There is an old saying “There is a fine line between love and hate.” You understand this now. You never thought you would be so confused, full of anger and overwhelmed by feelings. Being a divorcee and co-parenting never crossed your mind. You are hurt, angry and trash talking your ex.
You try to not to say anything in front of the kids but you have a million passionate words to describe your ex and you were done wrong.
The attorney and judge stressed the impact negative comments about your ex partner would have on your kids. So what is the long term emotional impact for your children when trash talking your ex?
We all know kids of divorce. Some of these kids are adults now who have commitment problems, poor self esteem, trust issues and don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like.
Maybe this is you or your ex? You may have parents who divorced and trash talked each other. Was this your normal? Did this impact you as a child?
Our childhood experiences and behavior modeled by our parents teach us how to interact, trust and develop relationships with those we love.
It doesn’t make sense but we often seek out partners with whom we can play out our unresolved childhood experiences. At times we try to re-enact our childhood and heal from the experiences we had as children.
You were impacted as a kid by what your parents said and role modelled for you, the good and the bad. We can’t help it.
STORIES FROM ADULT CHILDREN OF DIVORCE
Marina Sbrochi an author and writer is researching trash talking your ex and the long-term emotional impact on children. She provides real life stories about the emotional feelings, beliefs and experiences these adults face. Marina writes about the following 2 adults Mike and Kate, in this direct passage from her article for Huffington Post.
Mike’s Story: Mike, a 43-year-old man, still remembers his mother referring to his father as a loser after the divorce. Mike still can’t shake the word “loser” from his head. Anytime he hears someone called a loser, he cringes. It has taken him to years to view his dad differently than the story told to him by his mother.
To date, Mike finds himself constantly trying to achieve so that his mother won’t think he’s a loser. I bet she never expected that by calling her ex-husband a loser, it would have such a lasting impact on her son.
Kate’s Story: Kate no longer talks to the father that bad-mouthed her mother. Her parents divorced when she was nine and Kate remembers nothing but her father’s name-calling and fighting for years on end. When her father had custody of her, all he would do was talk about what a horrible woman her mother was.
“Your mother is a cheater. She broke up this family,” he would say. “All she wants to do is take my money.” “She’s crazy”. Any time Kate would try to defend her mother, her father would yell to her, “you don’t know anything!”
In reality, Kate knew quite a bit. Kate was aware that her mother cheated on her father. Her mother sat down with her and apologized for doing so. She apologized to Kate for breaking up the family. She was always kind to Kate’s father and never uttered a bad word about him.
As she got older, Kate understood that her father was hurt, but she couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t let it go. Her father was always angry. This made Kate dread being with her father.
After years of going through the motions, Kate decided she didn’t want to spend time with her father. She told him she was tired of hearing about how awful her mother was. Do you know what Kate’s father said to her? “You are just like your mother — Crazy”.
At 17, that wasn’t what Kate needed or wanted to hear. Kate is now 23 years old and hasn’t spoken to her father in six years. Do you think this is how Kate’s father imagined his relationship with his daughter would turn out?
Marina in her research uses Mike and Kate’s personal stories to help us to understand that kids are impacted in a big way. Their experiences were carried into their adult life and relationships. Maybe you see yourself or your ex in Mike and Kate? The adults in their lives modeled behavior that still has an impact on them today.
HBO DOCUMENTARY “DON’T DIVORCE ME”
HBO has a documentary titled “Don’t Divorce Me” which highlights children speaking out about Divorce. The children in this documentary provide kid’s rules for divorce and HBO gives children a much needed voice.
Want to know what your children are feeling and thinking about your divorce and separation? This is it.
A few HBO “Kid Rules” about Communication: “No fighting, Don’t use me as a Spy, Learn to get along, Don’t make each other cry, Don’t put me in the middle, Don’t take your anger out on me, Don’t talk about Money, Don’t say bad things about the other parent, and Be Honest.”
What’s ironic is many of these rules we were taught by our parents, socially and in school. These kids are trying to teach parents about what the long term emotional impact of trash talking your ex will be in the future.
7 Tips To Reduce The Emotional Impact On Children
Simply don’t talk about your ex in front of the kids and don’t say bad things when your kids spend time with your ex. You don’t have to compliment your ex but support your child by validating their feelings and being positive about the time they spent with your ex or the activities they did.
Do your best to support your child when they want contact with your ex. If they are at your house let them call their father or mother if they miss him. Don’t punish them for missing their other parent. They need to feel safe, secure and know you both are there for them even if you are no longer married or physically in the same place. It is so hard not to compete and only want your children to focus on you, but you can do it. This will make a big difference emotionally for your kids.
Don’t trash talk on the phone when the children are home. Even if they are not in the same room, children have big ears. They are listening when you least suspect it. They are sponges. Talk to your family and friends about bad mouthing your ex in front of the kids. Tell them not to! Your kids may internalize this and think they are also talking about them because they are half of you and your ex.
Find an outlet. Your anger, disappointment and hurt are REAL. Divorce hurts! Talking to a friend, finding a support group or a therapist will help you vent in a safe and appropriate place. You need to vent. Venting is good and healthy, just find the right place and time. Protect your children emotionally.
Most important! Tell your kids over and over it is “Not Your Fault!” So many kids think they are the cause of the divorce and when trash talk starts flying this message can be reinforced. When Kate’s father said, “You are just like your mother.. Crazy”, this was a negative message Kate internalized and carried into her adult life. This affected her relationship with her father and now he is not a part of her adult life.
Remember that you are human and parents make mistakes. Divorce is hard. Parents slip up. No one is perfect. What matters most is how hard you try to help your kids! Listen and talk to them openly and honestly. They will remember you were there for them and listening.
Tip # 7
Kids internalize. By not trash talking you are helping your child focus on the best attributes they received from the both of you. You once were attracted to your ex and loved their qualities and attributes. Your child is a reflection of this love. Let them know this and talk to them about the positive qualities they inherited from your ex. And in turn they will not be like Mike who has been burdened with the belief that he must prove to his mother every-day that he is not a loser.
If you or your child need additional support than call Life Counseling Solutions today at 407-622-1770! We are here to help. Call today for a free 15-minute phone consult or book an appointment via text at 626-872-5433 or online here.
Other Helpful Resources:
- Preventing Parentification | Children After A Separation or Divorce
- 6 Tips To Help Children Cope With Divorce | Orlando Divorce Therapy
- Six Ways To Maintain Your Child’s Well Being During Divorce
- 4 Tips To Communicate With Your Teen During A Divorce
- Helping Your Teen Through a Divorce This Holiday Season
AUTHOR: Marva Caldwell MA, LMHC, NCC