Welcome to the Co-parenting Kids Podcast, where you’ll hear all the tips and tricks to co-parent with someone who is difficult or has narcissistic traits. I’m your host, Kirsty Petersen, and I am a family mediator, author, and coach, supporting parents to have more co-parenting harmony, and less angst. Remember to subscribe so you don’t miss any of the episodes as they drop. And head over to co-parenting kids.com.au for lots of free resources about co-parenting and mediation.
Welcome, to episode three. So great to have you here. How do we talk to ourselves? What do we tell ourselves when our children’s other parent tells us their opinion of us? So this is something that I’m not asked about very often, people don’t bring this up and say, Kirsty, can you help me with dealing with what my children’s other parent thinks of me, it’s not something that naturally pops into our head. But it is absolutely something that you need to get a hold of, or as we tend to say, down here in Australia, you need to get a grip. Because they’re taking up space in your head. They’re impacting your opinion of yourself, of your opinion of your relationship with your children, they’re impacting the way you walk in the world. And this is very clearly not a positive thing for us, for our mental health, for our relationships, generally, but most importantly, for our relationship with our children. So when we are confronted with people generally, but specifically, the other parent of our children, who has a negative opinion of us, who has very strong opinions of us, I remember being told many times that I’m just a sponge, and will never amount to anything and just take up space in the world and never contribute or make my way in the world independently. And that was starting to form in my own mind, of who I am. And I was told it often enough that I was starting to believe it. And what was happening was I was giving this person space in my head, I was giving their opinion, validation by listening to it to start with, but then by letting it take up space. And I know very well that that’s not who I am. I know that I had achieved things at that point, I had a lot of independence up until that point. I had plans for my future that didn’t involve you know, sponging off the government and getting my nails done hair done with my child support money. I had goals for myself for my, my children, for our family for us as a family. And so none of the things that were being said about me were rooted in reality. But I was letting them take up space in my head. So how do we overcome that? How do we overcome the negative things that are said to us and about us? The criticisms, the straight-out derogatory, you’re a bad mom, you’re a bad dad. If you just could focus on our children, then they would love you the way you want them to. Statements like that really big heart-rending stabs to the heart kind of statements that go to the essence of who we are as parents, statements that serve to undermine not just our confidence, but our opinion of ourselves, and how we see ourselves in the world. They’re working very hard to get us to crumble into a bowl and just give up and give in to them. So what do we do about this? How do we overcome it? The number one rule, the number one thing to remind yourself of the number one thing to write in lipstick on your mirror to put on a sticky note on the fridge, on the oven, in front of your computer. All the places that you will see it all the time.
Is this. None of this is about you. Yes, they are saying things about you. They’re criticizing you. They’re being negative towards you and about you. They’re being derogatory and denigrating. But it is not actually about you. It is 100% about them. It’s about their fear. It’s about how vulnerable they feel. It’s about their own insecurities. It is not about you, and this applies not just in our co-parenting relationship, this applies at work in our family relationships in our friendships, it also applies with our children. You know, when your 13-year-old daughter is throwing a tantrum about how terrible the pancakes you just made are when they were her favorite thing this morning. And you thought, yeah, you know, I’ve, you know, remembered that pancakes are her favorite thing, I’m going to make them for dinner breakfast for dinner, who doesn’t love that chocolate chip pancakes, ice cream, cream. And she’s throwing some tantrum about that. That is not about you, that is not about the pancakes, that is not about how well you made the pancakes that is 100% about her. And this co-parenting relationship is no different. Now, I will put a caveat on that. None of us is perfect. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes it’s absolutely about us. And that’s the time when you need to take responsibility, apologize and actively work to do something differently. But 99.2345762% of the time, it is not about you. I am not a sponge, soaking off society, I was never a sponge, I was never going to be a sponge. But that was something that was working to get what they wanted from me and about me, it was pushing me down and pushing me down, making me more depressed making me doubt myself, making me doubt the decisions I was making. I was very used to criticism. So criticism had eroded my confidence already. And my capacity to make decisions and things like that. So the number one rule, when you’re dealing with somebody who is denigrating who is undermining you who is turning the tables on you. I’ll explain that in a second, is that this is not about you. So when you get the text message, before you even read it, this is unlikely to be about me. When you read it, huh, this isn’t about me, this is about them. And laugh it off. Roll your eyes. What you do next in responding to that is a whole other podcast episode. But to start with, you just have to be telling yourself reminding yourself over and over and over. Like I said, in lipstick on the mirror, on sticky notes, on reminders on your phone, wherever you needs to be. This is not about me, not my monkeys, not my circus, very common theme. In my coaching, you hear it all the time, somebody will come to me and say this thing happened. They said this, they did that? And I will say you know the answer to this? What is the answer to this? And they will say, Ah, this is not about me. It’s not about you. It’s not your circus, because they’re not your monkeys. It is absolutely about them. So what do we do? And what do we tell ourselves to counteract that? We just have to think of one positive thing about ourselves. And that can be really, really hard. It’s one of the first things that we do in the coaching program is writing down five things that we like about our self or five ways that we think we are good parents, it is incredibly hard to do. We are so self-critical. And when when we are coming from relationships, or co-parenting relationships that have been critical and denigrating. It is really hard to think of five things that we are good at, that we like about ourselves, or that we take pride in our parenting about our brains are wired for the negative. Because if you smell a dinosaur, you need to know that that’s danger. Your brain remembers and associates negative things so much more easily. It’s like in Pretty Woman, what does she say? The horrible things are easier to believe. And we’re often surrounded by negativity, meanness, especially if we’ve come from relationships that were unhealthy. We’ve spent a lot of time in negativity in negative thinking even.
