The pain I feel from watching my kids get disappointed (over and over) by their dad is overwhelming. I don’t know how to deal with it…how do I get it to stop. I do not bad mouth their dad to them and that is going to kill me but I know it is the right thing. I cry myself to sleep at night with this terrible feeling for my kids. They are 11 and 15 and take it like troopers but I know it hurts them so much. What do other people do? What do I do? Please help? Any advice is welcome.
My advice is to talk with your kids about their father’s behavior, not to bad mouth him, but to give them the opportunity to communicate their distress about his behavior. Following such talks, you may have a better idea about what you can do, in practice, to protect/ help them further.
It will be very difficult for you, I assume, to have such conversations with your kids because your emotions on the topic are so intense. If you can calm yourself and remain reasonably calm during such conversations, do ask your kids open ended questions regarding their father’s behavior (not leading questions, like: are you hurt by your father doing X? Instead: when your father did X, how did it make you feel?)
Your kids may answer you honestly if they feel that you are not too distressed, if they believe you can handle their answers. Otherwise, they will deny their distress so to protect you. This is why you will need, I believe, to establish with them first a trust they need to have: that you can remain calm whatever their answers may be.
I had wise advice from a counselor just before my divorce. She told me my ex would develop his own relationship with our child and I should not try to control that, makes excuses for my ex, or apologize to my child for his behavior. The best thing to do is to comfort your child when their father disappoints them. Acknowledge their hurt, but don’t apologize or try to fix it. You are responsible for your relationship with you child and your ex is responsible for his relationship with your child. My child is an adult now. Kids figure it all out on their own.
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