Q: My ex tells our daughter's teacher, doctor and her friends' parents things that aren't true about me. How and at what point should I defend myself against these false characterizations?
A: If you are a regular reader here, you likely already know about this resource: an attorney and social worker named Bill Eddy has written a great deal of really helpful material about this topic - many good books, and lots of free articles online at:
As far as when and how to correct misinformation, I do think it is necessary to set the record straight, and how you do so is important. You'll want to keep it neutral, brief, and fact-based, with no counter accusations.
For example, if it comes to your attention that your ex has told your daughter's teacher that you never help her with her homework, you might reach out to the teacher by email and say something like:
Hello! I just wanted to introduce myself and thank you for expanding Suzy's horizons this year. I'm Suzy's father, Sam, and unfortunately after a somewhat difficult divorce she's only at my home a few evenings a month. Nevertheless I want to support her education by helping her with her homework.
I typically read aloud to her every night at bedtime, and have asked for book recommendations from the children's librarian at the public library. I would also appreciate your input about any titles that would be a good supplement to what she's learning in class, as well as any other tips or suggestions you can share for supporting her at home to do well in school.
Thank you, and please feel free to contact me at any time with suggestions or to discuss any issues that might arise with Suzy. I can be reached at xxx.xxx.xxxx or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This same formula can be used with other professionals. The key here is that you don't mention the other parent's accusations, and instead you allow your character, integrity, and actions to represent you. Rest assured that these factors are much more influential and credible than the opinions that your ex might be oversharing.
Don't let fear or desperation turn you into something you are not by taking you down to the level of defending or counter-accusing - stay clear and respectful and above the fray.
Note that it's best to make these contacts in writing and save a copy, in case you ever need verification that you have done so.
For more information about Karen's parenting or interpersonal communication consultations by phone, visit www.karenalonge.com