Within the past 3 months I was granted Primary Physical custody of my two children ages almost 12 and 9. My x is in a very unstable relation ship with her exboyfriend but still lives with him b/c she has no where else to go. My x’s on again off again boyfriend has started being very rude to the children and they feel extremely unconfortable at his house. Tonight I told my oldest child she was to ride carpool tomorrow b/c her mother was picking her up and she broke down sobbing and said she didn’t want to go back to that house and she didn’t care to see her mom if she was going to keep them going back to that house. I spoke with her then she went to bed and her younger brother came downstairs and said his sister was in the bathroom crying again. WHAT CAN I DO??? I can’t let her not go, can I? I tried to speak with my x about this a few days ago and she wouldn’t hear it and she says that all is fine and the kids are happy and that she would speak with them when they went back to her on Thursday. They truly don’t want to go back. Is there anything I can do? Please help!
I will share some knowledge that I have gained over the last several years. My husband has two boys from his previous marriage and being a stepparent I can tell you that the any adult in a relationship, whether it’s with the father or mother, should understand that the children are going through and have gone through a very traumatic experience. Everything that they knew is now different and though they are more resilient than we sometimes give them credit for, they are still children. They do not understand and all they want is for their parents to get back together. My stepsons are 11 & 14 now.
In your situation, if this is her ex boyfriend and you have primary physical custody, you can set some ground rules down. For example; you can’t keep the children from visitations because that would go against a court order, but you can let your ex know that the night she has the children needs to be dedicated to them. While being rude or mean to your children is not illegal it’s not a character trait that is desirable. You need to speak with your ex and the boyfriend. Let them know that if they are making the children’s lives more difficult than they already are, you will limit the time that is spent during visitations. Let them know that you do not care about their situation or their arrangement. The children and their well being are your only concern. Do not let them take it lightly. Do not let them brush it off. Make sure that they understand that you will exercise your rights to look out for their best interest and you should suggest that they begin doing the same. If the ex boyfriend is the only factor, then your ex needs to make it clear that the children come first and if that’s not acceptable, find other arrangements for the night that they are with her. Maybe she could stay somewhere else with the children that night…?
That being said, you also need to keep in mind what I said at the beginning. Children do not understand and they want their parents together. Anything that they find wrong with anyone you date or their mother dates will be exaggerated. Anything that is said or done may be told to the other parent and even exaggerated. No parent wants to believe that their child is capable of manipulating the situation but almost every child learns to do this. They are able to do this because most parents do not communicate everything.
My husband’s ex has called screaming and yelling many times in the past because of things that the boys told her I have said to them. Yet, my husband has never once called when they tell him that her boyfriend punishes them. This went on for years before my husband finally pointed it out to her during one of her rants. She never realized that she was forcing a double standard. She assumed that we didn’t know her boyfriend punished them so it was alright to call and say I had no right to reprimand them for anything. My stepsons have broken down at both homes and told both their mother and their father that they never wanted to go to the other’s home again. They can sense that even though you say you don’t want them to “pick” you, it still makes you feel good when they do. I’ve seen my husband’s face and heard his voice change whenever the boys say something about their mother or not wanting to go to her house.
It’s instictual and it’s natural for you to want your children to be want to be with you. You have to train yourself to not react to this except to say that she is their mother and they deserve to visit with her. Don’t make it about her, make it about them. It’s not that she has the right to see them, this is because they have the right to see her.
They do not understand that you are always going to be their father and nothing will change that. They do not understand that not everyone likes children or that everyone will always have their best interest at heart. They do not understand that sometimes, people are just plain mean and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Not being comfortable around someone is going to happen no matter what age we are and it’s your job to give them the skills to handle the situation. If he’s being unkind, make sure that they first do not believe anything he said negative about them, you or their mother, and two that they understand he’s lashing out because he’s not a happy person. “Misery loves company” is not just a saying…You need to make sure that they always know how to get in touch with you and that they know they can always call you if things get out of hand but that this is the situation now and though it is not permanent, they need to deal with it. They do not need to be taught that they can run from difficult situations or they will never stop running.
You can attempt to make the situation better with the adults, but there’s only so much you can do. If these things continue, it may be a good idea to take your daughter to a counselor. Maybe it’s more than just this situation…maybe it’s being 12-13 year old girl and that comes with drama…maybe there’s something going on at school or she’s being picked on so this on top of it just compounds the effect.
Most of all, make sure that whatever you do is for the children’s best interest and not because of any harsh feelings you may have towards your ex. I will keep you in my thoughts.
Hey stepmother! So glad to see you posting again!