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What to Do if Your Spouse Turns Your Child Against You?

Michael Tierney
October 1, 2022

Divorce can either be a calm, respectful separation or an antagonistic process that drives you and your spouse to animosity. The underlying cause of the divorce often dictates how amicable the divorce ends up being. Unfortunately, many divorces end up being hostile processes where you and your spouse bicker and argue over every part of the negotiations.

While most hope they can avoid divorce altogether, those that cannot avoid it hope for an amicable divorce. When you are dealing with a hostile spouse or a situation that precludes civility in the process, the only remaining hope is that the fallout from the divorce is minimal. Unfortunately, minimal fallout is just as difficult to secure in divorce, especially if you have children.

Children are one of the most cherished parts of a marriage and the most affected parties. When a child's parents divorce, it impacts their lives and worldview in extreme ways. Depending on the child's age, their mental development leads to them trying to determine "sides" in the divorce. The side they view as the "good side" is usually determined by the parent they feel closer to, which opens the way to one of the most underhanded and despicable tactics in divorce.

In some cases, one parent will take advantage of the divorce and their relationship with your shared children to turn them against you. Divorce is heartbreaking enough, and having your child turned against you is unbearable, which makes combatting this issue critical to your continued relationship.

Know the Signs

As horrifying as the idea of your child being turned against you is, it does happen, and it can be extremely subtle.

Solution Some children will be extremely vocal about their newfound disdain for you and your role in the divorce, while others will be more discreet with these opinions. Regardless of the way they express this discontent, being aware of the signs is the only way for you to start working through the issues.

If you cannot notice the signs of your child turning against you, you will not be able to start fixing the damage your spouse has caused. Unfortunately, those children who prefer the subtle forms of rebellion make identifying the signs far more difficult.

A Child Ignoring Their Mother

Generally, a child being turned against a parent will demonstrate personality changes that range from glaringly obvious to subtle. You can best perceive some of these personality changes through social media accounts and evidence supplied by friends and family members. One of the more obvious signs is that your child spends less time with you than they did before. This reduced contact can result from your spouse actively keeping your child from you or telling them things to sabotage your relationship with them.

It will also help if you keep your ear to the ground for your child openly expressing disdain for you. Sometimes, your child will post on social media to complain about you or vent their frustration to friends. Keeping an eye on their social media profiles or relying on the parents of those friends to relay these complaints can be effective for identifying these issues. However, knowing that your child is turning against you and correcting the cause are 2 different things, the latter of which will require a great deal of effort.

Do Not Assign Blame

The instinct of many when they are being portrayed negatively is to redirect blame to the original accuser or another party. While it is important to ensure that the person responsible for the issue is held accountable, pointing fingers can severely backfire. Your children learn from the example set by their parents, which makes examples of petty behavior a dangerous thing when going through a divorce. The other issue is that children look to us for guidance on how to treat others up to a certain age.

When we set poor examples, they tend to reflect those behaviors against their parents.

During a divorce, your spouse may attempt to defer blame to you to turn your child into a resource during the divorce process. When you notice your child rebelling against you, it is smart to communicate with them, but it is important not to blame your spouse. Even if your spouse is directly responsible for your child's rebellious streak, blaming them is a poor decision since it will only encourage that behavior. Furthermore, deflecting blame on your spouse will either make you guilty of turning your child against them or justify your child's perception of you as the villain.

Spouses Blaming One Another

The best choice is to have a calm conversation with your child and make it clear you care about them and their happiness. Rather than demonizing your soon-to-be ex-spouse, focus on making it clear that the divorce is no one's fault. Making it clear that you are not blaming anyone for the end of the marriage, including your spouse, will help set an example of understanding and compromise your child might need in trying times. Blame assignment only reinforces the idea that any blame your spouse places on you to turn your child against you is appropriate.

Reinforce Your Child's Importance

One of the most effective ways your spouse might attempt to turn your child against you is to heap attention onto them without letting you see them. This method allows them to ingratiate themselves to your child and highlight their importance to your spouse while making you seem less involved. As underhanded as this is, it is a tactic employed by more manipulative people.

Solution To combat this, you will need to ensure your child understands their importance to you and their importance concerning the divorce.

Divorce is a difficult time for everyone caught in the process, including your child, who can feel as though they are taking a backseat to everything happening. Positive reinforcement in times of stress, like divorce proceedings, is important to prevent them from feeling abandoned or blamed for the marriage's end. Regardless of their age, your child will need to be reminded of their importance to you and your spouse and how they are still the priority despite the divorce.

