Surviving High Conflict Divorce without alienating your child from their co-parent. It’s the task and challenge at hand for non-Cluster B people who have been targeted for pervasive social, emotional, spiritual, and likely financial abuse by a socially competitive and likely irrational and profoundly disgruntled “rejected suitor” of an ex.
Once in a while over on our official Facebook fan page, we get a question so to the point of things we are all going through that we share the content of the Reader’s inquiry and how we answered them while ministering here on Flying Monkeys Denied. This post reflects one of those times.
The question from a reader going through a divorce with a Cluster B male — with a child in common whose custody and visitation time (at least for now) has been court-ordered to be shared.
“I don’t know if you take comments and questions on your page, but I saw your article about how to protect yourself emotionally from a toxic parent. It was addressing ADULT children. My question is, how can a good parent help UNDERAGE children learn how to protect themselves emotionally from the toxic parent without being accused of causing alienation? I’m thinking of a situation where the mother escaped from an abusive husband, has primary custody of the children, but her husband is fighting for custody as a means to get his wife back. The children were also abused as well and suffer from a lot of anxiety whenever around their father. However, the wife is under a lot of pressure to not be seen as alienating the children from their father. He is accusing her of teaching them to fear and distrust him. Thank you!”
It’s a delicate balance — one we are working to figure out ourselves how to describe.
The best thing is to read up on parallel parenting, get the kid to ALANON, make sure the group leader has access to flyingmonkeysdenied.com and similar material so the discussions help all the kids in the group simultaneously.
And you remember… the advice you give a child of a Cluster B parent, by necessity, is simply DIFFERENT. Follow our sister page facebook.com/discardpileparents for ongoing support and insight coping.
Read up all you can on Parallel Parenting and on HIGH CONFLICT DIVORCE.
Rule of thumb? No discussing the other parent.
Keep the focus on how the child thinks and feels and on what you do in YOUR HOME ONLY.
The child MUST be allowed to compare and contrast without becoming a way your ex gets into your heart and house. This is their life and family unit even if it no longer feels like what you dreamed, wished for them, or in any way imaged creating willingly or voluntarily for yourself.
Conversely — you don’t need to know everything about what happens at the other parent’s house or in their life.
What you model is a safe home, your own rules, and when the child says but daddy said… you look them right in the eye and ask them what THEY think and you tell them to keep the focus conversationally about themselves.
Not about DAD.
So… dad did or said xyz the child expects you to rage on about after witnessing the decline of your marriage, the end of romantic affection, and ultimately the divorce between you and him. And then?
Intimated in our best “Dude Where’s My Car” movie drive-through lady voice. And then and then and then and then???
The child you bore is half your abusive and likely cantankerous and simultaneously socially and emotionally neglectful ex’s. Half.
Not that 50% is your genetics and the rest of your child is physically shite. They might emulate their toxic parent… they might adore the dysfunctional person and go out of their way to do and say whatever they think will prevent them — as the child of a Cluster B adult — to net gain their attention and to win their affection.
Your goal is to keep the child safe and to raise them to love and to like themselves, right? Teach them people with different core values lead different lives without making a quantitative analysis of who is or who is not doing it right.
Teach the child to respect and feel as safe as possible over there by saying nothing. Nothing positive, nothing negative.
Hear your littles — validate thank you for expressing your feelings and for sharing experiences with me. But sew your mouth shut metaphorically in creative visualization when they start to daddy-daddy.
It is YOUR job as a caregiver to keep the focus on making sure you are not flooding with PTSD and upset or to use what they say as a reason to enmesh emotionally and psychologically in a Battle Royale with your ex’s apparition — one that calls you MOMMY and uses the child like a weapon. [Remember — kids triangulate and are likely to gaslight to win both parent’s affection or some form of extra attention.]
Here’s the honest — arguably cold, non-emotional truth most people in the height of a high conflict divorce and custody battle seldom if ever grasp before they have done several years or decades of self-reflection.
