Apr 22, 2019
Divorce, Separation and Divorce, Parenting and Divorce, Coping Skills
How do you respond when your child says something like: “Daddy, why doesn’t Mommy like you?” Let’s explore some simple ways to help your child when your co-parent bad-mouths you during a separation or divorce.
Separation and divorce are an extremely emotional time which can leave you feeling vulnerable and even afraid. Real or imagined threats to financial security, possessions, social connections, and family relationships are keyed up by separation and divorce. Fortunately for most, there is no physical danger; many people feel a need to protect their emotional security as a survival technique. When the alarm center of the brain dominates thinking and even behavior - people say and do things which are self-centered and even hurtful to others or themselves.
The perceived severity of the threat felt by a person often results in a display of angry words against the co-parent to anyone who will listen - even the children. You will know if they are speaking poorly about you to your children because your children will express confusion or angry words to you which might even sound like words you’ve heard from your co-parent.
How you respond can make a big difference for your children’s sense of security and peace of mind. If you respond by showing anger and bad-mouthing your co-parent, your children will then have two parents focusing more on each other than on them. Here is what you should do: Explain to your child that when people separate, sometimes they say and do things which they don’t mean because they are hurt or angry. Use your child’s own experiences with their friends to help them get a better understanding. You might say something like: “Do you remember last week when you were so mad at your friend that you yelled and said you never wanted to play with him again? It seems you feel differently about him this week.” continue with something like “Mommy and Daddy are having a hard time like that now. We will never live together again, but we’re working on being friends, for you.”
Avoid joining in on negative talk. Use the opportunity to teach your children about emotions and appropriate ways of coping with the challenges of life. Do you have a suggestion or a better way to respond? Let us know your thoughts on how to explain the anger of a divorce or separation to your children- we would love to hear from you.