Single Parents – Protecting Kids From a Vengeful Ex-Spouse

Single ParentsUnfortunately for single parents, sometimes divorces get nasty. Not surprising since so many strong emotions are involved. Lives are changed irrevocably. I get asked a lot about how to disarm this nastiness when it comes to the kids.

I just don’t think single parents truly understand the damaging effects they can have on their kids by having a conflictual divorce. Here are just a few scary statistics: They are at a greater risk for academic and behavioural problems, juvenile delinquency and early sexual activity. Is this always the case? Of course not, but the biggest indicator for these is parental conflict.

It can be extremely frustrating when you’re dealing with an ex-spouse who is doing everything in their power to make you look bad. While it’s only natural to want to defend yourself and point out what a jerk the ex is being, I encourage you to try the following instead:

Tip #1 for Single Parents –

Continually show your kids you care – Your ex has no power over your actions. While they may make comments about things you’ve said or done in the past. Your day in, day out actions of love toward your kids will eventually cause them to question the negatives your ex is sharing.

Tip #2 for Single Parents –

Don’t fall into guilt traps – Continue to parent. It’s easy to feel guilty and want to indulge your kids if they’re having a rough time. While that may sound like a good idea, it only makes everything worse. It’s common for the conflictual parent to engage in a lot of “love buying” activities. While kids will enjoy the material things given to them, they don’t replace the more meaningful emotional gifts of time and understanding.

Tip #3 for Single Parents –

Give appropriate information – It’s typical for these types of ex’s to lay the blame for the divorce on the other parent. “If your mother/father hadn’t done this, we’d still be a family.” You will more than likely have that thrown in your face at one point or another. You may want to set the record straight on whose “fault” the divorce was. Instead, I encourage you to stick with “A marriage is made up of 2 people and is ended by 2 people.”

Playing this blame game is inappropriate to do with your kids. They love you both and shouldn’t be put in a position to have to pick one person over the other.

Tip #4 for Single Parents –

Don’t lower yourself to their level – This is probably the hardest one to do. If your ex is out to hurt you, the honest truth is they will hit their mark now and then. You may find yourself completely devastated by some of the things they do or say. But that will never justify retaliation on your part. Instead, you can respond with, “I don’t remember things like that”, or “I have to disagree.” Sharing gory details about things their other parent has done wrong will only hurt your kids. Again, they love you both.

Finally I always tell single parents that while your ex may be making life awful right now, you need to understand that as your children get older and have a better perspective they will recognize what that conflictual parent did. They will resent it and better appreciate what you did to keep their lives stable.

Alyssa Johnson, LCSW is a counselor, life coach and the founder and creator of The Vibrantly Live System.  To get your F.R.E.E. Special Report, “Stop Trying to Be Perfect:  4 Easy Ways to Enjoy Your Live” and receive articles showing you how to enjoy your life and leave a legacy you’ll be proud of, visit

 Alyssa Johnson
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