When Mom Turns The Kids Against Dad
There’s nothing quite as devastating as having an ex-wife that tries to turn your kids against you. People who do this are called Alienating Parents. Listening to your children repeat distortions and lies can make you feel sad, angry, and helpless. Although you can’t control what your ex says, you can help your kids learn to think for themselves and keep yourself sane in the process. When Mom turns the kids against Dad, here are some important steps to follow:
Educate Yourself: How Self-Aware Is Your Ex?
Some alienators are not aware that they’re undermining their child’s relationship with the other parent. For instance, you may have an anxious ex-wife who genuinely believes you don’t have adequate parenting skills. She may think she’s simply being a good mother by trying to protect the kids from harm. She may not try to poison the kids, but transmits her opinion of you via body language, being distraught during visitation exchanges, and interrogating the children when they return from your house.
But other alienators are more Machiavellian. They can’t tolerate the thought that their kids could love and be loyal to the parent they’re no longer married to. So they make it their mission to convince the children that the other parent is evil.
No matter which type of alienator your ex-wife is, your kids get the message that they will either abandon or be abandoned by Mom if they love Dad.
How To Help Your Kids
Trying to talk sense into your ex will just make her more entrenched in her position that you are the problem. And fighting back by telling your kids that their mother is the problem will not only start a war, but will also make them more confused and burdened than they already are.
The first thing to do is to accept that there is no quick fix to this situation. You are running a marathon, not a sprint. It may take years for your kids to figure out that their mother indoctrinated them into the cult of Dad Is Bad. So face reality, stop obsessing about what your ex is up to, and start teaching your kids the skills they need to think for themselves and have healthy relationships.
1. Teach critical thinking skills. Your kids are growing up with one parent who sees the world in black and white. They’re also growing up with one parent who pressures them, either consciously or unconsciously, to take their side. So your best bet is to help your kids learn how to think independently. You can do this by showing them how to look at situations from alternate points-of-view. Take an issue – perhaps something from current events – and ask them to explain their position. Then ask them to imagine how someone with a different mindset might feel. Explain that two people can experience the same situation differently and both can be “right.”
2. Model tolerance. You want to make your kids feel safe expressing their opinions around you. So don’t get defensive or upset when they say something you don’t agree with. Use this opportunity to explore how they’ve arrived at their conclusion and applaud their desire to think for themselves. Show them it’s possible to disagree and still get along.
3. Teach relationship skills. Get your child out of the toxic triangle with you and your ex. Explain that whatever grievances your kid has with you are just between the two of you. If he has a question or problem with you, he should come to you so you can talk it out. By doing this, you are reassuring your child that it’s okay to share uncomfortable feelings and it’s also important to be direct, instead of getting a third party involved. These are crucial skills for any successful relationship.
As painful as it is to see your ex try to brainwash your kids, try not to succumb to despair or anger. You’ll just waste your energy, which is better used to teach your kids how to think independently and develop appropriate relationship habits.