Minimize the problem:
As much as possible, do not encourage your kids to side with you over their other parent. Empathize with them, help them problem solve if it feels appropriate. But remember, your child does not have the option of divorce from their parent. They need to find ways to deal with their other parent in a way that will work for them for the rest of their lives. Therefore, do not allow your children to polarize the two of you in this way. Neither you nor your ex are perfect and your child needs to learn how to have the best possible relationship with both of you that they can. Sometimes it helps to stop for a minute and remember that there was a reason you married this person in the first place, and no matter how far away that seems at this point, your children are still hanging onto those positive qualities. It is in their best interest to have as close of a bond with both of you as possible, despite whatever long list of imperfections have now presented themselves in your ex. If you don't feel that you can be a somewhat neutral source of support for your child when it comes to issues with their other parent, find them someone else to talk to.
Do not vent your own frustrations about your ex to your child. There are many other appropriate people to discuss your own ongoing feelings of anger and frustration about your ex with. Your child is not one of those people.
Although you may be angry at your ex, DO find ways to be on the same team. You owe it to your children to maintain communication with your ex in some way, shape, or form, and maintain consistent rules and expectations for your kids at both houses. If you cannot communicate on the phone without fighting, try texting or emailing. If you still cannot communicate, seek help. Therapy is a great way to show children that even though you no longer live under one roof, you are all still a family and are willing to do what it takes to make the family work in a way that benefits the children without getting back together.
*Remember that you don’t have to be alone and out of social resources to seek professional help. Sometimes a therapist can be a great non-biased ear for you, your ex, and your children to vent to during this difficult time.
Susannah Gersten is a Brooklyn based psychotherapist with experience in mental health as well as community based counseling services in Park Slope, making her invaluable in building relationships with the schools and other services in the area. In her private practice, Susannah offers play therapy with young children as well as behavior management, behavior plans and other techniques that involve both children and their family. She also offers couples and family psychotherapy, in order to help the parents and family address any underlying concerns in the family system. She runs an equine assisted psychotherapy group for middle-school aged children out of Kensington stables to address anxiety, shyness and depression.
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