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What should you do when your ex badmouths you to the kids?

As a divorced parent, you know that speaking negatively about your ex in front of your kids is wrong. Sometimes you may literally have to bite your tongue when your children tell you that Mom or Dad let them stay up late, watch an R-rated movie or have pizza and soda every night during their latest visit.

However, what if your co-parent isn't affording you the same courtesy? What if your kids are routinely passing on negative comments or criticism of your parenting from your ex? What if that negativity is coming from others on your co-parent's side of the family, like grandparents, aunts or uncles, or from friends of your ex?

The key is to stay calm and neutral in front of your kids. Don't get defensive or lash out with your own feelings about your ex. This is a good opportunity to talk to your kids about why they shouldn't speak ill of people behind their backs or repeat unkind things that others have said.

If the criticism is of your parenting decisions, it's fine to take a moment to consider whether the criticism may be valid. However, if you're confident in your parenting decisions, there's no need to change based on your ex's thoughts on the subject.

If the badmouthing seems to be routine or you believe that it's meant to harm your children's relationship with you, you should talk with your ex about it. Explain that you work to foster a good relationship between your kids and him or her and that you expect the same. If your ex has issues with something you've done, he or she needs to address them directly with you. If the negativity is coming from someone in your ex's family and friend circle, he or she should be the one to address it with them.

If talking to your co-parent doesn't improve the situation, look for resources to help you. If you and/or your kids are seeing a therapist or you're in a divorced parents support group, you can get valuable guidance there. If you still can't resolve the problem, you may want to talk with your Tennessee family law attorney about modifications you may be able to seek to the parenting plan or other court documents to foster healthier co-parenting for the good of your kids.

Source: Our Family Wizard, "3 Healthier Ways to Respond to Badmouthing," accessed May 02, 2018

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