My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
Most victims of abuse commit a serious error. They attempt to present to their children a balanced picture of their relationship and of the abusive ex-spouse.
In a vain attempt to avoid the notorious and controversial parental alienation syndrome, these victims do not besmirch the abusive parent, and on the contrary, they encourage a semblance of a normal, functional liaison.
This is absolutely the wrong approach. It is not only counterproductive, it sometimes proves outright dangerous.
Children have a right to know the overall state of affairs between their parents. They have a right not to be cheated, and not to be deluded into thinking that everything is basically okay, or that the separation is reversible. Both parents are under a moral obligation to tell their offspring the truth. Their relationship is over for good, and there is a guilty party.
Younger kids tend to believe that they are somehow responsible or guilty for the breakdown of the marriage. They must be disabused of this notion. Both parents would do best to explain to them, in straightforward terms, what led to the dissolution of the bond.
If spousal abuse is wholly or partly to blame, it should be brought out to the open and discussed honestly with the children. In such conversations it is best not to allocate blame.
But this does not mean that wrong behaviors should be condoned or whitewashed. The victimized parent should tell the child that abusive conduct is wrong and must be avoided. The child should be taught how to identify warning signs of impending abuse, sexual, verbal, psychological and physical.
Moreover, a responsible parent should teach the child how to resist inappropriate and hurtful actions. The child should be brought up to insist on being respected by the other parent, on having him or her observe the child's boundaries and accept the child's needs and emotions, choices and preferences. The child should learn, in other words, to say no and to walk away from potentially compromising situations with the abusive parent.
The child should be brought up not to feel guilty for protecting himself or herself and for demanding his or her rights.
Remember, an abusive parent is dangerous to the child.