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Parenting Corner: Kids should feel free to talk with either parent set PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jan Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe   

Q: My ex-husband says that our 7-year-old daughter talks about me too much when she is with him and his girlfriend, and it makes them uncomfortable. She talks about them a lot when she is with me also, but I think that is normal and it does not bother me. They plan on talking to her about not talking about me so much. I don't think that is a good idea. What do you think?

A: We don't think it's a good idea, either — and it will most likely backfire. She may feel as if she can't say anything about you in front of them, or about them in front of you. A child should feel comfortable talking about anything she wants — we can't think of a situation when a discussion about life with her other parent should be off-limits.

Your ex and his new girlfriend seem to be operating from what we call "old-school divorce principles," referring to old-fashioned custody agreements when sole custody went to Mom, and Dad saw the kids on the weekends. They may mistakenly think that now that they are together, their life will be completely separate from yours. They approach new custody agreements, such as the one you have where the child goes back and forth between her parents' homes, with old custody attitudes.

You can have separate lives when sole custody goes to one parent; but if you are sharing custody and the kids are going back and forth, no matter what percentage of their time you have agreed to share, you will interact on some level with the ex and the ex's new partner. Those who co-parent must accept that their kids have two homes, neither more important than the other. The fact that the child is talking about things that happen at the other home means the parents are doing something right — not that the child is doing something wrong. The child is talking about her life. Listen.

Remember: The first rule of good ex-etiquette is to put the kids first.

Don't impose your personal insecurities on the children in your care. Divorced parents and their new partners need to look past their own "stuff" and consider what is best for the child.

In our opinion, it's saying absolutely nothing and responding as positively as you can when a child you love talks about someone she loves.

Sounds as if she's doing the best she can to be part of two families. Help her to be a success.

 



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