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Psychologist making notes while couple fighting

Have you ever been in that uncomfortable situation where someone is putting someone down in front of you and you don’t know where to look, or if you should intervene?

Let me tell you, that is exactly how your children feel when you do this to their other parent in front of them.

You can justify why you do it as much as you like, but it is wrong.

When you defame their other parent, you defame your child. It’s as simple as that.

As a child, I don’t personally remember my parents doing this when they separated.

Occasionally I can remember my mother saying to me “Gee, you look like your Father when you pull that face”. All I was thinking was “Well of course I do, he is half of me”.

I see many parents forgetting or just simply not noticing who is in the room (their children) when saying things about their ex.

After many years of advocating for children I can tell you this, it really hurts children when you speak ill of their other parent. It makes them feel that half of themselves is maybe also bad.

Children are half of each parent’s DNA, so when you say something negative about them it carries very heavily on their hearts.

It doesn’t matter if it is on the phone, in another room, or at an event, you really need to pick your time wisely where you will air those feelings, and to whom you will share them with.

I find many parents choose the wrong crowd to share their personal hurts with.

A hurt person sharing with a hurt person won’t always bring out the best in someone.

Having someone who will listen but then challenge you can be a much healthier place to share. This may be a counsellor or a good friend who isn’t necessarily one-sided.

When you dwell on the same things it leaves you living the same rat race, and going nowhere.

Some family members will just side with you out of compassion but is that really helping you move forward?

I’ve personally seen parental conflicts where the Father is speaking very ill of the mother and even his new partner was joining in.

They would continually share with the children how they felt about their biological mother without a care in the world of how this may be affecting them.

This started to breed a lot of bitterness within the children to the point where they no longer wanted to see their father or his partner.

The issue on the other side with the biological mother was that she would try her best to be amicable but because of her own personal hurt from this situation, she would air quite openly to friends how she felt about her ex and his partner but forgetting the children were in hearing distance of these conversations.

KARLA LEE – VOICE4KIDS FOUNDER

So, you could imagine how much impact this was all making on the children.

If you can imagine it is like a tennis match. The children are the NET always stuck in the middle and the ball is them throwing their opinion’s back and forth about each other. It’s not a healthy environment at all.

There is a famous saying; “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all”. It is very true.

Your children are looking up to you as their role-model. What example are you giving them if all you do is spend your time bickering about your ex?

When you children are in your care you need to be focused on having quality time with them. What a waste of time to have them for a visit and all you do is focus on your ex.

Be the example you want to be for your children.

You need to rise above your own issues and start seeing things from your child’s perspective.

Children don’t favour one parent over the other. They love you both unconditionally.

All they want is to spend time with you both, and enjoy that time.

3 HELPFUL TIPS

  1. If you find it hard to communicate face to face without an argument, make emailing your way to correspond. Always keep the email straight to the point and not personal.
  2. If your children come home from a visit and they tell you that the other parent spoke badly of you, you need to not react. If anything, acknowledge your child that you heard them, but then explain to them that it is sad they feel that way but you’re ok. Your children need to see it is not affecting you (even if it is) WHY? Because what affect you affects them also. Saying something like “it’s sad they feel that way”. Then move on to a topic that’s happier.
  3. If you have been downloading your negative thoughts for the past few months/years to family and friends about your ex, and you now realise that for your child’s best interest you need to stop this, it is best you talk to them as soon as possible. You will then need to make some time to have this conversation with your child. An apology also helps your child also see that adults can also make mistakes with their actions. You will be accountable to your child when you have made them a promise to stop bad-mouthing their other parent. I am sure they will also pull you up when you slip. This is a choice you will have to make yourself and your child. If your family or friends keep on with the negative talk about your ex (even if you or they feel it is justified) you will need to stop this immediately for the sake of your child. Your child must come first.

Overall, I hope you can see that bad-mouthing is not helping your situation at all. It is breeding unhealthy habits into your home.

If you have moves on and separated put all your time and energy into your relationship with your child.

Let the legacy be about you being a great role-model, not a parent who was always negative and after revenge.

At the end of the day, it’s a CHOICE!

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