The golden rule in successful co-parenting after divorce is this: You shall not badmouth your ex to your children. Ill statements have lasting effects on kids. Even as adults, they can never get the image of their dad being a “sore loser” or their mom as a “selfish gold-digger” out of their heads.
If you’re trying to be on your best behavior but find yourself being attacked by your ex, it can be a real struggle not just for you but for the kids. You want to fight back, but you don’t want the children to be caught in the middle. At the same time, you know you can’t stay silent and let your kids think that you’re the bad guy. How do you respond to this situation? Here are some effective communication strategies:
Validate your child’s feelings.
Remember that your children are your priority here. So while it’s tempting to disregard what your ex has told about you, you need to ease the feelings of your child first. For instance, your ex tells your kids, “Your mom doesn’t love you anymore, so she broke up with me.” Instead of saying how ridiculous that is, tell them, “That must have been upsetting to hear. I’m not sure why he would say that. What did you feel when you heard that from him?”
With this statement, you’re opening a safe space for kids to process their emotions and not confusing them further by telling them how dishonest and petty your ex is. If you’re still in the process of finalizing your divorce, the same principle applies: kids first. If that means choosing mediation instead of litigation, do it.
Counter the distortions with facts.
Once you process what’s in your child’s heart, you can deal with what’s in their head. Bring the truth to light by providing proof. It’s best if you do this through questions. Show and don’t tell. For instance, when your ex says, “I’m poor because I give all my money to your mom,” ask your kids questions like “Does Dad live in a good house?” and “Does Dad have a smartphone?”
You’re not preaching the facts but helping them see things objectively. Inform your kids that parents have duties to fulfill even after breaking up, and that includes financial support. Reassure them that what’s required of their father financially was carefully considered by the judge. If your ex abandons child support payments, you can consult a divorce attorney in Colorado Springs. They can help you build your case when you take your ex back to court.
Focus on the issues at hand.
When tensions run high, your emotions might speak for you. You might say things that are entirely beyond the issue you’re trying to deal with. For instance, when your ex complains of child support, don’t drag their new girlfriend into the conversation. When your ex tries to make your kids doubt your love, you might unconsciously bring up how bitter he was after the court battle. This does nothing helpful. It only creates further tension, questions, and unsettling feelings. Fix your attention on the issue.
It’s hard to deal with an ex who doesn’t have respect for you and the kids. But don’t be tempted to stoop to their level. Keep a level head and have time for self-care.