Diffusing Negative Comments That Your Ex Tells Your Child
Many individuals realize this sad truth: divorce is brutal. Children are always hurt. There is no easy answer to entirely shield a child from divorce. However, some things hurt worse than others. For a child going through the break-up of his or her family, it is like watching a fairy tale without a happy ending. Divorce attorneys see this quite often.
Many clients here in Orlando have reported that the hardest part of life after a divorce is hearing their children repeat vicious lies or negative comments that the other spouse has said about them. This can make a person want to retaliate and say even nastier things about the other spouse. However, this does nothing to diffuse the situation and help the child move forward in a healthy way. Here, we provide three suggestions for disarming your ex and helping your child cope.
Depending on your child’s age, some strategies will work better than others. For younger children between 2 and 10, this may be a good option. Imagine, your child comes home from a week with your ex and says, “Mommy said you are lazy and don’t want to take care of us, and that’s why we can’t have birthday presents this year.” How do you react? No doubt, you feel anger and resentment at your ex for dragging your child into such a nasty dialogue. Perhaps you feel your ex is unjustifiably twisting the situation to her advantage.
This first step is key. Do not react. Instead, reward. Reward your child for his honesty and for feeling like he can talk to you about anything. This immediate response will teach your child that it is safe to tell you things like this. If you become irate and scream, your child will learn to bottle up his feelings and will not share with you anymore.
Next, once you have shown your child that he was right to bring this to you, try redirecting his feelings toward examples that are inconsistent with the negative comments. The U.S. Department of education advises that children learn character and positive behavior better by example than from being told. Therefore, do the same here. Try saying things like, “Do you remember the time we had that big birthday party when you turned 5? That was fun, right? Sometimes grown-ups can spend a lot of money to have fun like that; other times we have to do smaller stuff, kind of like the little party we threw this year. Your mom and I love you, and we will always do the best we can.”
This type of redirection helps the child see that the negative comment is not necessarily true. Do not underestimate your child’s ability to deal with inconsistency. Children will almost always see through lies. A parent who tells a child not to smoke yet smokes around the child is telling the child that smoking is okay. The same applies here. Children know what is true – they just have to be reminded.
Above all else, show restraint. You may be dying to tell your child that it is not you, but rather his mother, who took all your money and left you living in a tiny apartment. You may want to tell him that his mother has plenty of money from her new boyfriend. Resist this temptation, because your little one will only take the information to your ex looking for something to disprove this.
In the end, remember that a child loves both parents no matter what they have done to each other. The child wants desperately to believe both are kind, good, and honest. So when faced with negative statements, the child will look high and low for proof to the contrary. Give them that proof in a friendly way without creating new negativity for them to disprove. In time, they will usually become your greatest advocate. When your ex tells them nasty things, your child, armed with plenty of examples, will begin to say, “But mommy, what about the time daddy …” This can be a powerful reminder to the other spouse that the child will not simply take comments at face value.
However, in some cases, the hate is just too deep, and spouses cannot move forward. When this happens, Orlando divorce attorney Goodblatt · Leo can help you with strategies to enforce divorce decrees that order spouses not to disparage each other to the child, or to find other means (such as parent coordination or family counseling) to eliminate or minimize this behavior. Reach out to us for a consultation on your case.