My mom and dad are divorced and have been since I was little. But my dad still talks bad about my mom and my mom still talks bad about my dad. They try not to but I feel like its happening more now that Im in high school. They know I can handle it but I don’t really want to cuz I always feel like I have to take sides or go along with it which feels wrong. How do I get them to stop without hurting their feelings cuz Im close to both of them?
-Stuck in the Middle
Dear Stuck in the Middle,
Being close to both of your parents shouldn’t involve you feeling like you have to take sides. Just because you can handle it doesn’t mean it’s okay. I don’t care if you’re 15 or 50, it will never be a okay because they’re your parents.
That being said, sometimes parents don’t realize how much those comments or conversations are affecting you, especially if you’re not saying anything. So, find time to sit down and talk with them (obviously on separate occasions). Do it when nothing else is going on so that you’re clear headed and calm. Tell them that you really appreciate how close you’ve gotten, but that you feel uncomfortable when the other parent is talked about in negative way. Explain that it puts you in an awkward position and that that’s probably not what they’ve intended, but that’s how you feel. Hopefully, they will understand where you’re coming from. It may be hard for them to hear, but if you’re respectful about it, then they will get that you needed to say it. If it continues, tell your dad or mom how you’re feeling right when it happens and ask him/her not to talk about that with you. Leave the room if you need to so that you are breaking that bad routine.
I had a friend whose dad always complained about her mom to her. She finally told him how it made her feel. He was surprised and apologized, but started doing it again a couple weeks later. She addressed it right then, but he said she was making a big deal out of nothing and that she was old enough to handle it. She told him it would always bother her and that even though she was old enough, he was still her father so they needed to have boundaries. She said if things were really still bothering him about her mother, that he should address it with her, vent to his friends or see a counselor. He got upset, but she knew she had to be firm with him or it would keep happening. Your situation may not get to this level, and I definitely hope it doesn’t, but I thought I’d mention it since it illustrates my point.
Sometimes you have to be direct and stand your ground so that you aren’t continually put in the middle. It sounds like you have strong bonds with both of your parents, so have faith in that and tell both of them before you bottle up so many instances of this that you explode.