What can you do about an ex-husband brainwashing the children to believe the divorce was your fault?
We both took the high road; however my sons, now in their twenties, do realize what the issue was with their father. As the first entry states: children are smart.
If your husband has court mandated custody of visitation, there is little you can do legally.
Your son is likely to encounter narcissists in his future. In a way, he will be better prepared to cope with them, more alert to their existence and chicanery and more desensitized to their abuse.
For this you should be grateful.
There is nothing much you can do, otherwise. Stop wasting your money, time, energy and emotional resources on this intractable "problem" of how to insulate your son from his father's influence. It is a lost war, though a just cause. Instead, make yourself available to your son.
The only thing you can do to prevent your son from emulating his father - is to present to him another role model of a NON-narcissist - YOU. Hopefully, when he grows up, he will prefer your model to his father's. But there is only that much you can do. You cannot control the developmental path of your son. Exerting unlimited control over your son is what narcissism is all about - and is exactly what you should avoid at all costs, however worried you might be.
Narcissism does tend to breed Narcissism - but not inevitably. Not all the off-spring of a narcissist inexorably become narcissists.
The Narcissistic parent regards his or her child as a multi-faceted source of Narcissistic supply. The child is considered and treated as an extension of the Narcissist's personality. It is through the child that the Narcissist seeks to settle "open accounts" with the world. The child is supposed to materialize the unfulfilled Narcissistic dreams and fantasies of the Narcissistic parent. This "Life by Proxy" can develop in two possible ways: the Narcissist can either merge with his child or be ambivalent towards him. The ambivalence is the result of a conflict between the attainment of Narcissistic goals and pathological (destructive) envy.
To ameliorate the unease bred by emotional ambivalence, the Narcissist resorts to a myriad of control mechanisms. The latter can be grouped into: guilt-driven ("I sacrificed my life for you�"), dependence-driven ("I need you, I cannot cope without you�"), goal-driven ("We have a common goal which we must achieve") and explicit ("If you do not adhere to my principles, beliefs, ideology, religion or any other set of values � sanctions will be imposed").
The exercise of control helps to sustain the illusion that the child is a part of the Narcissist. Such sustenance calls for extraordinary levels of control (on the part of the parent) and obedience (on the part of the child). The relationship is typically symbiotic and emotionally vicissitudinal and turbulent.
The child fulfils another important Narcissistic function � that of Narcissistic supply. There is no denying the implied (though imaginary) immortality in having a child. The early (natural) dependence of the child serves to assuage the fear of abandonment, which is THE driving force in the Narcissist's life. The Narcissist tries to perpetuate this dependence, using the aforementioned control mechanisms. The child is the penultimate Secondary Narcissistic Source of Supply. He is present, he admires, he accumulates and remembers, owing to his wish to be loved he can be extorted into forever giving. For the Narcissist, a child is a dream come true, but only in the most egotistical sense. When the child is perceived as "reneging" on his chief duty (to provide his Narcissistic parent with constant supply of adoration) � the emotional reaction is harsh and revealing.
It is when the Narcissistic parent is disenchanted with his child that we see the true nature of this pathological relationship. The child is totally objectified. The Narcissist reacts to a breach in the unwritten contract with wells of aggression and aggressive transformations: contempt, rage, emotional and psychological abuse, and even physical violence. He tries to annihilate the real child (brought to the Narcissist's awareness through the child's refusal to act as before) and substitute it with the subservient, edifying, former version.
The Narcissistic parent tends to produce another Narcissist in his child. But this outcome can be effectively countered by loving, empathic, predictable, just, and positive upbringing which encourages a sense of autonomy and responsibility. Provide your child with an alternative to his father's venomous and exploitative existence. Trust your son to choose life over death, love over narcissism, human relations over narcissistic supply.
It's such a tradgedy that children are the "casualty" of divorce. Do you think it matters to the children who's fault it was? A divorce is between a Husband and Wife not a Mother and Father. Children need a Mother and Father that can show them that they love them unconditionally. That means hanging up the phone if an argument is starting up. That means being aware if the kids are around when saying things that might affect them. They need to feel safe when they are at Mom's home as well as their Dad's. Here is what I have told my children. (Please believe me it has been very, very, difficult not to dump on them about my feelings pertaining to the divorce.)
