Is it forbidden for the children to express benevolent feelings towards you when they are with their other parent? Is your co-parent jealous and having difficulty sharing parenting? Maybe your co-parent takes every chance to push you down you when you meet? Or maybe the children describe how you are slandered by the co-parent.
When you are slandered by a co-parent in front of the children, it is human to want to get “revenge”. But there are other ways to deal with the lack of loyalty that can help build trust and help the children.
Child psychologist Malin Bergström gives advice!
You can only control yourself and your own actions
We know that cooperation and loyalty have a positive impact on the children’s lives, but we are not responsible for the actions of our co-parent. The competition can feel fierce and you can feel helpless when you are being slandered. But relationships are living matter. How we choose to treat an abusive co-parent actually affects trust in the parenting team. We at Varannan Vecka know and have seen how troubled parental relationships can be changed to cooperation. By helping the children deal with the situation, you also reduce their stress. Because it is stressful for children not to feel free to love both their parents.
Stay away and remain neutral – even when attacked
First, you can respond to a slanderous co-parent as the little person they are in that moment. You can work to build trust by being generous with information about what worked well and what was difficult for the children. You can encourage the children to have contact even during their own weeks.
If you are treated badly during phone calls or handovers, it is best to let the contact be more neutral. For example through chat in the Varannan Vecka app. It may feel good to pull away, but it’s important not to shut down completely and still answer thing that have to do with the children. To remain matter-of-fact and neutral can contribute to lowering the level of conflict. It’s worth seeing if the co-parents negative behaviour decrease if you do not engage.
If the information from the pre-school or information about parental approval of football stays with the co-parent, you can make sure to update the contact information both at the school and at the football club to avoid accusing your co-parent. Anyone who wants to fight can experience anything that fuels the conflict as a success. By staying away and remaining neutral, one avoids fueling that fire. Anger breeds anger and for the children’s sake it is important to work to reduce the conflicts.
The child psychologist’s best tips
In order not to add to the negative sitaution, one should avoid all contact channels that give one’s co-parent room to maneuver. One does not have the obligation to listen to accusations and sour comments. The necessary communication about the children can be managed via the parent chat in Varannan Vecka. It is important to only talk about the children and also to close other ways of contact to avoid the conflicts escalating and the children hearing you arguing.
When the conflict has calmed down, you can try more relaxed forms of contact. If it becomes infected, you have to go back again.
Handle handovers via preschool/school. Take the help of a relative or good friend for handovers on weekends and holidays so that you don’t have to meet for a while. You can divide your participation at the children’s games, Lucia and graduations so that the children’s holidays are not disturbed by tense atmosphere between their parents.
The person who is slandered by the co-parent often becomes worried that their own relationship with the children will be negatively affected. In such situations, it is important to have your own time with the child so that the relationship is confirmed and the child notices that you have a good time together. Children are more affected by bad talk if they do not have their own positive experiences but are left out of the other parent’s image.
In addition to having a good time with the child, you also need to help them deal with the other parent’s backbiting. It is, of course, a balancing act on a tightrope. It is important not to add to the lack of loyalty between you as parents further. At the same time, the child needs to gain perspective on and words for what is going on.
It is difficult to talk about things that are problematic in one’s parental relationship. It is easy to close your eyes and hope that the child is not affected. But children are sensitive to what is going on between your parents. When a parent explicitly or more subtly shows that it lacks trust in the other parent, the child needs help to put into words what is going on. It is of course important to stay calm and only talk about what benefits the child. If you end up saying negative things about your co-parent yourself, you put the child in an even more difficult situation.
With younger children, you can talk about your co-parent indirectly. You might say that it is so good in Sweden where everyone can like who they want. That love is amazing because it doesn’t end even if you waste it on several people. The children may need to be told that they never have to choose but can love you both. With really young children, you can try a fairy tale about how difficult it can be for tiger mothers to share their children with tiger fathers. Just because they love their tiger cubs so much.
With older children, you can try to be more direct. Explaining that adults can be thoroughly shaken by a divorce (or whatever you think has affected your co-parent). All children should know that it is their right to be calm and happy with both their parents. If the child is open to talking, you can tell more about how you see the situation and how you think it arose. Above all, it is important to talk to the child about what you intend to do to change this. Humor and fun are great for turning sensitive situations around. It is also important to pay attention to whether the child ends up in a defensive position and then immediately back off.
Children are of course influenced by what a parent says and does. An open climate of conversation about what is difficult helps the child to become more free. Even young children are attentive to people’s intentions. Talking about what might be behind people’s feelings and behavior can help them understand the situation better.
Because children are often loyal to all their family members, their defensive instincts may be awakened if they experience criticism of their other parent. It is particularly sensitive if you get on your high horses and have difficulty admitting your own shortcomings and difficulties. Before talking about what may be difficult for the other parent, it is therefore good if you can also be open about your own difficulties or vices. Here too, however, one must be careful about the balance. The self-examination that feels good for yourself can harm the child. The purpose of these conversations is to make it easier for the child. It is possible to be authentic and honest without saying too much. Children can be excellent guides. Therefore, read the child’s reactions and back off and start over when the child pulls away or gets angry.
Sometimes it goes wrong. Even if you promised your child not to get involved in conflicts and to be respectful to your co-parent, tempers can run high and you can fail. If so, own up to the child, apologize and keep trying. Being an adult doesn’t mean you never make mistakes. Rather, it means that you stand for your mistakes and work on not repeating them.
When you really feel bad for your co-parent and have difficulty seeing their value, it can help to try to see them through the child’s eyes. In what ways is he important to the child? What is important and valuable for the child today and in the future? How do you complement each other? Enlist the help of others around you to list the good things about your co-parent. Seeing their preferences gives you a chance to understand and strengthen that parent in front of the children.
Many younger children who live in two homes manage the transitions between their worlds by erasing the parent they are not currently living with. Even parents with warm relationships testify about children who do not greet or even show recognition if they run into them on the “wrong” week. It can be young children’s way of dealing with their longing. They switch off and live in the here and now instead of thinking about the one they miss. When one parent backbites the other, that mechanism can be helpful to the child. Even if the child is pressured to favor their other parent, this may drop in their second home