Becoming a parent can make your life feel full in a way that you have never experienced before, and to many, it seems like the world shifts into focus when they place that precious bundle in their arms.
Perhaps issues from your own past make you grateful to finally have someone who will love you completely, because surely your child will always be on your side.
And that may well be true.
The love between a parent and child should be special.
And you may well have a child who is always on the same page as you.
But let them be little.
Treat Them Like the Kids They Are
Discuss things that are age-appropriate with them, and don’t expect them to help you carry your adult load, whether it’s emotional baggage or physical responsibilities. (I don’t mean age-appropriate chores, which are good for a child’s develpment.)
Your children didn’t ask to be born, and they certainly didn’t ask to be a go-to choice for a sounding board when you’re struggling in life.
Children are not equipped to be your “person” in that sense.
Choose a safe adult. Let that adult be the recipient of your venting. Let them listen to you rant. They are more capable of dealing with adult stresses and adult emotions.
Better yet, work with a professional therapist who can help you handle your difficulties in the healthiest possible way.
Never Give In to Vicious Insults
And above all, for the love of God, do not verbally bash your husband/wife/partner/ex within earshot of, and definitely not directly to, your child.
When you tell your children that their father/mother is a “jerk” or “irresponsible” or “useless” or “a train wreck” or even worse things, it might escape your notice that you’re bashing what essentially amounts to half of them.
But your child will never lose sight of that fact.
They are made up of just as much of their other parent as they are of you.
So, when you say those things about their other parent, it is personal to them. It is half of them that you are talking about.
Life is hard.
Relationships are hard.
You will get mad at their other parent, no doubt. There is no avoiding it, whether you are still a couple or have gone your separate ways.
And when you are mad at them, you may accidentally say something unkind about them to or in front of your kids.
That’s not the end of the world, but make sure you follow it up with an apology to your child, as well as something positive about their other parent. (There is always something good you can say — even if you need to dig deep and be creative.)
No Child Should Feel Self-Hatred
And never, ever consistently demoralize or insult the other half of your children.
It may well keep them on “your side.” But if it makes them hate their other parent, that in itself is emotionally and psychologically damaging to them, but if you succeed in doing that, you have also taught them to hate themselves.
Studies have found that there is almost no end to the issues you can cause for your children by engaging in this type of behavior, which is often referred to as parental alienation.
Conflict with Parents
Poor Body Image
Poor Eating Habits
Weight Loss/Weight Gain
Disheveled Living Space
Poor Executive Function (Disorganization)
Feelings of Isolation
Increased Use of Technology as an Escape
Lack of Friends
Sibling Conflict (Including Violence)
Heightened Fantasy Life
Diminished Attention Span
Social Identity Problem
Conflicts in Peer Relationships
This Is Serious
Clearly, this is no small matter.
You may feel no loyalty to your child’s other parent, but I’m confident that at least most, hopefully all of us, as parents, would never do anything to deliberately damage our children.
This is an area that we can all work on, no matter our circumstances, and one that we clearly all need to be aware of, whether we are living together as a family with their other parent or no longer have a personal relationship with them.
The relationship between your child and their other parent is one that will never end, as long as your child is alive, even if the other parent has chosen not to be a part of the child’s life.
Nothing changes the fact that your child is made up of 50% the other person.
Being mindful of that is a must.
Please, be the adult in this situation. Put your children first by never engaging in trash-talking their other parent.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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