As an experienced coParent of a six-child blended family, a widely-published coParenting and blended family expert, and a professional coach, I see the challenges divorced parents face up close and personally, every day.
I listen to coParent worries and lie awake at night with my own. I see the terrific things we coParents do, and the not so terrific. I see coParent triumphs and mistakes. The biggest mistake I see coParents make? Speaking negatively about the other coParent.
Here are the top three reasons to not speak negatively about your ex, and what you can do instead.
- Trash talk creates a negative thought pattern and habit. Negative speaking poisons from the inside out, scientifically: when you engage in negative talk, your brain creates neural pathways for it. It becomes a habit. The more you talk about hating your gym, for example, the more you will find to dislike about it. You’ll notice the parking is crowded and the machines often broken. You’ll find reasons to do something else during the time you once worked out. Your negative thoughts consume time and energy, and will influence your behavior. When you are trying to shift the way you interact with someone, like your coParent, negative talk will work against you. It will be hard to find the good in your partner. It will allow your partner to take up space and energy better devoted to other endeavors. In short? It will make it harder to do the work you must as a coParent. Your negative talk will cost you more than anyone else. Try this instead: Be mindful of what you are saying and realize sometimes, if you have nothing nice to say, you really should bite your tongue. Or better yet, focus on something positive.
- Negative talk has no effect on your coParent. Negative talk has never once, improved or changed an ex’s behavior. If you think that speaking badly about your ex is going to improve the situation or that the information will reach your ex and they will change, forget about it. It has zero chance of impacting your ex’s behavior. It may make it worse. Think about your energy as an investment: if your talk won’t affect the other person’s behavior, why are you investing your time and energy that way? Try this instead: Invest your time and energy in your child. Read a book, go for a walk, bake a cake. That will have an impact on the future, and you’ll both enjoy it.
- Your child will internalize negative talk about their parent personally. Reality check. Your child will hear the negative talk, even if you think they won’t. They will hear you in the car, they will check your phone. So be aware. Children identify strongly with both parents. Children will assume what you think about your coParent, you also think about them personally. They don’t distinguish well between their own characteristics and those of the other parent. “Mom is lazy,” you say. Your child will think you believe she is lazy. “Dad is a flake.” Your son will think he is too. If and when your child hears you say to your other coParent, “You never do anything right,” well, your kid will think that you believe that about him or her too. Try this instead: Speak positively about your child, and relate that to the other parent if possible. “You’re good at math, just like Mom.” Watch your kiddo’s eyes light up, and then try it again. You’ll be strengthening your child’s sense of self and relationship with both parents.