I saw this image posted on Facebook a few weeks ago and in the last few days I was reminded of it. In recent months I have encountered a few situations in which an ex, or soon-to-be-ex, was talking either to their children or around their children about the childâ€™s other parent. In most cases when this happens the parent is respectful and mature enough to not bad mouth their ex or, short of that, they are at least somewhat strategic in the words they use or how they deliver their thoughts. I think this is important because defaming your kidsâ€™ other parent is both vicious and damaging, and will ultimately end up harming the kidâ€™s relationship with their other parent.
While I think itâ€™s important to treat everyone with respect, I think it is especially important to treat the parent(s) of your kids with respect, even if you have to struggle through doing it. And along with treating your ex with respect, I personally think it is equally imperative that you speak respectfully of your ex in the presence of your kids. I know you might not have any ounce of respect for your ex. And I know that your ex may have hurt you beyond imagination and because of that you canâ€™t muster even the slightest positive thing to say about him/her. But that doesnâ€™t give you license to harm your kidâ€™s relationship with your ex.
If your kids are within earshot please have the courtesy to speak well of your ex or, at the very least, not speak of your ex at that time. If something happens to come on in a TV show or a movie that reminds you of your exâ€™s shenanigans, keep that to yourself for a bit. And if your kids have the unction to ask you about why you and your ex are no longer together, itâ€™s ok to be vague to a degree. Saying things like â€œyour mom liked other men more than she liked meâ€ or â€œyour dad is emotionally abusive and detachedâ€ might make you feel vindicated in the moment but can cause all sorts of confusion in your kid. There is nothing wrong with saying something like â€œwe just couldnâ€™t make it work and to make things as good as we could for you, we decided to splitâ€. There can be a deeper discussion about that later, or even at that moment, without going into specifics. But at that moment the best thing you could do is protect your children and their relationship with your ex.
Now please understand that I am not saying that you need to lie to your kids, or that you need to keep them in the dark forever. But when they are still kids, or are not yet capable of completely digesting your anger toward, or hatred of, your ex, I personally believe it is best to shield them from potential harm to their relationship with your co-parent. It pains me when I hear people talking smack about their ex without even considering the words coming out of their mouths.