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What if your co-parent is badmouthing you to your kids?

As a separated or divorced parent, you know that you shouldn't criticize your co-parent in front of your children. Your ex likely knows it too. But your kids sometimes mention that their mom or dad said something negative or hurtful about you or your parenting. Maybe the harsh words are coming from a grandparent or someone else on the other side of the family or from one of your ex's friends. What do you do?

It's essential not to get defensive in front of your kids or to respond by in turn criticizing your co-parent. It's typically best not to react. If whatever was said was blatantly untrue and you need to correct the record with your children, do so calmly. This might also be a good time to talk to them about the importance of watching how you speak to and about people.

If the badmouthing seems to be happening on a regular basis, though, you should address it with your co-parent. Whether they're the ones criticizing you or their family member or friend is, they're the one who needs to make it stop. It can damage your children's relationship with both of you. It can also harm their own self-esteem. They may interpret the criticism as a reflection on them.

If you're unsuccessful in getting your co-parent to stop their badmouthing (or to stop a friend or relative from doing it), you may want to consider seeking to add a provision to your parenting plan that neither of you can speak ill of each other (or allow others to) in front of the children. There may still be some unresolved issues that the two of you need to get to the bottom of that are causing your ex to lash out or speak in a passive-aggressive way that is still clearly disparaging of you.

Your attorney can offer valuable guidance as you work to put an end to this behavior for your children's well-being.

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