Friday, January 02, 2009

What to Do When Your Ex Badmouths You ....

I am in the process of "deprogramming" my kids after they spent several days with their dad. Although my ex does not badmouth me directly, he likes to make jokes and wisecracks about me to the kids. Jokes about me being a vegetarian, about the books I read, and how mom is "chaotic" and "crazy" are the norm. I feel like my kids come home after a visit with their dad with a little less respect for me.

Many divorced parents struggle with an ex who blatantly disrespects them in front of the children. Lingering feelings of anger and resentment from the divorce are usually to blame for such behavior. The children are put in a no-win situation of having to either defend the parent being attacked verbally or go along with mom or dad's tirade.

There may be little you can do to stop your ex from badmouthing you in from of the children, but you can control your reaction to it and help your children deal with it. It is tempting to lash out or make jokes about your ex to your kids after hearing about his or her remarks, but that will only make things worse for your kids. Most divorced parents have been guilty of making a negative comment or two about the ex in front of the kids. Everyone slips up now and then. The key is to try and catch yourself and not let it become a habit. If you are feeling angry with your ex,vent to a friend in private when your children are not around. The damage comes when a parent continuously makes hurtful comments to the children in order to undermine the other parent.

I try and let my ex's little comments about me go and not make my kids feel uncomfortable when they tell me dad's latest "mom" joke. Of course, if your ex is trying to poison your kids against you and it has gone beyond the occasional comments and jokes, you need to take action. First, inform your ex that his or her behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. This probably will have little effect, but you still need to put him or her on notice. Then focus on helping your children understand that mom or dad is feeling angry and upset and that although it is not an excuse to say mean things about you to them, you will not take it personally.

You can also advise your children to politely tell mom or dad that it upsets them to hear negative comments about their parents and they would prefer it if neither parent talked about the other to them. If the comments continue, you may want to consider professional counseling for your children to help them cope. No child should be forced to take sides during a divorce or forced to hear disparaging remarks about a parent. A therapist or counselor can help your children deal with a parent who continues to badmouth the other parent in front of them.

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