It is no secret that emotions often increase the stress of divorce. Even in a fairly amicable separation, divorcing adults may have some animosity toward their soon-to-be ex-spouses. When a minor child is involved in a divorce, it may seem tempting for one parent to badmouth the other parent. In other situations, a parent may learn that their spouse or some other family member, is making negative comments about how the person is parenting. When a custody dispute is hotly contested, talking down about the other parent is often more pronounced.
Researchers and mental health professionals say that badmouthing a parent in front of the children can have a negative impact on a young child’s life, that can linger into adulthood. Children are not divorcing their parents, and continue to need to feel safe and secure with each parent. Moreover, children know that they are part of both mom and dad, and speaking against the other parent is personal to the child. Moreover, putting the child in the middle of an adult dispute may suggest to the child that he or she must choose a side.
When the adult conflict turns to derogatory comments about the other parent in front of the kids, it can be difficult for some to know what to do. Joining the conversation with negativity and defensiveness may not be sending the message a parent wants to make to his or her child. For that reason, below are some tips for divorcing parents to follow to set a god example and possibly diffuse a tense situation.
Remain calm and keep the children in mind
It is easy to let a negative comment get the better of you. Parents often counsel their own children about how to handle disputes among classmates. Putting the child first may help a parent to remain focused on what really matters – raising a child in a positive way. When hurtful comments are in the mix, the children may suffer.
Before making a negative statement, or after hearing about a derogatory comment, parents should consider talking a deep breath and refocus their minds on the best interests of the children. Remaining calm and putting the kids first can go a long way in diffusing a tense situation.
Avoid turning the tables
When a parent learns that the other parent is saying negative things, reacting in kind is a common reaction. Joining in the fray in front of the children, however, may not be the best choice. Children can become defensive themselves as they watch their parents become defensive. Take the time to speak positively with your child and show your continuing love. You can address the issue with the other parent out of the company of your child.
Work on finding a positive solution
Often, the tensions associated with the divorce process and custody battle are at the core of animosities between parents. Your family law attorney can address the legal issues with the opposing party to resolve parenting time and custody disputes. However, co-parenting is a life-long relationship. Speaking calmly about the issues with the other parent—out of the presence of the child—can help each of you come to terms that you each will continue to be a parent of your child.
Taking the time to adjust to new family dynamics may seem daunting. With some patience and a focus on the children, parents may be able to ease the tension to serve as positive role models after the divorce is finalized.