You may not think it’s a big deal to say negative things about your estranged spouse to your children. The truth is that doing so can be extremely harmful to your relationship with your kids and cause strain in other aspects of your divorce. Children are aware that they are made up of half of each parent. They know that they come from their mom and dad.
Imagine how you would feel if you suddenly heard that half of you was all bad. You’d be angry. Imagine hearing that someone you love hates someone who is also very important to you. You’d be conflicted.
That’s the problem that children face when their parents speak negatively about each other in front of them. It puts the children in an unfair position of feeling as if they have to choose, and they often choose the path of least resistance.
That may mean walking away from the negative parent, since they feel bad around them. It could also mean becoming alienated against the other parent, since one parent hates them so much. If they hate them, there must be something bad about them: That’s a child’s logic.
What should you do if the other parent is speaking about you negatively to your child?
The first thing to do is to address the conflict head-on. Call the other parent or speak to them in person. Make it clear that you have noted that your child admitted that they’d spoken badly about you. Discuss what you expect in the future, including that any problems between you stay between you and don’t include your child. Your child is not a messenger and shouldn’t be forced to choose sides.
If the other parent persists in being negative about you in front of your child, you can pursue other options. Legally, you can draw attention to the actions of the other parent when seeking custody or modifications of custody arrangements that are already in place. The North Carolina court does not look kindly on parents who involve their children in disputes, because it is harmful to them.
In some cases, parents who persist in disparaging the other parent could lose their custody rights or have them significantly reduced, since the court wants to protect the children against that kind of negativity and disruption. In most situations, talking through the dispute is enough, but if not, then the court can help.