Before our separation, my ex and I kept the kids on a pretty good schedule. Same bedtime most nights, limited junk food. No R rated movies. If feels like she’s thrown all that out the window. There are also certain shows that I don’t let them watch, even though they are rated PG.
The kids are sharing with me the new things they are allowed to do, as well as telling me their mom is telling them that my rules don’t apply at her house. I don’t think this is good for the kids. How do I talk to her about it?
– Their Mom is Breaking All the Rules
Dear Their Mom is Breaking all the Rules,
This is a delicate subject to broach with your ex. Your letter indicates some underlying tension or resentment coming from your ex. Perhaps she is trying to reclaim her independence and never really agreed with the rules that were previously set. Meeting with her one on one, to discuss how you co-parent going forward is needed. The approach must be a positive one, full of respect for her and her thoughts about what the rules should be. I found a great article that goes into more detail about 6 words/phrases that are seeded in respect and acknowledgement of each other as equals in co-parenting. They are:
• Please and Thank You
• Still a Family
• Our Children
• My Co-Parent
• Mistakes Happen
• Let Me Think About That
Click here for the complete article.
Focus the conversation on what is best for the kids. This isn’t just opinions, it’s talking about the goals you have for your children, the traits you want to instill, the experiences you want to supply and the quality of life you want to provide. Basing your conversation in the hopes you both have for your children, will influence the “rules” or guidelines you administer together. You can also talk about parenting styles and how you can best merge your styles to give your kids a sense of security, and the feeling that you are still a family.
You are both needed by your kids. You will not always see eye to eye. By respecting each other, having co-parenting goals, and working together to provide clarity and clear, joint communication you will give your kids stability and consistent messaging. If the two of you have issues working together, seek the help of a trained family therapist. Hopefully your Ex will agree to participate. If not, go anyway. They can help you and help your kids to manage the mixed messages your kids are receiving. Consider also, that your kids may benefit from participating in family therapy as well.
I hope for you, your kids, and your ex, that you find a path to being a supportive, connected family. The most amazing love and support is from parents who can balance their needs against their children’s needs, and put their children’s needs first when it really counts.