I’m writing out of concern for many kids and their saddened parents who have to deal with grown adults acting like angry babies thanks to divorce. I should probably tell you first that I’m getting a divorce from a man who is a fantastic father.
Our divorce is an amicable one. Is it fun all the time? Hell no! Divorce isn’t a fair or a circus (well, it might be a circus sometimes) and it’s not the most fun thing I’ve ever gone through, but despite how tough divorce can be, my ex and I still make our daughter and her well-being our sole focus.
Do we always get along? No, but for the most part we do, and we try to work together as best we can. Having a peaceful divorce doesn’t mean there’s never any tension between the two of us; it just means we handle that tension with class.
Sadly, not everyone does this. Some people waste their lives trying to sabotage their ex’s lives, which only hurts the children in the long run and gives these jerks bad karma for their hurtful actions.
You’re probably wondering, “What does she mean by using kids as a pawn?” Well, let me clarify.
1. You blame your kids’ mother or father by using the word “your” with disdain.
Parents who like to use their kids as pawn in the (unfortunately) popular game of divorce like to say things to their children like, “Oh your mother said that, did she?” Or, “Your father never does X or Y.”
That nasty little possessive pronoun “your” seethes with anger and every time you let a sentence like the two above rip, your child is full of resentment and guilt — that’s his or her parent you’re talking about!
When you say the word “your,” all that hate and animosity is put onto your child because it’s a possessive pronoun, friends! That’s right! When you say “Your mother/father really messed up again,” your child is taking on your anger at your ex as if it’s his or her fault.
Watch what you say about your ex. Not only are you damaging your children’s self-esteem and stability, but you’re also jeopardizing your relationship with your child down the line.
2. You trash-talk your ex in front of the kids.
I don’t care if your ex is a deadbeat dad or mom; keep quiet about the deadbeat in front of your kids. Sitting around and listing every single thing your ex does wrong just so your child can get your ever-so subtle hint that his or her parent sucks is using your kid as a messenger boy or girl to deliver this sweet note:
“Guess what, ex? You suck!”
Let your child figure out on his or her own that a parent is a deadbeat! Don’t complain to your children; they’re not your therapists. They’re kids, so let them be children.
3. You squash all attempts for your ex to spend time with the kids.
Let me guess: Tonight was Dad’s night, but something suddenly came up for you and your kids. And now your ex can’t see your kids on his night.
Let me also guess: That was complete BS.
I say “his” because more often than not, but not always, the mother has more custody time than the father. (Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.)
If you’re angry at your ex for cheating/leaving/hurting you or anything under the sun, you have every right to be hurt and angry. Go ahead and lick your wounds but do not let your bad feelings keep your kids from having a relationship with the other parent.
You think you’re getting one over on that jerk or black widow spider, but the only one that’s truly hurt in this vindictive process is your children.
4. You use your children as messengers between you and your ex.
Do you ever tell your children, “Tell your mother/father X,” because you don’t want to talk to that evil woman/man? News flash: your child is not a United States Postal Worker! Unless he or she has on the uniform and hat, you better deliver the news to your ex yourself.
No child should be a go-between. I don’t care if your kid is twenty years old and able to see through both of your dramatics and BS; tell your ex yourself. If communication is that bad, just send a text or email to avoid confrontation.
But whatever you do, don’t make your children the messengers. That’s tacky and childish.
5. You outright sabotage your ex to make yourself look like the better parent.
If you’ve ever felt tempted to just slightly or not-so-slightly do something to make problems for your ex so that way you look like Mom or Dad of the year, guess who deserves his or her parental privileges revoked? You!
It’s not a competition. No one gets an award for making the most money and giving the most gifts. Doing things that could hurt your ex with the sole intention of looking like the better parent, or simply to enjoy watching your ex struggle, makes YOU the deadbeat.
Look, I know that sometimes our exes aren’t nice — and for some people an ex can be a totally toxic and awful person — but wasting your precious energy attempting to make things stressful for your ex or appear like the “World’s Best Parent” will only end up ruining your kids.
You will teach them how to destroy others, be sneaky, downplay and degrade another person’s self-esteem, and other terrible things. Is that what you want for your kids? The answer better be no.
6. You b*tch and moan to your kids about your ex.
Even if your ex deserves to be flogged with stones, you shouldn’t spend your time sniffling and moaning to your kids about how your ex makes your life worse. Pulling out the crying act and explaining to your kids, “Your mom or dad is the reason I am so upset/broke/etc.,” is toxic for them, even if your ex is hurtful.
Break out the tissues and heartache with your friends, not with your kids.
Do you want your son or daughter to grow up comforting you forever or being your therapist? No. They’re children! Manage your emotions on your own, and not through them.
Your kids don’t need to know that the reason you’re not going to Disney this year is because Daddy didn’t pay his child support and alimony this month, or because Mommy is shopping her money away. Sure, they can know that finances are hard and out of your control but keep the details to a minimum.
7. You compare your children to their mother or father when they show similar behavior.
You hate your ex, so sometimes when any of your children act like your ex, you remind them by saying, “Oh you’re just like your dad/mom!” Your kids know this isn’t a loving compliment, rather, a little shout-out saying, “You are terrible just like my ex.”
Your son might have a tendency to chew on his pens like your ex, but you don’t need to call attention to that. How would you like it if someone told you that you reminded him or her of someone he/she didn’t like?
No one wants to be compared to Hitler or Castro. Don’t do it.
So, what’s the bottom line?
I am blessed to have an ex who loves being a dad. Even though we argue sometimes and get mad at each other, he is a good person and we move forward.
I know many people do not have this blessing, but still — keep your sh*t together and forge ahead. You deserve happiness and positivity in your life, and getting bogged down by a bad ex is not healthy for you or your kids.
Remember, karma is a b*tch and your ex will get his/hers.