Being a divorced parent or a step parent presents us with thousands of opportunities to either “tell the truth” or to filter our words to protect the kids. Many times we have a difficult co-parent (or ex-spouse) who constantly undermines us or tries to make things look bad about us to the children.
I continually remind my clients that the only person you can control is yourself. You cannot make the other parent do the right thing or stop doing the wrong thing. You can’t make the other parent show up on time or stop saying negative things about you… however, what you CAN control is what you let out of your mouth in response.
Like all the facial masks we are wearing right now, they are intended to protect us from what is around us AND they are intended to protect others FROM us (if we have germs that are not healthy). In co-parenting, there are a critical moments we REALLY need to utilize a “mask” – – not a tangible mask but a verbal filter that keeps things from being said that will hurt the kids in the long run.
- If you have a co-parent that is consistently negative about you, be the exact opposite and tell your kids positive things about that person.
- If your co-parent changes the schedule to try and make you look bad to the kids, don’t get entangled in the details of trying to explain it to the children – instead, make the most of the time you do have together and address the co-parent privately when the children are not around.
- If your co-parent is jealous of your new partner (the kids’ new step parent) try to deflect the situation and remind the kids that they can never have too many people who love them (instead of telling the kids why you are no longer living with their other parent).
- Listen more, talk less: when kids are expressing their pain or confusion about coming back and forth between homes, ask them how they feel and let them talk. Always look for a positive way to give them permission to like and love everyone in their complex family.
… Many times it’s not what we say, it’s what we leave UNSAID that helps protect children the most! They will grow up and remember who was negative and who was nice. Rise above and be nice every chance you can!
Tammy Daughtry, MMFT –Author and Founder of CoParentingInternational.com and ModernFamilyDynamics.com. She and her husband live in Nashville and have a blended family of four!