What is leaking? Leaking is a term coined by Dr. Patricia Papernow, step-family and post-divorce expert, which describes what parents do and say to blame and/or undermine the other parent in the presence of their children. In my practice, I hear examples of leaking from many parents contemplating a divorce.
Parents attempt to justify this toxic behavior of leaking with hard evidence that what they are saying is true or they use it as a retaliation of the other parent’s behavior.
Often, the leaking behavior is a result of the history of conflict, betrayal and hurt each other has caused. Parents who are in significant emotional distress over the fear of losing their marriage, also fear the loss of their children and may advertently or inadvertently use leaking tactics to secure the closeness of their relationship.
Leaking can occur at any time during conflict between parents.
Parents are most susceptible when they are experiencing overwhelming emotions and often are unaware of their toxic behaviors. Although leaking can sound subtle and not intended to be harmful, it can have a lasting negative impact on your children and their relationship with the other parent.
Below are a few common examples of the leaking behavior. Use these to increase your awareness in an effort to stop.
- “I can’t afford to buy your favorite toy. Your mom/dad hasn’t given me any money this month.”
- “I wish I could spend more time with you, but your mom/dad won’t let me.”
- “Your mom/dad made the decision to separate our family.”
- “If your mom/dad loved you and our family, they would stop drinking.”
- “Your mom/dad is so difficult to deal with. Their anger is out of control.”
If you find yourself or the other parent using these or similar comments, now is the time to take ownership of the part you play in leaking. Part 2 of this blog will discuss in further detail the negative impact leaking can have on your children’s emotional wellbeing. It will also provide examples of protective ways to avoid leaking behaviors. Therapy can also be a valuable resource to assist parents with healthy co-parenting and emotion regulation skills during this difficult time.
Written By: Porsha Jones, LMFT