Divorce & Bad-Mouthing


It’s been said a million times that divorcing parents shouldn’t bad-mouth their exes because it only hurts the child.

Children see themselves as half of each parent. When they hear something bad about a parent, they hear a bad thing about half of themselves. If they hear bad things about both their parents, they feel that both halves of themselves must be of little worth.

My parents divorced when I was 13 years old.

It was devastating. My three siblings and I along with our Irish setter piled into the VW van and drove 1500 miles away to start a new life. A life without my dad.

I hated my father for not being in my life during my teen years when I needed him, needed his validation. I resented him for not being there and I missed him horribly. 

Although my heart was broken, one thing I never forgot was how my dad never said a negative thing about my mom.

Not one negative thing. Wait - not one negative thing - huh?

In fact, every time I saw him after their split, he had something positive to say about her. And yet my parents ended their relationship, they did not become best pals - in fact, they hardly spoke.

Honestly, it was a bit confusing to hear my dad speak so highly of a woman that he was no longer with. But his words stuck with me my whole life; his view toward her made a huge impact on me.

I was able to develop respect and appreciation for the woman he was always affirming because he modeled that respect.

Although he was no longer with my mom, he intentionally acknowledged her for the incredible person she was. I believe my dad went out of his way to always say something nice about my mom as his way of letting us know that although they were not together, she deserved respect. 

I was finally able to put together the reason my dad never spoke poorly about my mom was that he understood she was the mother of his children. And to speak about her in a negative way would be like a knife through my heart.

Over the years, this helped my heart mend.

Unchoosing a relationship, although it can be devastating for so many involved, can be a healthy choice. Some partners are so mismatched that it just doesn’t work.

And when it doesn’t - the most important thing a parent can do for their children is to respect the co-parent. Like the old adage, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

This is by far the biggest gift you can give your child after the dissolution of marriage.