When Your Ex’s Parenting Choices Make You Crazy
Remember your ultimate goal should be to co-parent with your ex
Imagine your wee one returns from visitation with your ex with stories about activities and choices that make your stomach drop. What to do when your ex’s parenting choices during visitation make you crazy?
If you’re a separated or divorced parent, you likely don’t have to imagine this. It has happened to you, as it has happened to me, and I’m sure to my ex as well. As I shared with you in my first article, being trained in marriage and family therapy has not spared me from divorce or the ick that sometime comes with it.
Ok, so you are staring down this moment. What’s next? Your first instinct may be to call your ex and go off, hit social media to air the details of your ex’s flawed character or, worst of all, tell your kid the next time that happens they are to refuse to go along with it.
That’s a good starter list of what not to do. Going ballistic will only escalate things. Social media is not your friend in this moment. And you never put your kid in the middle of adult issues.
Finish the conversation with your child as normally as you can. Then, in your own space, consider your ex’s parenting choice(s) with the following questions:
1. Are the actions of your ex so egregious as to endanger your child in an objective, meaningful way? And by objective I mean would a court, law enforcement, or child protective agency find just cause for child abuse or neglect?
2. Are you wearing your spouse hat or parent hat? Be honest.
If the answer to No. 1 is yes, then contact your lawyer, ex and/or child protective agency. Seriously. Done. But if you find yourself waffling on No. 1, move on to No. 2 and do your work. And concluding, “I just don’t like it," “I wouldn't do it that way,” or even “My ex knows I would hate that,” isn’t enough to justify scorched earth.
You may not like me for saying this, but here goes: Outside of the answer to No. 1 being “yes," you can’t control what goes on in your ex’s household. If, that’s IF, you have a great relationship with your ex AND the answer to No. 1 is “nah," then maybe you can contact him, check the story for accuracy and share why you are not a fan of that choice. Perhaps negotiate some parameters under which you would feel better about that choice in the future. And even then, your ex may take your wishes into consideration next time … or may not. Same goes for you if your ex called you with similar concerns.
Children of divorce often live with two slightly (or greatly) different rules in different households. Not ideal, but honestly, often intact parents have different ways of governing the kids, so divorce isn’t the only way this dynamic is created and managed (even manipulated and enjoyed) by these smart little beings. Besides, if this is how your ex parented when you were together, why would you expect him or her to parent differently now that you are not?
So be a critical thinker, be objective and only keep on your plate what truly belongs there. In fact, you stand a better chance of your ex considering your perspective when you don’t fall on your sword a lot, but choose the battles that really matter to you, once you’ve determined actual endangerment isn’t at play.
Your ex will never clone your parenting style, even if your way is, in fact, better. Either he can’t, or just won’t. Remember your ultimate goal is to co-parent with your ex, so prioritize making the partnership work so you can be a united front (even with individual differences) in the eyes of each other, and most importantly, your child.
Dr. Katherine Loflin is a divorced mom with a global consultancy. She is a North Carolina native living in Cary with her daughter. Learn more about her at city-doctor.com.