Families Change Guide to Separation & Divorce

4.5 - Effect of Adverse Criticism

4.5 - Effect of Adverse Criticism

In this video, you saw a parent criticizing the other parent in front of the children. Parents may do this for two reasons. Either they feel that this is the only way they can win the child's affection or they are relieving built-up anger. Either way, this only hurts the children.

Since children think of themselves as made up of both their parents, an angry remark about one parent feels like an attack on them. A put-down directed at the other parent effects the child by causing pain and lowering self-esteem.

Let’s look at another video with children commenting on how their family break-up affected them.


Sam: I knew that there was something wrong.

Rebecca: Because not all parents fight that much.

Debbie: I saw them falling apart and I heard them falling apart.

Sam: After the divorce it was kind of really shocking.

Rebecca: I didn’t really understand that they could just not want to be together anymore. 

Todd: I was angry, I hated both of them.

Rebecca: I was scared because… I knew how much trouble my mom would have by herself.

Sam: It would have made it easier if my parents had given me an explanation of why they divorced.

Rebecca: I was angry because I wanted them to stay together and also kind of felt that it was my fault.

Todd: I thought that they were doing this to get at the kids for some reason. I thought that we had done something wrong, and that we were bad kids, and that we just weren’t the ideal family.

Debbie: My little sister was five and she didn’t understand it. All she knew was Dad was leaving and she didn’t know why she thought it… I’m sure she felt it was her fault.

Sam: I’m kind of fine with it. I don’t really care.

Debbie: I felt like I sort of had to raise my sisters and that they were my responsibility now and I had to make sure that Mom was OK and she was off to work and that they were doing good in school and they were behaving themselves and growing up good. I mean if you’re twelve you shouldn’t have to do that I guess. 

Todd: So the family was now gone ‘cause there was a divorce and the secure house was now gone because I never felt that I had a home after that because there was never two parents in the house or didn’t stay there for a very long time or go live with this parent or go live with that parent so I kind of just felt like I was a package being sent this place that place, didn’t really have any sitting around.

Debbie: Everyone has trouble in junior high. And then you come to this thing where your entire family is falling apart so at school you have to be like work hard, do really well, be a little quiet girl in the back who is like a brainiac sort of thing and then you come home and everything is falling around you and you’re sort of trying to stand there and find something to hold on to. They didn’t communicate at all, and it was sort of like “call your father and tell him this” and stuff like that. They were freshly divorced they’re not really going to have a well working relationship. So we were sort of messengers for them.

Todd: When one parent is talking badly about another parent in front of their kid, the kid feels it ‘cause that kid is half that person. And so for mothers to be bashing the father in front of the kid, the kid is standing there feeling like crap because it’s not about them but subconsciously it is because we are made up of both parents. We might as well call each other by our first names and work as business men, ‘cause all that he was to me after the divorce was financial support. You know? He paid his child support, put in his dues there – nothing else.

Debbie: He doesn’t really have the responsibility that I know that my mom does. Because of that because he can just sort of casually show up for an hour and then leave, whereas my mom is sort of trapped in the seven days a week twenty-four hours a day sort of thing.

Todd: Your kids want to know you, your kids want to be around you, your kids want to see you.

Rebecca: Nobody had gone through it before who I knew and I didn’t think they could relate to it.

Debbie: I didn’t really have a really close friend that I could be like “yeah this is what’s happening and it’s really serious”. I didn’t really have an outlet so I sort of just kept everything inside.

Todd: I was feeling such pain because of this divorce and never having anyone to talk to about it that I tried on three accounts to kill myself. And even then I had no one to talk to. Parents got to make sure that no matter how much they don’t like each other they have to be there 110% for those kids.

Rebecca: I think you have to talk to your children more than you would normally because it’s really hard to go through that change and you just have to be there for them. Make sure that they know that you’re there for them they can go to you any time.

Debbie: My dad comes over for dinner now and they talk really well.

Rebecca: I’ve gotten used to it and I realize that it’s a lot better than if they were together and always fighting.

Sam: They make sure that I know that I’m loved.