When parents are divorcing

What to do if parents bad-mouth each other

It is important that you yourself know that you have the right to be protected from parents' arguing.

Most parents normally, without bickering and arguing, communicate and cooperate in raising their children. However, some children witness bad-mothing and foul behaviour of one parent towards another and/or vice versa. The worst possible ‘scenario’ is when one parent tries to turn the child against another parent. They can do it by denigrating the other parent, asking the child to choose sides, convey messages, by bad-mouthing grandparents and relatives of the other parent. It is the case when parents argue and revenge, using the child. Such behaviour harms the child significantly. In such situations you can tell them:

  • I do not want to be a judge in your conflicts.
  • I am not interested in your bickering. I only want to be both mum’s and dad’s child, not only mum’s or only dad’s one.
  • Please, keep your opinion about my dad/mum for yourself. I love him/her and will always do so. If you have something to tell him/her, then do it, do not tell me.
  • I do not want to choose side.
  • Do not ask me about his/her life and do not ask me to communicate your messages.
  • I do not want to listen to your foul words about dad/mum. It embarrasses me and I feel like you are hurting me. I have the right to be protected from your arguments and confrontations.

It may be difficult to tell these things to your parents. If you cannot do that, it is important that you yourself know that you have the right to be protected from parents’ arguing and confrontation and that you do not have to listen, and surely not to participate in such situations. Parents may ask you to communicate their messages, and it can make you feel embarassed or under pressure, especially if the messages contain bad things about the other parent. Then children have a feeling that after the divorce they are again guilty for their parents’ bad relationship and that they are still involved in their conflicts.

If you cannot tell them, write a letter which you can give them when you decide to do so. It is important to find a proper way how to tell your parents what you want. If parents start arguing in front of you, simply leave the room. Talk with some other adult person who may be able to communicate your message, if you do not dare do so.