And yes... I am their Father. I tell them that "I will always care for your mom because she is the Mother of my children and you are very special. Hey, when they get older they will be able to figure things out. Put your children not the divorce as your first priority otherwise it will make little adults out of them and they think they have to solve all the problems. Because somehow they think the divorce was maybe their fault. I'm recently divorced ( 3 years ) with kids. We can help each other to cope with our losses. Especially the things that happen that we could never have imagined or forseen. Thanks for the question. It has helped me to be able to try and help someone else.
There's nothing you can do about the husband. Even if a judge tells him not to do this, it will not stop. 1.) Let your character and integrity speak to your children in the way you live your life without becoming just another voice of blame in their ears. They will make the comparison for themselves and evaluate what they are hearing and seeing by that example. 2.) Explain to them that human beings have a tendency to vent frustration when things are not going well. Ask them if they know of children at school who have been friends, then had a fight which was followed by one or the other creating stories to discredit the former friend. Ask them what the results were of that slander. Let them see what they are involved in, from their own level of experience. Let them know that, while this is not productive behavior, it is a form of expressing fear. The father is in fear that if the children blame him, he may lose their love. While this is not true, the father is acting with anger toward the mother because of his fear of losing more than just the marriage. Ask the children if they understand this is just a phase of the separation and that it will, probably, eventually stop. They should be patient, understanding and, above all, insightful about what is actually happening. Tell them you regret they are being caught in the middle, but assure them you have every confidence they will learn from the experience to be more observant for themselves, instead of taking "venting" as the truth it is presented to be. Stress to them this is their opportunity to learn better ways by observation that there are better ways to handle that fear of loss and abandonment. Let them know that, while their father's behavior is regrettable, he is still their father, but they need to recognize what behavior is appropriate and what is unfortunate. Tell them this is their opportunity to learn by observance; to define more closely what they feel their own behavior would be under similar circumstances. If the story of the divorce can be explained to the children in terms they can understand from their own level...such as their relationships with other children...give them a brief overview of why the situation was not beneficial for anyone involved and how the divorce has curtailed a situation which was not helpful. Let them know you regret it was necessary, but it was your belief that the present circumstances are much less devastating than if the marriage situation had continued. A parent must know their children in order to design the format of this conversation. Never, never use the same behavior as the parent who is willing to sacrifice the child's tenuous security for his own intent to use them in his vindictive behavior to the other parent. The most important consideration is not what the other parent is doing, but the child's ability to feel as much security as possible in a difficult situation. You must be the parent who provides that clarity in the face of chaos...and hope the other parent will come to his senses...but don't count on it. The children are more important than the post-marital malice.
My ex- and I split when my children were very young;I took the high road, did not bad mouth him whatsoever,even though he brainwashed them about me. After two years, we reconciled, then he had an affair and actually moved in with the woman, in another town. By that time, I thought the children were big enough to know the truth, so I told them "your dad will always be your dad, but he is going to live with another woman." Their dad told them I was lying and did not return to his affair. Guess who the children believed? Later, when we split and I began dating, he told them I was neglecting them.
In hindsight, the problem with "taking the high road" with some personalities (particularly narsisstic ones) is that they exploit your sheltering your children, your kindness, honesty and good character. In my case, my children grew to see these noble traits as character flaws, and their continued exploitation was proof that I was weak and gullible. They watched me be victimized and did not trust me that things would turn out ok.
My children are now teens; I wish I had known that the impact would be far too much for me to handle alone. I wish I had gotten - and stayed with- COMPETENT counseling for them and myself. I recommend it for you. Some things become too big to fight on your own. Don't wait until it is too late.
Let it go. Kids are smart.
Isn't the one asking this question trying to brainwash their children that the divorce was the other person's fault?
"Solving" this problem is the same as the problem itself.
The divorce was not the other person's fault. Both parties failed. If the one asking could understand that, there would probably be no divorce in the first place, though, now would there.