Face it. The subject of your child’s other parent is going to come up between you and your child. When it is your child who is doing the talking, remember she is also listening. She is hearing what you say about her other parent and she is internalizing all of those words. So what form will your words take? Will you talk about her dad through clenched teeth or through a smile? You get to choose what your child hears from you. Choose the Pro Child Way.
The Old Way
You rarely mention your ex’s name. There is an understanding that your ex was a part of your past and a bad part, at that. If in a moment of weakness, his name is mentioned, it certainly isn’t in a positive light. You hiss his name through clenched teeth and follow it by a string of expletives. The comments that you make about your ex are anything but positive. Everyone in the household knows that it is better to avoid the topic altogether, and they do.
Your child knows, through experience, that mentioning her dad’s name brings a wrath of sarcasm and old pain to your surface. She knows that in your home, her dad’s name is not welcome. And you are just fine with that.
It’s so important that your child hear you talk nicely about her other parent.
The Pro-Child Way
Sure your ex might have been a jerk, but there has to be something nice you can say about him. He has nice hair? He has good hearing?? He can walk in a straight line??? If not, make it up. It is so important that your child hear you talk nicely about her other parent. This is her dad, a person that she loves. You shouldn’t “dis” the people that your child loves. And you shouldn’t badmouth the people that love your child, especially her dad.
Your child should always hear positive comments about her dad, even if it is as simple as “your dad always brushes his teeth with such care.” She doesn’t need to know that this annoying habit usually lasted about 20 minutes of every day and night, and gave him the excuse to not change her diaper. What bothered you about your ex could be a welcome trait in your child. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your child suddenly developed an interest in brushing her teeth after hearing this?
So, think of nice things to say. Daily, mention your ex in positive ways. Any way of bringing positive thoughts of your child’s dad to her is beneficial to her. You don’t want your child’s dad to be some abstract, foreign person. You want him to be real, tangible, and ever present in her life and thoughts. “You’ll have to tell Dad that joke, he’ll love it.” “Look at that car, it looks just like Dad’s car.” “Dad’s at work right now, I bet he’s eating lunch too.” “Your giggle is so nice, it’s just like Dad’s.” “Yum, look at that lobster. Dad loves lobster, too.” “You chose to make the flowers blue. Blue is Dad’s favorite color.” Mention, mention, mention. And by the way, just as you’re not to insinuate that your ex is actually a deadbeat jerk, you’re also not to insinuate a longing or unrequited love for him. Keep your emotions out of it. This isn’t about you. This is about making room for Dad in your child’s life. This is about including him in her home.
Inevitably, your child will ask you if you love Daddy. If your child ever asks, the answer should be an immediate “Yes, of course! He’s your dad. I love everyone that cares for you.” Your child has never experienced romantic love and would have no clue what that is. It really isn’t necessary to explain the difference. Your child isn’t interested in the degree of love, just that you love the person that she loves too. You can say this.
Keep the positive comments flowing. Through your consistent remarks, your child will learn to be secure in also bringing up her dad’s name. You want to encourage your child to share her feelings about her dad without fear of being attacked or judged. In turn, your child will feel that her dad’s presence is an integral part of her life. And you should be just fine with that.
As an Expert with The National Association of Divorce for Women and Children and a contributor to Cutting Edge Law, Ellen Kellner inspires other divorced parents and law professionals to nurture the child’s spirit through divorce. With her book, The Pro-Child Way®: Parenting with an Ex (Published by Untapped talent LLC), Ellen shares her Pro-Child tactics with parents who are looking for a conscientious method to divorced parenting. Visit www.theprochildway.com or www.UnT2.com for more information.