Ex-Etiquette Column

Articles on dealing with the "ex" in your life--anyone's ex--yours, their's, even "ex"tended family.

Valentines for Bonus Children

Q. Is there a rule of good ex-etiquette concerning giving Valentines to bonus children?  I have recently married and gained a wonderful bonus son. I also have a daughter from a previous marriage. I give my daughter a Valentine every year and this year I planned to give my bonus son one as well. Relying on good ex-etiquette I decided to ask his mother first. She said that I am over stepping my bounds and offering too much affection—but I love my bonus son like my own. What’s good ex-etiquette regarding Valentines for bonus children?

A. Valentines Day started as a day for lovers—and it still is to some degree—but it has also morphed into a day that everyone who cares about anyone can send a little greeting of affection just to let the other know they care. With that in mind, it’s completely appropriate to offer a Valentine to a bonuschild—or bonuschild to bonus mom or dad, for that matter. If mom has expressed that you are overstepping your bounds by offering a Valentine, that’s a huge red flag. She’s jealous of the relationship you have built with her child. This often happens when there is not enough communication between the parents/bonusparents as the kids go back and forth between homes. The kids then become the messengers, talking about the great times they have had or what mom or dad said about the other—and the non-cusotdial parent is left to read between the lines. Add to this possibly a working mom who feels anxious about her child spending so much time away from her and you have the makings of “giving my child a Valentine is over stepping your bounds.” It’s a symptom, not the problem. Work on your communication with mom so she doesn’t feel like you are taking over. And, if you are taking over, stop it.

Try reading “Tips for Her” for additional insight in how to interact with your husband’s ex or you ex’s new partner.  “Tips for Him” in dealing with your wife’s ex or her ex’s new partner.

Ex-Etiquette®, runs in countless newspapers and websites all over the world. It is written by Dr. Jann Blackstone, who specializes in child custody, divorce, and stepfamily mediation. Dr. Jann is the author of seven books on divorce, remarriage, and co-parenting, specifically, Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce and Separation, Ex-Etiquette for Weddings, and Ex-Etiquette for Holidays. Dr. Blackstone is also the founder of Bonus Families,501 c3 non-profit organization dedicated to peaceful coexistence between divorced or separated parents and their combined families.

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