In front of the kids, especially, it's important not to bash your ex. These 10 tips for biting your tongue will help you set a good example and maintain your integrity, even when you have every reason to be upset.
1. Call a Friend
It’s easy to fall into the trap of talking to your children about what frustrates you, because they’re right there, and may even identify with what you’re feeling. Instead of blurting out your feelings in front of your kids, get on the phone and call an adult you trust. He or she will be a lot more prepared to help you process your emotions and choose a course of action that’s in line with your integrity.
2. Take a Deep Breath
At one time or another, we’ve all been told to take a deep breath or count to ten when we needed to calm down. The trick is to recognize on your own the need to take a moment and regroup. Particularly when you’re in situations where it’s just you and your ex starting to argue in front of the kids. No one else is going to come and suggest that you take a step back, catch your breath, and declare a “Do Over.” You have to be responsible for doing that yourself.
3. Go for a Walk
Instead of bashing your ex in front of your kids, go outside for some fresh air and exercise. Taking a brisk walk will help you process your thoughts and calm down, while also empowering you to make choices about the situation that are best for you and your children.
4. Write About it in a Journal
Every person who’s in the midst of a transition – whether that’s learning how to work with your ex as a co-parent instead of a spouse, changing jobs, or adjusting to being a parent – can benefit from keeping a journal. Just make sure that when you’re venting thoughts in your journal that you wouldn’t want to say in front of your kids that you also store your journal in a safe place. The last thing you want is for your kids to find your private journal and read it without your permission, especially when the things you’re working through are still fresh for all of you.
Here at About.com, we have a forum area where parents can post questions, vent frustrations, and share the ups and downs of single parent life. Instead of saying something negative in front of your kids, come into the forum and vent it there. You’ll be sure to find other moms and dads who’ve gone through similar experiences.
6. Meditate or Pray
If you are a spiritual person, consider spending some time in private meditation or prayer. To meditate, try focusing on a positive thought or the ultimate place you’d like to get to with your ex, such as “peace.” For prayer, try starting with the “Serenity Prayer,” which says:
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
7. Put it in Perspective
Let’s face it. Whatever it is that your ex has done that you’d like to spew out in front of your kids, it’s probably not even about you. Particularly if your ex is making choices that are hurtful to you or your kids, take a moment to see the bigger picture. Those choices say much more about him or her than they do about you or your children. It’s much easier to get to a place where you can productively move on from being hurt when you realize that you’re not causing the negative behavior, nor can you control it.
8. Communicate With Him or Her Directly
Another way to avoid bashing your ex in front of your kids is to get into the habit of bringing your grievances directly to your ex as they happen. This way, you’re holding on to past hurts or keeping a list of wrongs that gets larger and heavier to bear. In addition, direct communication is the best way to eventually get to the point where you can work together for the good of your kids. Recognize, though, that it may take many, many baby steps before you reach your goal of actually communicating well together. Nevertheless, communicating what you’re upset about right now to your ex directly is a step in the right direction.
9. “Bookmark It”
When you place a bookmark in a novel you’re reading, what you’re doing is saving your place so that you can easily return to it later. “Bookmarking” your grievances is similar. Let your ex know that you’re upset, but that you’re not ready to talk about it (or that you need to wait until you can speak privately to address it). This lets your ex know that something is bothering you and you may even find that he or she will sometimes come back to you unprompted to acknowledge the problem once they’ve had time to think about it.
10. Sleep on It
A lot of hurts feel incredibly intense in the moment, and aren’t as bothersome the next day. Instead of bashing your ex in front of your kids, try giving yourself a night to sleep on the issue. Then, if you’re still bothered by it tomorrow, reconsider how you want to approach your ex to talk about it.