Dear Melissa, How do you deal with an ex-wife of your husband’s who likes to manipulate him through their children?
Dear Someone Sweet,
I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this. I know this is putting a lot of stress on your husband and your family.
While I don’t have a lot of details on what specifically is going on and what his ex is doing to manipulate him through the kids, this sounds like this is a form of “parental alienation.”
By definition: Parental alienation is the process, and the result, of psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent and/or other family members.
It is a distinctive form of psychological abuse (to both the child and the affected parent/family member).
Here are some common forms of parental alienation (shared from the goodmenproject.com):
- Bad-mouthing of a parent in front of a child
- Using guilt to make a child feel bad about loving or wanting to see the other parent
- Making a child feel as though he needs to take sides, spy, or defend one parent over the other
- Refusing attempts at contact (and then often telling the child that the parent doesn’t care or want to see them)
- Acting to turn the child against the other parent
It’s heartbreaking and is a form of child abuse, yet very difficult to prove in court, especially if you don’t have an attorney who is educated about PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome).
There are things you and your husband can do to help combat this behavior from his ex, including:
Document the behavior in the children. In other words, document what the children doing and saying that leads you to believe that they are being psychologically manipulated. Documentation will go a long way toward proving your point if you end up needing to go to court.
He can talk to his ex about it if they are on speaking terms.
Continue to be a loving and supportive stepmom and dad to the kids. This is the MOST important part of combating the toxicity of his ex’s manipulation. Being loving and supportive to the kids helps combat and counter the lies and negativity being spread by his ex.
Take every opportunity to remind your children of how much you love them and want to be with them.
Release your children from the pressure to choose and remind them that they’re free to love who they love and like who they like, and support their right to do so.
As much as you and your husband have the right to be angry at his ex for alienating him, take the high road and be sure to be civil and peaceful, especially in front of the kids. Let his ex own the role of being bitter and vindictive.
Don’t participate in her toxic campaign. Some people crave drama and controversy. There’s not much you can do to prevent her from acting out because she is mentally unbalanced. But your husband can do his best to ensure that his child has one mentally and emotionally stable parent.
If his ex is portraying your husband as a liar or a deadbeat, your husband can prove her allegations wrong by being honest and responsible. Kids are very intuitive and they will eventually notice incongruencies.
And lastly, seek court intervention if you feel it is necessary. Parental alienation is a form of abuse. So if it’s becoming unmanageable on your own, get help.
There is a lot of info and resources on the web that might be helpful to you and your husband about parental alienation and what you can do.
Don’t give up. Combating this type of abuse and cruelty is hard and emotionally taxing, but love will eventually win.
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