Divorce is tough enough as it is, without having to deal with co-parenting sabotage. Even the sweetest kids in the world aren’t immune to a parent who is doing everything in her power to peg dad as the bad guy. A toxic ex can give you a run for your money (in more ways than one), so here are eight ways to deal when your ex is turning your kids against you.
Keep it Positive
The last thing you want to do is stoop to your ex’s level and try turning your kids back against her. Your kids should be your top priority, and they don’t need two parents invalidating one another. No matter how hard it might be, always keep it positive when talking about your ex with your kids, or leave her out of the conversation altogether.
Focus on growing and fostering your relationship with your kids by asking them questions about school, their goals, their friends, extra-curricular activities, and so on. In front of your kids you need to ignore your toxic ex and create your own positive dialogue. Don’t ask your kids what your ex has been saying about you to them or anyone else. It’s wrong to put them in the middle of it and you’re better off leaving them with fun, positive memories of your time together.
Prove Your Ex Wrong
If your ex is making accusations against you to your kids, prove her wrong with your actions. If she’s telling them you’re unreliable and unavailable, make sure your kids see you as the most reliable and available dad ever. Schedule time with them, don’t break your promises, and never show up late.
Focus on your relationship with your kids and doing the best you can as their dad, first and foremost. And make sure you’re consistently present in their lives. Even if you don’t see them every day, give them a phone call to see how their day went and keep your relationship strong. The more days you’re absent, the further they’ll grow away from you, especially in the event of co-parenting sabotage.
Limit Communication With Your Ex
If your ex is saying horrible things about you to your kids, she likely doesn’t have anything nice to say to your face. Talking to a hostile ex can result in an argument, adding even more fuel to her fire. Limit communication to discussing logistics such as scheduling, appointments, and pick-up times for your kids.
Try to do this over text and email as much as you can, rather than on the phone or in person. Quick comebacks are much easier to throw in person, but if she’s hostile towards you in text, you can take time to cool down before sending a heated response you may regret.
Cut Down on Shared Time with Your Kids
There are occasions where both you and your ex will want to be around. Birthday parties, soccer games, dance recitals, you name it. It’s not healthy for your children to see their parents interact in a hostile manner. If you and your ex can’t be civil at these functions, you’re going to have to cut down on shared time and split up your visitations between these events.
It might suck to miss out on some of these functions, but you have to think about what’s best for your kids, and they don’t need to see their parents glaring and fighting at a gathering that’s supposed to be enjoyable and fun. If it’s an occasion you both can’t miss, make sure to sit or stand far away from your ex so you can keep interactions at a minimum.
Involve Your Kids
A divorce isn’t just stressful for you, it can also be really stressful for your kids. If your ex is trying to turn them against you, they’re bound to be even more confused and tense. Make sure to lighten the mood when you hang out with them. Ask them what activities they want to do, what recipe they want to cook with you for dinner, or what new skill they want to learn. Make your time with them easy and fun. The last thing you want to do is contribute to their stress.
This doesn’t mean letting them get away with things, though. Don’t get soft on them, because they might learn to take advantage of you. Discipline them when you need to, but let them help make decisions when it comes to your plans. This shows you care about them, and their hobbies and passions. If you’re always doing what you want to do, without taking them into consideration, they’ll likely feel left out and like you don’t really care about what they think.
Don’t Play Good Cop
Although it’s important to have fun with your kids, you don’t want to be throwing rules out the window in attempts to make them like you better. This isn’t a good tactic and can lead to lots of issues down the line. Letting them get away with anything they want is a great way to ensure they won’t listen to you or respect you in the long run.
Stand your ground when you need to. Give them a curfew, don’t let them stay up until the wee hours of the night, don’t let them eat candy for breakfast or leave their toys sprawled everywhere for you to clean up. Make sure they do their homework and fulfill their obligations. It can be tempting to play the good cop, especially when your ex is trying to turn your kids against you, but you want to raise good kids with proper manners, who know the difference between right and wrong, and understand values.
When you’re dealing with co-parenting sabotage, your ex may try to leave you out of the loop on important things. She may not tell you about a parent-teacher meeting or a hockey tournament out of town where your kid will be the starting goalie. Make sure you’re involved and informed. Get in touch with your kid’s school, coaches, piano teacher, whoever you need to in order to get the right information and be kept up to date. Tell them to email you about any important dates you need to be aware of so you’re not kept in the dark by your ex.
Don’t Let Co-parenting Sabotage Defeat You
Your ex is trying to turn your kids against you because she knows it’s one of the most heart-wrenching ways to get to you. She wants to tear you down, she wants you to be angry and she wants it to ruin your life in any way possible. Don’t let it get to you, and don’t let it defeat you. Work on yourself and creating the best life for you. Focus on things that make you happy. Join a sports team, go to the gym, eat healthy, read books and articles on being a great divorced dad, create a fulfilling lifestyle that can’t be broken by your toxic ex. The best revenge is showing how happy and content you are, so work on creating your best life without your ex.
Are you dealing with co-parenting sabotage? Are there any strategies that have worked for you in dealing with an ex who is turning your kids against you? Let us know in the comments below.
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