by Kelly A. Bennett, Esq.
Warning, dear readers: This article involves some no BS, right to the heart straight talk. For your kids’ sake, it’s time to solve a problem head on and leave the niceties behind. So, what’s the beef?
The Social Media Bash-fest.
We see it all the time. Social media posts, by parents who have an ax to grind with their ex – bitching, whining and picking apart every move the other parent makes (the “Parental Bash”). Parental Bashers post “updates” on their divorce and custody battles in true Mexican telenovela fashion. They painfully detail every jackass move an ex has made, what they said in court, and what a pathetic excuse for a parent they are …drama, drama, drama.
Now before you hit the Haterade reply button, understand that I get it. Your ex may be trying to make your life a living hell. He may be withholding child support payments or sending them to you via the kids with nasty messages. He may be saying rotten things to the kids about you and your family. (Sorry men, I’m picking on you in this example, but mommas are equally adept at this stuff too.) This “Ugly Daddy” may be undermining your parenting and mocking the boundaries you’ve set for the children.
Ugly Daddy may very well be making all those slimeball moves. This isn’t to say the bastard didn’t do those things. Sure the “poor you” and “hang in there” responses from the social media community can be appealing, addicting. After all, who doesn’t want to feel supported when you’re having a hell of a time co-parenting with a jerk?
But let’s get real – there’s nothing right about those posts. Some do it to garner the tacit sympathy of the social media community. It’s a form of shamelessly commiserating in public to get attention and shallow sympathy. It’s often an attempt to “get even”. It’s an attempt to make yourself feel better by running the other parent down. It’s an ineffective grasp at taking back power in a disempowering relationship. And it’s usually done without regard to the impacts on your children.
Social Media Alienation.
No matter how you cut it, Parental Bashing is a form of parental alienation. What? Yes, you heard that right. You see, when your friends and family read all the salacious posts about how bad Ugly Daddy is, it will get back to your kids. And kids won’t feel too warm and fuzzy about Ugly Daddy (or they’ll decide it’s you that’s the jackass).
When kids are put in a conflict like that, they feel stress, they lose weight, they have trouble in relationships, they become withdrawn or they act out. Because at their core, every kid craves connection with both their parents – and they need you to make it ok for them to love their other parent. Your friends and family won’t feel too warm and fuzzy about Ugly Daddy either, and they’ll pull away from him, and they’ll be unsupportive of his relationship with his children. Your kids’ friends and their parents will pull away from Ugly Daddy too.
Why do we care about the effects on Ugly Daddy? Because it’s a low-brow, low road mentality. And because your kids are the ultimate victims of social media Parental Bashing. They read it. Their friends read it. Their friends’ parents and family read it. And comments are made, putting your kids smack-dab in the middle of a parental-poop sandwich.
But here’s the deal: It doesn’t matter what kind of nasty, son-of-a-hoo-ha he is. Your children didn’t sign up for this. It’s time we pull our collective heads out and realize that our children are reading that stuff. And if they aren’t reading it now, they will later. Someone will show them or tell them about it. This negative, nasty gook sticks with a kid forever.
Keep It in the (Prayer) Closet.
A more subtle form of Parental Bashing shows up in “prayer request” posts. Ugh. I groan when I see Basher posts disguised as online “prayer requests”. Seriously? Prayer requests are not for the online community at large. In fact, gossip in spiritual circles is often promulgated under the guise of “prayer requests.” Prayer is quiet, humble business. Prayer requests are for trusted, inner circle members of your team who will truly support your spiritual growth – and not just pray that God shows Ugly Daddy the errors of his ways. These are sensitive issues, that serious people discuss privately with trusted advisors, instead of barfing it out, tabloid-style to the world wide web.
If it’s truly prayer and spiritual support you are after, try this more effective route: Establish a small, powerful inner prayer circle of spiritually mature people who will help you privately, confidentially. Ask them to help you own your own contribution to the situation and make corrections (because there are two (or three) sides to every story).
Ask them to pray for God to take care of the situation in his timing and wisdom (versus your timing). Ask them to help you take the High Road and demonstrate the classy and uncommon response of kindness at every turn. Ask them to help you establish healthy boundaries, work on forgiveness and become a beacon of love and light in the face of adversity.
Rising from the Gook.
Let’s move on from the negative gook. This message is a call for us all to take the Road Less Traveled: The Parental High Road. What if you did the unpredictable, uncommonly demonstrated thing? What if you never said a negative thing about Ugly Daddy online or offline (except in the safety of your therapist’s office)? In fact, what would happen if you look for moments to praise all that is good about Ugly Daddy while refusing to entertain invitations to gossip and complain? The results would be stunning. Amazing. And I dare say, something your Higher Power would bless.
But what if Ugly Daddy is crossing the line and you or the kids need protection? Resist the low road and take care of business. Deal with it factually. Dump the drama and the gossip. Go straight to a source who can do something about it (like an attorney or a judge).
And do it matter-of-factly, presenting just the facts: “The problem is X; the damage is Y; the solution is Z.” Oh what a relief to leave all the energy-sucking drama out of it! Oh, what a gift it is to your children to shield them from the gook and let them be kids! And oh, how happy the online community will be to not be sucked into the gook!
How Social Media Friends Can Support the No-Gook Initiative.
Don’t have children? I’ll bet you know someone who does, and if they’re separated from their kids’ other parent and have a rocky relationship, do them a big favor and share this info.
What to do when a troubled friend starts Parental Bashing on social media? No need to “unfriend” them. How about refraining from a response, or giving them a call to say “I saw online that you’re having a hard time – may I pray for you? How about coffee sometime, looks like you could use a friend.”
But by all means, be bold and let the gook stop with you. It could positively shape a child’s future, and that’s a “share” worth sending.