons for their parents’ fights and ultimately for driving them apart.
Parents can prevent their children from blaming each other (or themselves) by emphasizing from the time they first tell them about the break-up that it has nothing to do with them. Constant reinforcement of that may be necessary throughout and after the divorce.
Competition for parents’ attention is also a source of tension between siblings during divorce. Parents are often spending time reorganizing their lives, moving and dealing with legal and financial issues. That can leave less time for their kids — particularly for the parent who has moved out of the family home.
It’s essential for parents to make sure that their kids are getting an equal amount of attention. One child may seem to require more, either because they’re younger or because they’re having more difficulty dealing with the situation. However, don’t assume that the child who seems to be doing fine isn’t in need of just as much time and attention from both of you.
If your children’s sibling rivalry is becoming heightened and even destructive during your divorce, it may seem like a good idea to have a “split” or “divided” custody arrangement, where the children live with different parents. However, this may only worsen the problem rather than heal it.
It’s important to consider what custody arrangement is best for your children. Your attorney can help you as you negotiate that arrangement with your co-parent.