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Badmouthing an ex-spouse hurts the kids most of all

With the complex range of emotions that individuals experience when they get a divorce, badmouthing an ex-spouse is a common outlet. The residual feelings of resentment, anger or even grief can make it easy to criticize or insult an ex-spouse.

However, badmouthing is a common coping mechanism that individuals – especially parents – should avoid during and after a divorce. This is so critical because it can prevent individuals from moving forward in this next chapter of their life.

Even more importantly, it can have a profound and lasting impact on one’s children.

How does badmouthing affect children?

Badmouthing the child’s other parent in front of them can be incredibly harmful, no matter the child’s age. There are several repercussions that families could face if a parent consistently badmouths their ex-spouse:

  1. It hurts the parent-child relationship: Maintaining and encouraging the parent-child relationship is generally in the child’s best interests. If one parent speaks ill of the other, children might believe the negative comments to be fact. This can undermine the child’s relationship with that parent. On the other hand, children also feel protective of both their parents and might defend their parent against the comments. Essentially, badmouthing can jeopardize the child’s relationship with both of their parents.
  2. Children might identify with insults: Even from a young age, children often understand that they have characteristics from their parents – and not all of them solely biological. They see themselves as a product of both parents. Therefore, it is common for children to absorb negative comments about their parents and apply them to themselves. This can lead to low self-esteem or even other psychological issues.
  3. Parents set the example: As North Carolina parents know, children are very impressionable. They learn more from their parent’s actions than from their words. If one parent badmouths the other, they could be showing children that this behavior is acceptable in their other relationships. Parents must remember that they are role models for their children in everything they do – and say.

Venting about one’s frustration with an ex-spouse might be cathartic, but parents must ensure they think before they act. It is critical to set emotions aside to protect children and their best interests.