Managing situations where a co-parent is trying to turn your child against you

Although, by and large, exes will have a love for their child that outweighs their irritation for each other, sometimes the latter emotion can have a stronger pull, and impact the former in a toxic, unhealthy way for everyone involved.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for exes who have now become co-parents to have split inharmoniously. However, this can never be used as an excuse to draw your child into this negativity. It is important (regardless of the feelings that you may have about your ex) to put your child first, which means presenting them with a positive front when you’re talking about your ex.

While you can make the commitment to approach the situation in this way yourself, you might not be able to guarantee that you’ll receive this behaviour from your ex in return. If you feel like your ex is unduly influencing the impression that your child has of you by being cruel, nasty or critical about you, then this is a situation which is bound to cause you concern.

But don’t panic, there are ways that you can deal with this situation without resorting to childish retaliation. In this blog post, we’ve compiled a list of top tips that you can use to nip this negativity in the bud, in a calm, effective and mature way.

What would class as a toxic influence?

Even after the legal elements of the divorce have been completed, the psychological stages to go through in a separation might not be fully behind you yet. These things, naturally, take some time to fully get over, and you or your ex may have a variety of hangups about what has happened between you. This bitterness, anger, frustration or resentment can show itself in a manner of ways, but it becomes particularly harmful if it is allowed to influence your child’s life or relationship with either parent.

Just to, briefly, go into a bit more detail about what I mean by negatively influencing your child’s opinion of you, such potential types of behaviour from your ex could include the following:

  • Criticising you or your behaviour in the relationship to your child
  • Involving your child in matters or arguments surrounding your separation
  • Attempting to turn your child against you
  • Putting your child in an ‘us or them’ scenario, leaving them feeling torn and conflicted
  • Making your child feel as if they have to defend you, which is an overwhelming, confusing and simply unfair position for them to be put in

Tips to mitigate the situation

If you have seen that any of the behaviours above are being deployed by your ex, it is important that you handle the situation in the right way. This means behaving in a markedly different way to your ex.

Here are some key takeaway tips that you can use to govern your behaviour and handle the situation in the best possible way for you and your child:

  • Maintain consistent contact with your child. Stick to plans and ensure that you are completely reliable.
  • Absolutely do not use your child as a go between or involve them in the situation between you and their other parent. Only speak about any issues that you have directly with your ex themself, or through the court if need be.
  • Put yourself in your child’s shoes – imagine how difficult this must be for them, and try to let this awareness govern your responsive behaviour.
  • If you’re finding that your child is beginning to be a bit more distanced with you, do not blame them – they are being put in a position where they have to put barriers between the two of you, otherwise they will forsake the relationship with the other parent. If this is the case, your number one priority is to ensure that your relationship with your child is not affected, so do not start criticising or arguing with them.
  • Don’t take what is happening personally – although your natural reaction is bound to be to take this to heart, you must remember that this is an incredibly difficult situation for your child, and one which they have no ability to deal with properly on their own.
  • Don’t use the same tactic as your ex, and blame or criticise them to your child – it will only make the situation worse and could make your child resort to distancing themselves even further away from you.
  • Instead, use your behaviour (instead of trying to verbally fight the situation) to help your child see for themselves that your ex is wrong in what they say about you. Focus on how your child is feeling, and try to provide support for them. Speak to them and reassure them that you will always love them.
  • If your child comes to you with something that they have heard from their other parent about you, then counter the slander calmly and respectfully with facts that are neutral, unbiased and do not go into any unnecessary or personal details.
  • Help your child out and show them your support by consistently telling them things like: you don’t have to choose between your parents, you can love both of us at the same time.
  • It’s not an easy situation to be in by any means, but don’t give up on things getting better. Stay positive, stay hopeful and keep doing what you’re doing.

What you can do to try and better the co-parenting relationship

If you do feel like you need to go to your ex to address the situation, avoid creating more conflict with this conversation. Don’t go into it with a defensive stance – instead, disarm them by being calm and telling them that you are sorry for how they are feeling, without responding to their aggression with the same reaction yourself.

For the sake of your child, in order to aim to put any negativity between you and your ex behind you, you could try deploying the following co-parenting tactics:

  • Remember that your feelings towards each other have to take a backseat – they are irrelevant now, it is the feelings of your child that matter.
  • Put your feelings aside, and ensure that your behaviour as a co-parent is cooperative, considerate and as positive as possible.
  • Vent out your frustration to friends, family or a counsellor in private (well away from your child’s earshot).
  • Try to improve communication with your ex – involve them in the parenting of your child, and keep them posted on what is going on, if possible. Keep these conversations calm, mature and of an almost business-like tone. Listen to each other, and keep the discussion focused on what is best for your child (not each other).

This is undeniably an incredibly challenging position for you to find yourself in, and there will be moments where you certainly feel overwhelmed by it all. Just keep doing your best to keep your children in a position where they are reassured of your love, support and reliability, no matter what your ex may be saying. Try to approach the situation in the ways listed above, and the likelihood is that you will soon see improvement in the matter.

Article Created By Josephine Walbank

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