My husband was granted primary joint custody of his 13 year old son in February from mom. Ever since court his mom seems to be working against us in an effort to change his mind. The child wanted to come live with dad because of a more stable home. Mom seems to be filling his head with things that have happened in the past and even before he was born of disagreements etc with her and her family. She puts things in his head against me also. It is like every time he goes and spends time with his mom – he is faced with her telling him things against his dad and I. When he comes back home— if it is something that is bothering him he usually shares with his dad and his dad explains what happened. It is like the saying --It is like we take two steps forward with him and when he goes home - three steps back. But in my opinion – if it happened in the past —it should stay in the past and in this case before he was even born…why is she telling him this. But we feel that she is trying to turn him against us and so he will decide that he wants to go back and live with her is what I think she is trying to do. It keeps him confused all the time.
This happens quite a bit more than you would think and most especially when a step parent is involved.
My advice to you and your husband is that he should not respond to these comments, except to say that he will not discuss it. He needs to let his ex know that some of the things that she is telling are inappropriate for a child to know about and are in reality none of his business. The things that happened to cause the demise of their marriage should never be told to the children but more often than not, one parent believes that it will win them the child’s favor. What most parents fail to realize is that just because they are not still with the other parent and no longer loves the other parent, does not mean that the child’s feelings have changed. That child will ALWAYS love their mother and father. There is no force on earth to change the fact that the child has one mother and one father. Though they may have room in their lives for other “parents”, their biological parents will remain the same. They should never be put into the position to choose.
You husband should explain what he feels comfortable explaining but if there is something brought up that is inappropriate for the child to hear or is going to confuse or upset the child more, tell him simply that he does not need to worry about it and that when he is older, if he still wants to know, you may discuss it then. He has the right to tell his mother that he does not want to know about things that happened. He has the right to love both parents and to spend time with both parents. Things that happened prior to his birth or even last week can not be changed. You can only work with what you have right now…today…and the decisions and actions of the moment. Everything else wastes energy holding on to and carrying it around. If his ex wants to burden herself in that manner, that is her business, but she has no right to put that on a child who’s only doing what is natural, loving their parents. Children do not care who did what way back when…they don’t understand adult decisions.
Until your husband “puts his foot down” and makes a stand on this, it’s likely to keep happening. He needs to make sure the child knows that he can tell you two anything that’s bothering him, but when he does, make sure that the appropriate discussion follows. It’s alright to tell the child that his father made decisions based on what he thinks is best and that is all that needs to be said. If the mother persists in badmouthing you both he should address her directly and ask that she do the same instead of through the child. If she is discussing issues with other members of her family, the child needs to know that that person is family and he has a right to love them if he chooses.
My stepsons went through a similar situation when their grandmother divorced her 3rd husband, the only grandfather they had known. They talked bad about him, but I made sure to remind them that he had loved them and treated them well. Their grandmother’s feelings towards him had nothing to do with them.
You have to keep in mind that the child should never have to choose between parents and eventually, the child will realize which one is forcing the choice.