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Tammy Daughtry, Founder, CoParenting International

Parents often ask “what is the one thing that you would recommend I do different?” and although there are several critical concerns I have for coparents, I would have to sum it up to what I have termed as The “I” Factor.

When a child hears words about their other parent that are negative, it sears the soul deeply and hurts in a way human words almost cannot express. What may seem like half hearted slander to an adult is heard and felt by a child like a knife to the heart. For example, when a child hears their mother say negative words about her father, what she “feels” when she hears them is as if the parent said them directly towards and about her. If mom says, “Your father is so unreliable and he cannot be trusted,” what the child hears and ‘feels’ is “I am not reliable and I cannot be trusted.” If a father says to his son, “Your mother is such an emotional wreck! She is crazy and is so hard to deal with!” the son will hear and ‘feel’ like “I am an emotional wreck! I am crazy and I am hard to deal with.”

I realize, as an adult, this does not make logical sense; however, the way a child hears and internalizes these words create feelings of great pain and wounding that can last a lifetime. The old phrase of ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me’ is so far from the truth! Often words can be more damaging to a person’s heart and soul than any physical encounter; words create wounds and some wounds never heal.

The “I” Factor reveals that whatever words a parent says about the other parent are going to be felt deeply and therefore, if parents can intentionally find positive words to say about the other parent it can have an incredibly positive impact, instead of negative. Children know that they come from two parents, that they are “part” of each of them; all children identify themselves with their parents, both physically and emotionally.

I encourage parents to find two or three things that they can continually point out to their children that are positive and life-giving about their other parent. The ability to do this on a consistent basis will do wonders for the child and for his/her ability to find good in others and point it out. When there have been painful reasons for a divorce, this can be difficult to do; just remember this is a gift to your child and your child will be stable and whole by doing this.

I often try to say words to my daughter about her dad that are specific and positive; for example I tell her, “Your daddy is such a great song writer and singer! He was always good at playing guitar and putting stories to music. You should be proud of him. He wrote many special songs that really make people feel happy.” These are true statements and I can help my daughter celebrate her father’s musical gifts. These words are a gift to her! I know the joy it gives her to hear words about her father that are positive and this creates a process inside of her soul that builds her up, increases her self-confidence and again, give her the foundation of knowing she has a father to be proud of.

To sum this topic up, never ever speak ill of the other parent – remember the truth of the “I” Factor and be aware of every single word that is said about the other parent, both when speaking to the child(ren) or even within the hearing distance of the child(ren). Damaging words shared with another adult (about the child’s other parent) can also be very painful to the child’s heart, even when they are just overheard. Parents must be incredibly careful about what they say, when they say it and to whom they say it.

I realize that every parent who has gone through a divorce has got to talk about the pain of the divorce, the disappointments of the situation, the confusion and the concerns they have. The important part of this equation, however, is “who” they talk to about these issues. Parents often reveal information and share thoughts with their children that are completely inappropriate (especially when the children are teenagers and young adults). Parents make the mistake of confiding in their children as one would confide in a best friend or a counselor. Please do not do this! Let your children be children and make the intentional choice to only say positive words and life-giving words about their other parent. Author Jen Abbas, in Generation Ex, sums this up: “Tell us good things about our other parent. We have a right to love you both. Talk to a friend or counselor or pastor about the things that drive you crazy about our other parent. Don’t tell us. We need to know the good stuff.”

Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, that you and your descendants might live! Choose to love the Lord your God and to obey Him and commit yourself to Him, for He is your life.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Choose words of life! Choose words of blessing! The long-term effects of remembering the “I” Factor will reap lifelong benefits to your children as they grow up between two homes. This is an amazing foundation that will give them stability and wholeness as they come and go between parents. You have the choice – between life and death, blessings and curses. Please choose life, that you and your children might LIVE!!!