Dealing With "Divorce Poison"


As a therapist, I see first-hand how divorce can cause many hardships for children whose parents are divorcing. Therapists sometimes refer to these effects as "divorce poison." Common issues that arise from divorce include brainwashing children, badmouthing and bashing the ex, and parental alienation. Going through a divorce may bring up negative feelings about your ex-spouse, but your children mustn't get tossed into the middle. Parents who talk about their ex in a hateful way or try to get their children to turn against the other parent can induce confusion and long-term consequences for their children. So, here are some tips to help prevent these adverse outcomes in your kids.


Recognize early warning signs


If your children begin to protest spending time with you, this may be an early warning sign of alienation. Alienation results from one parent withholding, making negative suggestions to or brainwashing the child to end up resenting the other parent. Repetition of negative comments that your ex may have said about you is another example. It is essential to address these concerns immediately. Don't dismiss your children's feelings but explain how they are allowed to love both parents. Talking with your kids about these concerns can help to prevent divorce poison.


Recognize early warning signs


If your children begin to protest spending time with you, this may be an early warning sign of alienation. Alienation results from one parent withholding, making negative suggestions to or brainwashing the child to end up resenting the other parent. Repetition of negative comments that your ex may have said about you is another example. It is essential to address these concerns immediately. Don't dismiss your children's feelings but explain how they are allowed to love both parents. Talking with your kids about these concerns can help to prevent divorce poison.


Remind your kids of the fun times you've had together


It is essential to refresh your children's memory with positive times you've had together. Reminding children of positive memories can reduce the likelihood of becoming alienated. For example, bring up a trip to the zoo that your child really enjoyed. Say things like, "aren't we having so much fun together?" Using positive adjectives will help your child remember these times as good memories and prevent your ex from skewing those memories.


Don't badmouth your ex in front of your kids


Keep your negative thoughts and feelings to yourself, don't involve your children. Your children should not be put in the middle of arguments or hostile discussions. Don't ask your kids to be the messenger between you and your ex, spy on, or snoop around the house of their other parent. If you're feeling upset or angry, talk to friends or family to get it off your chest. Therapy sessions are also an excellent time to express and process negative feelings.


Hold your ground


Don't give up if your child stops taking your phone calls or doesn't respond to a letter you sent. If you, as the parent, stop reaching out, your child may take this as a rejection or that you have given up on them, even though they are not giving the same effort in return. If your kids refuse to see you on your scheduled weekend, don't immediately agree with it. Remind them of the activities you had planned. Get your lawyer involved if you need extra support to help you navigate custody and legal matters. Never give up on your relationship with your child.