You are not going to want to be the person who discusses with them what goes on at Dad’s. That’s for the child to discuss with the Guardian Ad Litem — something THEY need to have as social support for themselves if one or both parents is behaving… anything even remotely resembling toxic family unit inspired trauma bonding and Narcissistic Abuse patterns.
It’s your job to keep a child physically safe. Physically.
A healthy parent is there to allow a child to learn, to make mistakes, to learn how to handle complex emotions, and to learn how to make good choices about their own lives and social decisions.
Keep your focus on staying OUT in your mind of the ex’s home and life. Intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
If you expect your home to be treated as a place of privacy and peace by your child, role modeling extending the same courtesy to their co-parent is essential.
Your house, your rules… your right to privacy.
His house? What goes on there, what it looks like inside, who is enjoying the space with him when the child is not there… and honestly, if you follow the spirit and the letter of the law — who your ex dates and brings around your child is their decision. Not your business at all.
Over and over — force yourself to break the habit of acting like you are married to your spouse, like it’s your job to hawk what he does or does not do, or to clean up his or her messes when it comes to life or to the child. When you feel yourself wanting to blurt something opinionated or to ask questions… chant.
None of my business. None of my business. None of my business.
Then add… “What I do is none of his business, either.”
End all forms possible of social and emotional enmeshment. Gray rock. Focus on self — not on others.
“Nunyabidness” related to any personal level of specifics aside from needing to know where your child is, contact numbers, and if the child is safe. As in fed and they have a roof and a bed. Or a tent and enough granola bars to get them through every other weekend and 4 weeks in the summer to get to know their other side of the family… or through dinner from 7-9 on Wednesday evenings.
Where does the ex live? Who are his friends? What are his love interests? How does he eat? How does he take care of his house? Let the Guardian Ad Litem evaluate without your needing to meddle or to interject your subjective opinion into the mix.
Does the GAL think the home is safe? Does the child have his or her own bed and access to adult social support while they are visiting their other parent?
Your business — but only as far as you need to report if the child comes home crying and says there was none. Then it’s your job to stay calm and to get them to tell their story to a trusted counselor — preferably to one who themselves had at least one Cluster B parent, who survived the divorce process as a child of toxic parents, and who can say things to your little one that you want to tell them but they have to figure it out on their own or hear hard truths first from somebody else.
If the answer is YES (the child has access to a safe living space and to their other parent) and you are divorced, that’s literally as much as you need to lawfully know to be an amazing parent. Bring conversational focus always to whatever is your lifestyle preference.
If you prefer to keep the house tidy but your ex is a slob — and then? What. The world stops spinning because when your child goes for a visit to get to know half their PERSONAL genetics someone in that house refuses to force a child to make their own bed — or to make it at all?
If you were 7…
And mom did things one way but dad didn’t…
How would YOU fell having to listen to parents arguing — when all you really want is for their conversational analysis and overt ridicule of one another’s ultimately incredibly subjective lifestyle choices to functionally stop?
My guess is you want to visit your dad the same way you go to a friend’s house who lives in a different way. You go, you observe. Stuff you like, you make part of your own lifestyle routine when it’s pro-social and possible… and the rest?
If you are an Empath by nature of any age… most things we don’t like seeing or experiencing end up becoming our funniest, most profound, and most real-life stories and adult childhood memories.
Pretend your child goes to summer camp. Be there to let them process when they come home.
Don’t force them to tell you things like what they did. Tell them you want them to KNOW their father.
Put the onus of responsibility on HIM to decide what kind of parent he is going to be. Understand if YOU act fearful when the child goes to his care, you are already alienating and undermining the child’s relationship with that person and teaching them you don’t like, love, or trust half their genetics.
Then you take a deep breath, you realize the world is not perfect, and that there will be times you need to say his name or to hear details that violate HIS right to privacy.
Encourage emotional honesty — not any form of spying or making up drama to manipulate already successfully triangulated parents.