Seriously, what kind of parent uses their child as a pawn? What kind of person deliberately attempts to sabotage their child’s relationship with the other parent? What parents who do this do not realize is that they are damaging their child. A child wants and deserves to feel safe, secure and accepted with both parents. A parent who is consistently negatively talking about the other parent, no matter the reason or how justified it seems, is damaging the child emotionally and psychologically. In my professional opinion, parents who smack talk the other parent in front of or around their children are engaging in emotional abuse. The simple truth is that children love both parents and want a relationship with both parents in most instances. A responsible parent who is handling things maturely will understand this truth and will not attempt to undermine or actively interfere in their child’s relationship with the other parent.
You don’t have to like the other parent or agree with the other parent in order to commit to handle things in a healthy, mature manner. My husband and his first wife never talked badly about each other, certainly not in front of their daughter. Nor did they allow anyone else to do so. And that child is now almost 23 years old and she is thankful for the atmosphere her parents deliberately created for her sake. She is also thankful for the example they set in that regard. My husband and I do not talk negatively about his son’s mother either. Nor do we allow anyone else to do so. Regardless of the details about the relationship, we encourage his son to love and respect and obey his mother. That’s the way it should be.
I have seen the opposite happen, however, and the results were not good. My parents divorced when I was thirteen. My mom and her family never talked badly about my father, but my father’s family did not behave that way. Although my dad never really talked badly about my mother, he allowed his sister and mother to do so. What he should have done is told them that kind of behavior would not be tolerated. We needed him to protect us, and part of protecting us was providing a safe, calm environment for us. Eventually, my dad’s lack of action pushed all of us away from him, and, to this day, none of us have a close relationship with him. My brother’s first wife also smack talked him in front of their sons and made things difficult. As soon as the younger son was old enough to have a choice about which parent he lived with, he chose to live with my brother. The judge honored his wishes. That son will tell you that he got so tired of his mother consistently talking badly about his father; he got tired of the bickering and negativity. My brother and his wife did not engage in the same types of behavior. They created a safe, positive, accepting environment that was free of negative talk about the boy’s mother, and my nephew respected it and craved it. Not long afterwards, my brother’s older son also chose to live with my brother. Both boys had had it with their mother and the kind of atmosphere she had created. I’ve seen it time and time again. Children don”t want to be around negativity, anger, hatred and bitterness, and they shouldn’t have to be. It’s hard enough for children when their parents aren’t together. Please don’t make it any harder by talking negatively about the other parent. In more cases than not, smack talk backfires on the one who engages in it.
I know the ending of a relationship can be rough, and it involves a lot of strong feelings. I also understand those feelings can be hard to manage and contain. But, please, for the sake of your children, keep those feelings to yourself. Talk to trusted adults all you need to, but don’t do it in front of your children. You are not only damaging and hurting your child, you are damaging your relationship with your child. In that case, do not be surprised if your child decides to leave you as soon as they are legally able to do so. You will have no one to blame but yourself. If you excuse and justify your actions by telling yourself you are only telling your child the truth, I can assure you that if what you are saying is indeed true, your child will see it soon enough without your help. Also, know that your version of the truth is your version and is skewed by your feelings about the other person. It may not actually be the whole, pure truth. There are at least two sides to every story.
For the sake of your child, use some wisdom and self-control and keep your mouth shut about the other parent. Do not drag your children into your problems with the other parent. Protect them and nurture them and help them thrive. You can’t do that if you are consistently talking badly about their other parent. Create an environment your child loves to be in and one that is safe and accepting. Your child deserves that and needs that.