Parent Spending Time With Their Child

However, words will not necessarily be enough to reassure your child of this, and you will need to act to cement their importance. This means you will need to set aside time to spend with them and remain an active presence in their life despite the divorce proceedings. This can be challenging, especially if your spouse actively tries to undermine your child's relationship. But the effort will go a long way to undoing any damage caused by your spouse's underhanded tactics.

Making time to spend with your child during the divorce and showing them they are still your priority can undermine any accusations made by your spouse. Usually, the accusations from your spouse that are poisoning them against you include claims that you are not interested in spending time with them or that you do not love them. These accusations can break your child's heart, and your child will be liable to believe the accusations since they come from a parent. Unfortunately, you cannot use these accusations as cause to begin hostile conduct with your spouse.

Remain Civil With Your Spouse

We discussed avoiding assigning blame, but there is far more conflict in a divorce than blaming the other person. Divorce proceedings can lead to several petty disagreements and arguments that can destroy the chances of an amicable divorce. Unfortunately, the hostile environment of a divorce can bleed into your child's perception of you. This is especially true if your spouse is actively trying to demonize you to your child.

Solution Ultimately, maintaining civility with your spouse is the only way to minimize this issue.

While not blaming your spouse for the divorce is an excellent first step, the rest is avoiding other arguments that might cause your child to perceive you as hostile. It can be very tempting to get into a screaming match with your spouse or attempt to disgrace them somehow, especially if your spouse is antagonistic toward you throughout the process and is undermining you at every turn. This urge to fight back can be extremely tempting but also devastating to your side of the divorce proceedings.

Parents Remaining Civil

Making hostile comments and claims against your spouse, even taking their property, or attempting to sabotage their case can damage your reputation with your child. All your child will perceive is that you are trying to discredit their other parent, especially if that other parent is more subtle with their claims than you are.

Reconsider Dating

One of your child's biggest concerns is being left behind and forgotten when their parents get divorced. Ordinarily, this concern is most pronounced when you actively begin dating post-divorce or separation. Children, especially young children, have a strong connection to family ideals and generally want their family to stay together.

Divorce challenges these ideals and desires by separating the family and having both parents lead separate lives. In situations like this, it is common for the children of these marriages to feel unimportant and left behind by their parents. This feeling is exacerbated if you begin dating someone else immediately after or while the divorce is underway.

A Couple on a Date

Typically, one should never start dating again until after the divorce proceedings are complete. Even once the divorce is finalized, immediately introducing a new girlfriend or boyfriend to your child can make them feel like you have replaced their parent. This can fuel the idea that they are replaceable, which your spouse might take advantage of to turn your child against you. Dating someone else allows your spouse to imply that you have no trouble replacing those you claim to love and that your child might be next to be replaced.

This is made worse if the person you are dating also has children you begin raising. Showing affection or care for stepchildren can make your child feel less important and that you are replacing them. While feeling replaced is a devastating sensation, it can lead to your child developing an antagonistic disposition aimed at you, your new partner, and any stepchildren from the new relationship.

Do Not Let Them Run the Divorce

As odd as it might sound, maintaining your child's approval should not alter your plans for divorce. Even if your child is adamantly opposed to the divorce, their discontent should not prevent you from pursuing the divorce if the marriage is only causing you harm. While your child might not understand the need for your divorce, allowing them to sway your resolve is not the right choice. Depending on your child's approval to move forward with the divorce means you have handed the power you retain as a parent to them. This ensures you cannot protect your interests and eliminates any power to discipline or instruct your children.

A Child Dealing With Divorce

While this is not directly related to preventing your spouse from turning your child against you, it can inhibit your ability to be a proper parent. This also reinforces your spouse's power by allowing your child to control your decisions. By letting your child dictate your willingness to proceed with the divorce, your spouse can push them to keep you from moving forward while they plan their next move.

Learn the Law

Divorce is an extremely complicated and unpleasant legal process in and of itself. When children are caught in the crossfire, it becomes even more complicated. Young children have a very simple view of society and family that drives them to fight to keep their parents together. Older children are dealing with hormone changes and social stresses that make them more aggressive when facing major changes. Unfortunately, it is extremely easy for your spouse to abuse this for their own gain and turn your child against you.

Learn the Law

While weaponizing your children might seem inconceivable, it happens more than people realize. This is why connecting with your child during the divorce process is important, so you do not lose them to your spouse's machinations. Your spouse might not be the type of person to weaponize your child, but you need to learn about other situations in divorce. Divorce is an emotionally turbulent process, which makes preparing for the possible outcomes an excellent way of protecting yourself. We realize this is difficult for you, and we hope this article proves helpful.

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Written By:
Michael Tierney

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