My ex keeps showing up at dinner time and it’s confusing the kids. We separated 5 months ago and he’s here at least 3 nights a week – always on the nights he doesn’t have them. How do I tell him to eat at home? This should be my time with my kids
– Example Name
Dear No Longer His Cook,
Setting boundaries when relationship splits occur are always tough. No matter what is behind the behavior, wanting to see the kids, getting a free meal, or possibly wanting to spend time with you, this behavior crosses a line. It is disrespectful. Keep in mind that how you manage this effects the kids. Always put them first. That means not letting them see that you are upset with their father. In that same regard, speak with him one-on-one and away from the kids to talk about expectations going forward.
My first suggestion is simply to buy you time to have that personal conversation. The goal is to deter him the next time he shows up. Here are four ways to say NO:
- A good excuse, offered with an apology might be, “I’m so sorry. I only have enough for me and the kids.”
- Plan a picnic for dinner. Pack it up and either be gone before he shows up, or around the time he typically shows up. “We’re off on a picnic, got to go.”
- A slyer approach is to make meals that he doesn’t like!
- Plan a meal with friends or family at one of their homes.
These ideas alone, one after another may get the message across. Don’t count on it. You will need to communicate directly and set expectations going forward. Remember the 5 F’s for communicating in important relationships.
- Fair – Appeal to his sense of fair play. Explain that you want the kids to have a close and loving relationship with him. That needs to be nurtured, and it’s something that you can’t be a part of, except to encourage it.
- Friendly – This isn’t about him, it’s about your time, your relationships with the kids. That also needs to be nurtured.
- Factual – This is your time. The dinner you prepare is for the kids. It takes time and money. He needs to manage his meals and let you enjoy the meals you make with the kids on your own.
- Frank – Be specific. Set the expectation. He should only come to dinner at your home when he is invited.
- Focused – Don’t get dragged into old discussions, keep this conversation focused on just this issue.
Good luck. I hope your conversation goes well. You have a right to spend time alone with your kids, and the right to not have to feed your ex.