by Amie and Barbara Greenberg~
Janet was hurt. It happened again. The children came back from their Dad’s and told her that his family was saying nasty things about her. She “fired back” quickly without thinking. It was less than a year since they went through a divorce and her ex-husband and his family were still talking negatively about her in front of their children. They have two pre-teen children who are caught in the middle of the ongoing conflict.
When one parent or their extended family makes derogatory remarks about the other parent, it hurts everyone, especially the children.
In counseling divorced families, this tendency is all too common. So common, that courts have provisions in orders attempting to prevent this type of behavior. Although a divorce decree or order may contain such language, parenting and respect should come from the home – not the courtroom.
So, how should parents deal with this? You cannot control the comments from your ex-spouse or their family. You can only control your reaction to it. If you respond with equally negative comments, you are only hurting yourself and your children.
Sometimes, it may be necessary to correct misinformation your ex or their family provides to your children. A negative comment may require you to explain the truth to the children in terms they will understand. But, most importantly, you and the children should not focus on the negative. Further, if you counter by responding in kind about your ex, the situation will only escalate. Learn to let it go and move on with more positive things in your life.
Here are some tips:
- You can tell your children that it is not okay to speak negatively about the other parent;
- Set an example in your own home by not engaging in this same behavior;
- Talk to your children about how they are feeling;
- Depending upon the age of the child, give them permission to speak up and communicate to the other parent or extended family that they don’t like the behavior and request that it stop.
- Have open lines of communication with your children so they know they can discuss anything related to the divorce and have a safe sounding board.
- If your children need a safe place to discuss these issues, consider counseling.
Making derogatory comments about the other parent only undermines a child’s sense of security and stability. Unfortunately, some parents cannot let go of the anger and say hurtful things. It is your reaction to it that matters to your children.