Do I talk to the kids about the anger at my ex?

Father: “My ex and I are currently going through a difficult phase. I discovered something and I am very angry and sad about it. She turns out to have a relationship with a good friend of mine, which I suspected before the divorce, but was never admitted. Communication is very difficult and it is impossible to talk about it with my ex. In the past year I managed to be happy and relaxed during transfers and other times with my ex when the children were around, that is really not possible now. This does not pass my daughters (10 and 12) by. I just don’t know what to do, talk to them about it, don’t say anything? Will it hurt if I’m honest and say I’m mad at their mother? Or what do I do with it?”

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Discussing feelings with the children

Liesbeth Groenhuijsen: „Pretending that the anger is not there, that is bad. Children notice it anyway, if you don’t explain it, they fill it in themselves, and children’s fantasy often makes the world more frightening than reality. Maybe they think: Daddy is mad at me.

“Of course we don’t want to burden children unnecessarily, but life unfolds, complicated things are part of that. Discussing feelings in child-appropriate terms is a pedagogical opportunity, including anger. “You’ve probably noticed that I’m acting a little differently than usual, because I’m just mad at Mommy.”

“Compare it with something the child herself experienced in an argument, ask her how she did it then, so you make a loop with their own world. ‘You had an argument with someone recently, that was difficult, wasn’t it, how did you resolve that?’

“Emphasize that you are trying to work it out and also let them know if you have worked it out with your ex. Not to vent, of course, you do that with an adult, but always with the starting point that you can teach your children how to deal with problems. I wouldn’t explain too much what happened.”

Talk to your ex about your anger first

Catrin Finkenauer: “Discussing conflicts with children can be good to show that a relationship can also be repaired. But what’s going to happen here if you can’t talk to their mother about it? The children are going to ask their mother: ‘Why is daddy mad at you?’ And then she may say, “I don’t know.” Or even: “I’m mad at Dad too.”

“Divorce, including the road to it and its aftermath, is a potentially explosive cocktail of conflicting interests and negative emotions that can quickly flare up. You don’t want to end up with your kids in such a complicated story where parents are both trying to prove their point.

“Taking perspective and regulating one’s emotions towards the ex-partner and children is one of the most important and also one of the most difficult tasks for divorced parents. It is important for children of this age that parents tell a story about the divorce that is consistent with each other.

“First, try to talk clearly with your ex about this, as well as your feelings of anger. Depending on the results of this, you can first decide for yourself where you want to place your anger. Otherwise you will burden your children too much with it.”