Many people seek out DivorceForce contributor Abby King for her sound and honest advice regarding divorce. This month on Divorce Dish, Abby shares her recent conversations with advice seekers and their need to know “How to Deal with the Ex.”
My ex and I have been separated for over a year and have three kids, ages 8, 11 and 13. When they come home to me they’re exhausted and tell me how late they’re allowed to stay up at their dad’s. He doesn’t bother to get up and put them to bed so they just hang out till they crash. How can I get my ex to put them to bed at a decent time?
First, you cannot take what your kids say as 100% fact. Even honest adolescents stretch and bend the truth to their benefit at times. They’ve likely picked up on your (negative) reaction to them staying up late, so now may instinctually sway the blame more on their dad than on themselves. While you may have equal say in large matters of health, education, and religion, you cannot control the daily activities in his home. What they eat, when they eat, TV time and bedtime are all out of your hands when your kids are out of your house. Start by providing your ex with information free from personal commentary; a true sign someone has enough rest is that they wake up naturally. If they need to be woken out of a deep sleep up every morning they can benefit from more shuteye. Follow up by requesting that your ex take note of how your kids wake up. And then, as far as your ex, that’s it. Finish with your kids. Tell them why sleep is vital and the signs that indicate that they need more z’s. Encourage them to be proactive about their health and to go to bed when they should, even when no one is forcing them. And then, as far as your kids, that’s it. Kids are kids and kids like to stay up late. Do what you can when they’re with you and hope for the best.
My Ex Won’t Go Away!
My ex is so annoying, we split custody and she emails me often about our kids. I keep telling her that my time with the kids is my time and to stay out of it. But she keeps emailing me. Help!
I get your frustration; you’re free of your ex, why can’t she just go away silently? That’s impossible when you divorce and have kids, especially if you split custody. People handle custody schedules differently; some enjoy the time off and are happy to be hands off. Others merely deal with a situation they abhor. Regardless, a parent is a parent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week no matter where their child is sleeping. When it comes to basic parenting (bedtime, meals, can your son go to school without a winter coat), those decisions should remain the charge of the adult in charge. But, when it comes to bigger issues: academic progress and behavior in school, when to get your daughter a cell phone or car, matters of safety, (leaving the kids home alone or letting your child out with friends without an adult), those matters are best handled together by both parents. Try and talk to your ex. Instead of telling her to stay out of all of it, let her in on some of it. Hopefully, if you can co-parent on the important stuff she will relax on all the rest.
Shop Till I Drop
My ex and I share custody, neither of us receives child support and should both be contributing to our kid’s material needs, but my ex doesn’t buy them anything. I have reminded him when the seasons change to get new clothes and told the kids to let their dad know when they need things at his house. It doesn’t help! They wear clothes from here to his house and then come back in clothes two sizes too small. I don’t know if he is lazy or cheap (or both) but it shouldn’t be my responsibility to provide for his home. I can afford to buy more than my share but it isn’t fair!
You’re right, it’s not fair. Life, and especially divorce aren’t fair. I’m sure it’s frustrating that your ex can’t fully handle providing what your kids need. When living in two homes, ideally each home will have the basics – underwear, socks, pants, shirts, bathing suits… kids should not need to drive to their moms for a bathing suit on a hot summer day, they should open the drawer in the morning and have underwear that fits. So, you need to ask yourself, do you want to be right or have your kids properly dressed without stress? Hopefully the latter and since you can afford to buy more than your share, time to go shopping. You don’t need to buy two full sets of clothes, just a few more pieces than you normally do. Go to Target and throw in a six-pack of underwear and a dozen socks. Keep your eyes peeled for sales and promotions, not everything in the closet needs to be a favorite. You can still encourage your kids to speak up about their needs but at the end of the day, they may already know their pleas fall on deaf ears. And when your daughter is uncomfortable going to school in clothes that don’t fit, she suffers, not your ex. Help her and try to forget it’s because your ex isn’t doing what he should. Your anger will drive you crazy but it won’t drive him to the store.
Abby King writes about parenting, divorce, relationships and…. everything else at AbbyKingWriter.com, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Club Mid, The Good Men Project, and Philly.com. Abby dishes out reality. Abby self-professes that she is “50% together and 100% authentic.” No doubt!