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When Separated Parents Badmouth

September 14, 2017

Think about it. Separated parents sometimes say awful things about each other to the child.

However, your child looks up and sees himself as half of both parents.

If one parent badmouths the other to the child, then the child internalizes, “I am half bad.”

If the other parent reciprocates and causes the child to see the other parent as bad, then the child internalizes, “I am all bad.”

If your child comes to you and tells you how the other parent says you are awful, you have choices to make. You can rant and rave and rail about the shortcomings of the other parent, but if you do, you will likely reinforce the view of you perpetrated by the other parent. You will look scary and intimidating, proving to the child you are as described.

However, you can choose differently.

You can shrug your shoulders and tell your child, “Yup, other parent has lots to say about me, now let’s get dinner ready”.

Letting the child’s message roll off your back takes the weight out of it. Redirecting to whatever you were intending on doing moves you to a better place.

So often we think we have to defend ourselves against every attack. Sometimes the best defense is not getting sucked in and simply enjoy your time with your kids.

Which do you think your kids would prefer?

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by Skype.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

  1. Christina permalink

    Would love to ask you a question through email if possible

    • Please feel free to email. I ask that you appreciate I receive many lengthy emails daily and as such cannot even begin to read them all through to offer direct advice. If you are looking for my professional input then it is best to consider my professional services. I trust this makes sense.

      • Christina permalink

        I’m just wondering what to do when a mother bad mouths the step mother to the child constantly? Keeping in mind that the 5 year old child adores the step mother. Do you have any advice on a situation like this? I’m aware that the step mother has no rights but she feels this is emotional abuse to the child.


      • We can only take responsibility and manage our own behavior. Same guidance applies.

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