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3 reasons to avoid badmouthing your ex in front of your child

If you are going through divorce, it is natural to have some negative feelings toward your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Talking about these feelings can be a healthy way to help you manage them. It may be beneficial to lean on a trusted person, such as a therapist, parent, sibling or friend. However, there are several reasons why it is not a good idea to vent your feelings to your child.

Parental conflict makes it harder for kids to cope

Many divorcing parents wonder about the effect their divorce could have on their child. This is understandable because divorce can cause numerous changes in a child’s life.

Studies have shown that most children experience short-term negative effects caused by their parents’ divorce. These effects may include anxiety, anger, regressive behaviors and others. The good news is that the negative effects usually go away by the end of the second year, and very few children experience long-term negative effects.

However, high levels of parental conflict can make it more difficult for kids to cope with their parents’ divorce. If parents are often fighting, it can directly impact their children, but it can also affect them indirectly. Parents who are preoccupied with their adult conflicts may not be parenting their children to the best of their abilities. In these situations, children may not receive the love and stability that is especially important in a time that involves so much change.

Badmouthing the other parent could affect custody decisions

When a court must decide child custody arrangements, it will prioritize the best interest of the child. A child’s best interest may depend on a variety of factors. Some of those factors include:

  • Each parent’s mental health
  • Evidence that a parent has abused, neglected or abandoned the child
  • Evidence that a parent has interfered with visitation rights
  • Conditions in the home environment

In addition to those and other factors, a court may consider the behavior of each parent. Often, courts prefer to give custody to the parent who helps the child maintain a relationship or who encourages the child to build a relationship with the other parent. A parent who badmouths the other parent to the child may not appear to be able to provide the most favorable living situation for that child.

Negativity about the other parent could undermine co-parenting goals

Often, parents end up with a custody arrangement that requires the child to go back and forth between their homes. This allows the child to maintain a relationship with both parents, which is usually what kids want and need.

This type of arrangement works best when co-parents can work together for the benefit of their child. When done well, a co-parenting situation can help a child feel more secure and less stressed. It can also help a child learn respectful communication and problem-solving skills. Unfortunately, when parents cannot work together without fighting, a co-parenting arrangement could do more harm than good.

Parent’s negative comments or actions about the other parent may make a child feel as if he or she needs to choose sides. Sometimes, kids may even reject one or both parents as a result. When this occurs, the child is no longer benefiting from the arrangement as intended.

It is natural for divorce to stir up some negative feelings. However, it is best for parents to discuss those feelings with a trusted, adult confidant in a setting where a child will not overhear. Negative comments about the other parent can be harmful to your child and could even threaten your divorce outcomes and co-parenting goals.