Q: How should I respond when my son tells me that my ex-husband has been making some very critical and unkind statements about me?
A: We’d first encourage you to figure out whether your ex-husband is truly guilty as charged. We all know children are capable of exaggerating or making up stories, especially if they have some motive for pitting mum and dad against one another. So don’t jump to conclusions until you’ve made a serious effort to gather the facts.
If the evidence convinces you that inappropriate comments are being made, let your son know that you’ll be discussing it directly with his dad. This will give you a chance to communicate with your son about the motives behind your actions. For example, you might say, “For some time now you’ve been mentioning certain negative things that your father’s been saying about me. I think it’s important for our family that we end this kind of talk. I’m going to speak with your dad about the problem and see if we can’t find a way to agree about what we will and will not say about each other. That way, if we have issues with each other, we can resolve them without bringing you into it.”
The final step is to contact your ex-husband and ask if he’s willing to support such a plan. Whatever the response, you can still make up your mind not to retaliate by launching verbal counterattacks. This isn’t to say that you should “candy coat” his flaws for the sake of keeping the peace among the three of you. When you have legitimate concerns, you should voice them to your former husband, but you should also do your best to maintain an attitude of respect. Hopefully your child will see that your actions speak louder than your ex-husband’s words.
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