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November 13, 2011 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a printed explanation to give to my son and ex-daughter in-law why using their kids as cudgels against the other is bad for the kids.

My 34 year old son divorced from the mother of our 2 grandchildren five years ago. It was not amicable. Both have transgressed against the other. They each badmouth the other to the kids. One parent telling the kids how BAD the other parent is. As the child of divorce I know how harmful this is. Trying to tell them this triggers their anger at the other and no communication occurs.

I'm looking for a short explanation of why that's a bad idea that I can email to each of them.
posted by Pecantree to Human Relations (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know of any specific resources, but you can find a lot of resources by googling "parental alienation" and "parental alienation syndrome."
posted by ourobouros at 1:01 PM on November 13, 2011

Not to be a downer because you're talking about the emotional health of your grandkids and your heart's in the right place, but I don't think there's anything you can tell either one of them.

They know not to badmouth the other to the kids; that's Divorced Parenting 101.

I think the very best you could do is talk to your son and just tell him your concerns. Tell him it makes you sad and it will most definitely damage the kids. At least that way you can feel like you said something, but I wouldn't expect him to stop doing it.

Poor kids.
posted by kinetic at 1:11 PM on November 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Some states require that divorcing couples attend a parenting-skills class as part of the divorce process. You could inquire whether such mandatory classes exist in your jurisdiction, and if so, where they are taught. That's one likely source for the sort of printed materials that you're looking for.

Having said that: I agree that these are common-sense principles that the parents in your situation already know. I would also suggest that if you're going to do this, the real trick isn't in finding the right material to send them. The trick is in getting them each to actually read whatever you send with a calm, open mind. Do you have a plan for that?
posted by red clover at 1:19 PM on November 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Here's a good basic handout on the effects of divorce on children - page 2 gets into minimizing conflict. Here's another one from the NASP - you'd want to copy and paste it into a Word document or something. You might also be interested in this Children's Bill of Rights (and the tons of articles listed below it.)

I also agree with those above who say your son and former daughter-in-law already know this. One really positive step you can take is to make your home (and anywhere you are) a neutral zone, where criticism of either parent is unacceptable. You might be able to contact your son's former parents-in-law and the aunts and uncles involved and create a united front on this issue. My grandma never let anything bad be said about my mom after the divorce - she even hosted custody transfers (my parents were so mad at each other that neither of them actually stuck around for the transfers, which were between my grandma and my stepdad.) I found out later, after she died, that she hated my mom, but she never let me see that.
posted by SMPA at 1:30 PM on November 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

My parents divorced when I was very young. Like your son and ex-daughter in-law, my parents both transgressed against one another, and had lots of hurt feelings and resentments. But I didn't know this until I was in my twenties and I asked my grandmother what had caused them to split up. My parents kept any negative feelings about one another to themselves, and in fact continued to celebrate holidays together with my brother and I (along with their new spouses) for many years. I grew up forming my own opinions about my parents, some of which were favorable and some that weren't, but all of which were based on how I saw them treat one another and everyone else around them, and not on what they said about each another. I also grew up believing that it is possible to be friends and still enjoy some of the parts you liked about your ex when you aren't in love anymore. I love both of my parents tremendously and feel really grateful that they were able to set aside their issues with one another and focus on doing a good job of parenting my brother and me instead of making it all about them. Please share this with your son and ex-daughter in-law if you think it will help.
posted by ezrainch at 1:40 PM on November 13, 2011

Which is more important: Hating the ex, or loving the kids? Can't have it both ways.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:08 PM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This appears to be a good resource (about parenting after separation more broadly, but does give the advice for parents not to snipe about the other parent, and lists that in the top 10 'mistakes'.)

I only just realised that your son and daughter-in-law divorced five years ago! While I could understand parents might do these kind of things because they couldn't control their negative emotions in the first couple of months after a separation, by five years they are clearly invested in this pattern of behaviour. I hope that you succeed in finding a way to get through to them that their behaviour is not appropriate and is likely to be harmful to their kids (and to their future relationships with their kids).
posted by Cheese Monster at 7:11 PM on November 13, 2011

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