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The Dangers of Putting Your Ex Down in Front of Children

Image of separated parents arguing in front of their child

Separation and divorce can be emotionally charged, leading some individuals to express their frustrations by putting their ex-spouse down, especially in front of their children. However, this harmful behaviour can have lasting negative consequences for both the children and the co-parenting relationship.

Speaking negatively about your ex in front of children may lead to anxiety, depression and self-esteem issues

Emotional Distress

Children love and care about both of their parents. When one parent belittles or speaks negatively about the other, it can create confusion, guilt, and emotional distress. They may feel torn between loyalty to each parent, leading to increased anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues.

Parental Alienation

Continuously criticizing or demeaning the other parent can contribute to parental alienation, a situation where a child develops an unjustified and persistent dislike or rejection of one parent. This can result in strained relationships, long-term emotional scars, and difficulties forming healthy relationships in the future.

Internalizing Conflict

Children who witness their parents engaging in hostile behaviour may internalize the conflict, blaming themselves for their parents' separation. This self-blame can have detrimental effects on their self-esteem and overall emotional well-being.

By putting down your co-parent, you sabotage the ability to collaborate effectively in raising your children

Deteriorating Communication

Engaging in negative talk about one's ex-spouse can deteriorate the ability to communicate effectively, leading to further conflict and barriers in co-parenting. This breakdown in communication can hinder important discussions about the child's needs, routines, and decision-making.

Legal Consequences

In higher conflict cases, speaking negatively about the other parent in front of the children can lead to legal consequences. Courts often prioritize the best interests of the child and may view such behaviour as detrimental to the child's well-being, potentially affecting decision-making and parenting time.

Long-Term Co-Parenting Challenges

Building a healthy co-parenting relationship requires mutual respect and cooperation. By putting down the other parent, individuals may sabotage their own ability to collaborate effectively in raising their children. This can lead to ongoing conflicts and a less stable and supportive environment for the child.

Your children love you both, so creating a supportive environment is critical for their development

Focus on the Children

Put the well-being of the children at the center of all interactions. Remember that they love and need both parents, and it is essential to foster a positive and supportive environment for their growth and development.

Seek Support

If dealing with negative emotions or frustrations, seek support from friends, family, or a therapist. Having an outlet for your feelings can prevent them from spilling over into interactions with your children.

Communication and Boundaries

Maintain open and respectful communication with your ex-partner, focusing on the child's needs and discussing important matters calmly and objectively. Establish clear boundaries regarding conversations about each other in front of the children.


If co-parenting conflicts persist, consider seeking professional mediation to facilitate healthier communication and problem-solving. Mediators can help both parties find common ground and develop parenting strategies to work together effectively.

During separation or divorce, it is essential to be mindful of the impact negative words and behavior can have on children and the co-parenting relationship. Speaking negatively about one's ex-spouse in front of children can cause emotional distress, hinder healthy co-parenting, and have long-term consequences. By prioritizing the well-being of the children and fostering a respectful and supportive co-parenting dynamic, parents can provide a nurturing environment that allows their children to thrive despite the challenges of separation.

Blog posts and podcasts are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

About the Author

Laura Tarcea

Laura is a family mediator dedicated to supporting families through divorce or separation. With a background in Mental Health, Research, Program Development, and a Master of Laws in Dispute Resolution, Laura brings valuable insight and critical knowledge to parents. She strongly believes that a healthy co-parenting relationship will protect children from short-term and long-term damage. As such, Laura is a supporter of out-of-court processes to help equip parents with appropriate tools to succeed in their next chapter.

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