You know, we think about going out for dinner with our friends. And what do we talk about? We talk about how terrible the footy game was, what a terrible player he was this weekend. You know those mistakes the way they fumbled the ball. We go out for drinks with our friends and we talk about how terrible our workplace is or the problems in our relationships or the horrible thing that you know happened to our child. And then we do a little bit of bragging and we’re like, oh, you know, my son got student of the week or, you know, netball captain or whatever. But then we revert back to the negative talk. So we are surrounded by negativity. What is the news? It’s a rare news story for it to be a good news story. So our brains are conditioned to soak up the negative, we probably have lots of information that we could recite right now off the tip of our tongue about the pandemic, that’s negative. But far fewer things that we could think of off the top of our head that have contributed positively in the last 18 months. So there’s quite a lot going on here, both psychologically and practically. So again, what do we do to overcome this negativeness that invades our minds takes up space, in our heads, I talk about that we give space in our head? we have to remember the positive. When they say to you, you’re such a terrible parent, you need to know straight off the top of your head, three things that do not confirm that three things straight off the top of your head that you can go actually, that dinner I cooked last night was all about what my kids enjoy eating. I’m 100% on top of the washing hahaha, like that ever happens. But I’ve washed the clothes, I’ve folded the clothes, and they’re all in the wardrobes that makes me an excellent parent. Because these are practical ways that I’m caring for my children and showing them that I love them. And, you know, the third one could be anything I cuddled in bed until they fell asleep because that’s what they wanted. I read 500 stories last night because every time they said can we just have another one, read it again, read it again. I read it again until I was satisfied and happy. The cuddles that we had this morning, the kiss goodbye when I dropped them off at school, the sandwiches that I made or the pasta that I provided for lunch, or the snacks that I bought, because they’re the snacks that they enjoy. The fruit that I made them ate the veggies that I hid in their dinner. These are all examples of good, solid, beautiful loving parenting. And we need to remind ourselves of those things. Because this positive affirmation that we tell ourselves is the way that we overcome the negative criticisms that we’ve been buying into that are not about us. I really hope that that’s been helpful. Not a light topic at all. How do we talk to ourselves when our children’s other parent is telling us negative things or being critical and condescending. It’s not an easy thing to get over, you will not be able to just go Oh, magic wand that’s fixed. This is going to take some concerted, thoughtful effort. It’s about physical reminders, write it down so that when you’re reading the text message or listening to the voicemail or reading the email, it’s right there at the same eye level. Not my monkeys, not my circus. This is not about me, this is absolutely about them. And then the next step, something positive about me something that will overcome the negative stories I’ve been telling myself or been buying into because I’ve heard them for such a long time. A really common one is you’ll never find anyone as good as me. You’ll be alone forever. Nobody will ever have you. Of course, they will, if you choose for that to happen. Because we get control over that. We’re not just going to get into a relationship within next lap that offers us dinner. Its active participation in our own thoughts and our own life that enables us to overcome the negative criticisms that come from our children’s other parent. What are we going to talk about next time? We’re going to build on this theme and talk about perception. It’s a really, really interesting one, and it’s really quite involved again, because it’s not quite what you think it might be. So I look forward to having you around next time for Episode Four. Perception. See you then.
The Co-parenting Kids Podcast is brought to you by CHANGE. A program that takes your co-parenting from angst to harmony in just six weeks. If you’re co-parenting with someone who has difficult behaviors or narcissistic traits, this program will teach you practical strategies for disengaging from the drama and being able to live your own life. Find out more at change.coparentingkids.com.au