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MomTalk.com December 15, 2017:   The women's magazine for moms about children, family, health, home, fashion, careers, marriage & more


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Difficult Divorces Hurt Kids: Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids

By Sylvia Rimm

Q. My 4-year-old son is going through a hard time. His father left a year ago, resulting in our losing our apartment. We moved from place to place while I worked on getting us back on our feet. After three months, his father wanted to start visitations.

At first, everything was going well, but then his girlfriend demanded he see her kids on a weekend when my son was supposed to visit, decreasing visitation to once a month. His father moved out of state and now only calls once a month.

By Sylvia Rimm

Q. My 4-year-old son is going through a hard time. His father left a year ago, resulting in our losing our apartment. We moved from place to place while I worked on getting us back on our feet. After three months, his father wanted to start visitations.

At first, everything was going well, but then his girlfriend demanded he see her kids on a weekend when my son was supposed to visit, decreasing visitation to once a month. His father moved out of state and now only calls once a month. When my son asks his dad when he's coming back, his father says he doesn't know but he had to leave because Mommy wouldn't let him come back home.

I've started to intentionally miss phone calls and turn off my answering machine because of how my son acts after his calls. He won't listen to me, tells me he hates me, tears up his toys and becomes very disrespectful. By court order, I have to allow my husband contact on a weekly basis with no down-talking or blaming the other parent. Clearly my ex isn't following the court-ordered plan, but if I completely deny him his son, my former in-laws are ready to fight me for him. They are friends with the presiding judge. If they filed for custody, the judge has guaranteed that he would give them custody because he thinks I'm unfit based on my ex-mother-in-law's gossip.

My son asks for my boyfriend continuously after he talks with his dad, but we've barely been dating three months, and it isn't fair to expect my new boyfriend to want to be his daddy. What can I do?

A. It appears you have no choice about contact, so it will only make things worse if you intentionally miss phone calls. It's best to clarify simply to your son that you're doing nothing to prevent his dad from visiting, and don't say anything negative about your ex within your son's hearing.

It's difficult for single mothers to manage a family and work as well, but it helps to be proactively positive by planning fun activities, regular meals and bedtime. The other responsibility is to be firm and strong so that your son feels secure. Your son may be acting out so much because he senses you're vulnerable, as he is because he misses his dad. It's hard to feel in charge when so much of your life feels out of control, but your son will benefit if you can stay strong and resilient.

You'll want to explain to your son that your new friend is only a friend. While he may wish to include your son in activities once in a while, you don't want to lead your son to believe that this man will be his stepfather. That would only cause additional feelings of rejection if your relationship doesn't work out.

If your former husband gradually distances himself from your son, your son may become stronger and more accustomed to handling living only with his mom, at least until you remarry, in which case there could be a good stepfather. Don't interpret that as advice to quickly remarry. It won't help your son to have a stepfather who doesn't turn out to be a permanent and secure relation.

Finally, while it's more difficult to raise a son as a single mother, many devoted mothers have been very successful. Since for now this is your only alternative, believe in yourself and bring your best to parenting your son. Someday he'll appreciate what your love and strength have accomplished for him.


Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com.
COPYRIGHT 2006 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.



Categories: Family,


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