Friday, April 6, 2012

Words That Damage

[NOTE: This is a short excerpt from my guidebook for divorced parents, "Guiding Your Children Through Divorce;" full information is HERE

[Page 20]
Expressing anger felt toward the other spouse,
that is, criticizing, cutting down, attacking, or disrespecting the children’s other parent, either directly to the children or where they can overhear you talking to someone else or to the other parent. Problems caused by one parent attacking the other parent can go deep; and usually leads to the following effects:

1) It Causes Confusion — This is harmful first because it confuses children about which parent to believe (“Daddy says Mom is a liar and mean, but when I’m with her she seems so sweet and kind, so who’s lying, Daddy or Mom?”). Once a child’s innate trust of a parent is gone, it is hard to rebuild.

2) It Causes Loyalty Conflicts — which parent to support. Children have a tendency to see things as black or white, good or bad, his side or her side. Due to this viewpoint, when a child sees his parents separating in a divorce, he immediately perceives a two-sided issue. Which means the child is either on Mom’s side or Dad’s side. 

This mentality can cause a excessive stress for a child who wants the love and approval of both his parents. All to often, these children begin to show signs of feeling pulled apart and torn between two “sides” in a conflict. The child feels they must choose between Mom or Dad, which leads to internal conflicts of being “against” the other parent.

3) It Causes Authority Damage — causes children to disrespect the attacker. As we’ve seen before, a child resents anyone who attacks her parent, even her other parent. Criticizing or badmouthing your ex damages your own standing in your children’s eyes, causing them to lose respect in your authority.

So, what's the solution: determine to never fight again in front of children — The obvious solution would be to never, ever be guilty of attacking your children’s other parent. Unfortunately, due to emotions and a lack of self-control, many divorced parents find they don’t have the will power to behave in an intelligent, mature manner toward the person their children loves. In some cases, these parents honestly try to control their words and behavior, but are simply too weak to do so.

In most cases, however, parents who belittle and criticize the people their children love are simply unconcerned for their children’s feelings. They plead they are “just too mad” at their child’s other parent to choose to control themselves. They act out their selfish needs to retaliate and ruin their relationships with their own children, and often damage their children in the process. Some feel that ignoring the needs of their children is child abuse. 

[NOTE: This discussion is continued in "Guiding Your Children Through Divorce;" full information is HERE]

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