During a divorce or dispute over child custody, some parents can be torn between protecting their children and trying to hurt their ex. This battle can lead to unfortunate situations where a parent unnecessarily compromises the best interests of a child by trying to damage his or her relationship with the other parent.
For instance, if you are going through a divorce or breakup and your ex is telling your child hurtful, untrue things about you, he or she is not just hurting you, but also your child. In these situations, there are a few things you can do to try and remedy the situation.
- Tackle falsehoods early. If your ex is blaming the divorce or difficult custody case on you unfairly, speak up. Even if your child doesn’t want to hear your side of the story, make sure he or she knows that there is another side to the story. Doing so right away can make it easier for your child to take in information from the other parent with at least a little skepticism. Keep in mind that parental lies and manipulation can develop into a more severe situation if it becomes parental alienation. However, taking steps to correct lies early can help shield your child from this type of abuse.
- Don’t expect misinformation to correct itself. Lies and skewed stories can feel like facts the longer a person believes them. Don’t assume that your ex will come around and be truthful with your child or that your child will one day realize you were not the “bad guy.” Instead, take immediate steps to correct falsehoods as quickly as possible.
- Recognize – and discuss – the difference between being a parent and being a spouse. There could be things you did during your marriage that you regret or that ultimately led to the end of your relationship. However, that does not make you a bad parent. Talk to your child about this; explain that despite purported failings as a partner, you are committed to being the parent your child needs and deserves.
Another option is to discuss legal remedies with an attorney. For instance, you might include non-disparagement clauses in your custody agreement or use your ex’s bad behaviors to support requests for more parenting time. Whatever you do, be sure you keep the priority on what is best for your child.