Co-parents often fail to see that there are direct correlations between putting their children in the middle of the conflict and teaching them dysfunctional relationship skills. Here’s just one to think about:
Asking a child to deliver a message to the other parent. Kids learn quickly that they are being asked to deliver a message because one parent is too cowardly to deliver it him/herself. This results in the child having to deal with the other parent’s upset about that message (e.g. “Tell your mom I will be picking you up later on Friday”). Once the child learns that the reaction to these kinds of messages are going to be negative, the child will begin to conveniently “forget” to relay it or lie about the message in order to avoid the upset. This teaches a child to be dishonest and avoid confrontation at all costs — both dysfunctional strategies for adult relationships.
Kids learn to cope in whatever way possible in order to survive childhood. However, if dysfunctional patterns are consistently their only way to survive, they will take them into their adult lives. What were once survival skills will be their natural go-to behaviors as adults. If you want your kids to have a better chance than you did at successful adult relationships, think about what you are teaching with every word and deed.