Bad-mouthing the Ex to your kids?

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-14-2002
Bad-mouthing the Ex to your kids?
4
Mon, 05-19-2003 - 12:06am
I had a discussion with my future BIL today, that brought me to you folks for more opinions. (Also posted on the Morality Debate board.)

The topic was whether it is right for a divorced parent to talk to their kids about the shortcomings or failures of the other parent - i.e. reasons for the divorce.

My FBIL feels that in NO way should the children be told, that neither parent should speak harshly or negatively of the other parent in the childrens' presence. I agreed with him that a divorced parent should not make the other parent out to be "the bad guy" (or bad girl), or constantly bad-mouth the absent parent in front of their kids, but that the kids need to know the reasons for the break-up. He is also a divorced parent with two young sons, whom he shares custody with his Ex.

You see, I never bad-mouthed my Ex after we broke up, and never told my young son (now 17yo) the reasons for our breakup. All he knew was that we "didn't get along." He questioned me, but in the interest of not passing negative information about his father, I refused to give him the sordid details.

I see now, too late, this was a terrible mistake. My son blames me for the divorce, blames me for his father being so miserable - alcoholic, drug abuser, etc. It's all my fault. He believes his father to be an angel who was wronged, and I am a demon for doing this to him. I believe this is why my son has little respect for women.

On the other hand, my FBIL also has never bad-mouthed his Ex in front of his boys, but they see their mother and their father both, every day. For their family, this has not been a problem and the boys seem well-adjusted.

The difference may be that my FBIL's Ex also does not bad-mouth the boys' father, either. It's a mutual agreement between them. I had the same agreement with my Ex when we divorced 11 years ago, but have no idea whether he has upheld his end of the bargain. I never question my son about what his father says about me.

What do you guys think, and have you encountered the same dilemma, and what did you do about it?

Msfit

                  &nbs

Avatar for heatherjohnst
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-15-2003
Mon, 05-19-2003 - 1:05am
My husband and I have also dealt with the problems of "Ex Anger". He was with his last girlfriend for about 5 years, with whom he has a daughter with. His daughter is 6 now, and has heard way too much from her mother. Things were kosher (I beleive) until he moved on and found someone else (Me). I think she thought the two of them would get back together, and I was getting in the way , in her mind. She actually went as far as to tell her daughter that she would get rid of me, move into our home and keep my son!! What nerve! This poor child is so confused because of her mothers insanity. She has no idea her mother would lie to her and it's sad. It has gotten to the point, where his daughter does not want to be here at all. The more we have tried to sort out this rediculous mess, the worse his ex has made it on us. So we have decided that we will not force his daughter to be here. If she comes over, it's of her own free will. If she wants to leave , she is taken home. So she is practically never here. We don't know what else to do. His daughter does not believe anything we tell her because everything her mother tells her is "Gosple". I have learned that you cannot control the ex situation. The more you badger them to stop the immiture behavior, the more appealing it becomes because they know they are getting to you. (Which is the entire point) I do not believe in bad mothing when it comes to the children. Unfortunatly, some people can not control themselves. Some people never grow up, even for the sake of their children.

Heather

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-25-2003
Mon, 05-19-2003 - 8:13am
Have you considered sitting down with your son and saying something like "Youve asked in the past why your father and i broke up. I now think you are old enough to hear why." Then tell him. At 17 he could be very understanding once he knows the reasons. Just a thought. Explain that people have to take responsibility for their own actions if he goes on to try to make you feel bad for whatever has become of your ex. I can see protecting younger children but once they reach a certain age they should be capable of handeling the truth especially if its straining your realtionship.
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-14-2002
Mon, 05-19-2003 - 9:27am
I think I will do that, at the first opportunity. Unfortunately, he moved to his father's home last summer (the drug abuse problem gone, I believe, and the alcohol at least under better control - or I wouldn't have let him go) and my only contact has been by telephone and a few brief visits. (And there is another family member only a few blocks away from him, who's keeping close contact, adding supervision, and gives me regular reports. She's a Godsend.)

He's not getting along well with his father and wants to come home. In hindsight, part of my letting him go was trust in my son to know the difference between right and wrong, he had demonstrated ability to resist peer pressure, and knowing he had a good head on his shoulders. I guess I wanted him to see for himself, not just hearing me say things about his Dad that I knew he would not want to hear.

Oh he's picked up some things by symbiosis over the past few years - you can't screen all your conversations from your kids, like when you're talking on the phone with the Ex and he's in the background listening - so I know he knows a little. He just needed to see for himself.

I asked my son to think very carefully about his choices - weigh the pros and cons, and the consequences to all people involved, if he chooses to move back with me. I would welcome him with open arms, just want him to be sure he thinks this through and is not doing so just to escape his Dad's discipline. We will have a family discussion about this in a week or so, as was agreed on a year ago when he was allowed to move on a trial basis.

Thanks for your responses, everyone. Yes, I think I made a mistake not being more clear and open with my son about this issue earlier, but also it's not too late. I just wanted to know what other people thought about this, too.

Msfit

                  &nbs

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-25-2003
Mon, 05-19-2003 - 2:05pm
It sounds like you have raised a responsible young man. It will probably help that he has been around your ex enough to see some things for himself. Im sure it will all work out for you.