Editor’s Note: In this article, Rosalind Sedacca addresses one of the questions we hear most often from parents – What do I do when the other parent treats the kids different than I do. Whether it is financial issues or concerns over discipline, you need to be prepared to answer these types of questions if you work with children from disrupted homes.
As a Divorce & Parenting Coach I continually get asked questions from concerned parents. One of the questions recently sent to me focused on an issue that many divorced parents face with mounting frustration. It had to do with this woman’s ex-husband treating the children to lavish gifts and trips when he has them, while Mom is struggling financially. She added that she is aware that she shouldn’t say anything negative to her children about her ex, but she was finding it difficult in the face of her circumstances. The question, of course, was what can she do about this?
It’s impossible to provide a specific answer when the so many of the circumstances are unknown in this situation. How often is Dad seeing the children? What kind of relationship does he have with them when he is not there? Is he angry about not sharing custody? Is he resentful towards Mom regarding other issues? Is he aware that she is struggling financially? Does he care? Is he trying to show her up and influence the children away from her? Or is he oblivious that his behavior is creating an issue for her? Is he aware that he may be spoiling the children? Does he think he’s being a wonderful Dad?
I’m sure you’ve thought of several other questions that are relevant to this situation. In so many cases there are no black and white answers to these types of problems – and certainly no simple solutions. It’s all about shades of grey, trying to find a common ground, a means of communicating your feelings and concerns in a way that doesn’t put the other person on the defensive, making them wrong and therefore no longer interested in a dialogue.