“My ex has been seriously bad mouthing me in front of the children and it’s starting to affect my relationship with them. They are now starting to say they don’t want to come over to mine and when they are here, they are rude and refuse to do as I ask. I have tried to talk to my ex about this via text, email and verbally but nothing seems to work and if anything, it just makes it even worse. How can I get her to stop?”
A fire only burns if it has tinder and kindling to start it.
Anger is the fire that needs to be tamed in this situation. Retaliation makes this whole painful situation worse. Your children are hurting because their world has been upended.
Oversharing with children during separation and divorce is a mistake made by many.
Too often children unintentionally become the conduit to carry anger back and forth between two parents separating. When your children talk about what your former spouse is saying, firmly but kindly tell them you do not want to know what is being said because quite often messages get mixed by retelling.
What your children really need right now is consistency, security and calm. Be their parent at every opportunity and deal with their loss as opposed to the issues between you and your former spouse.
If they refuse an invitation to visit then offer alternatives, something shorter like lunch out together or another activity you know they would enjoy.
Win their trust back. If they are rude to you, tell them that is disrespectful in a matter of fact manner and carry on the conversation. Finding that place of calm will help move the family forward.
As for your former spouse, texting is by far the worst form of communication because those cryptic words can so readily be misinterpreted. Instead plan a chat with your former spouse when you feel you can be even-tempered. Set some clear goals for the discussion.
Let the focus of the conversation be your shared commitment to do what is best for your children.
Children feel powerless and fearful during divorce proceedings. Angry parents can lose sight of that. The damage done to children during this time of marriage breakdown can be far reaching.
Moving beyond the pain and anger, as difficult as that may be, is the very best way forward for your children.
There is no quick fix. It will take time to reach the new normal of family life. I would recommend reading A Father’s Thoughts For His Son On Divorce and Co-Parenting. This father poignantly describes setting aside the pain of marital breakdown for the benefit of their child.
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