Ex-Etiquette Column

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

My Child is Better Off Without His Father

Q. I think my child is better off without his father so I’ve recently asked my him and his mother to stop visiting my son. My ex is 23 and extremely irresponsible.  He has just been fired from his job, does not support his son financially and lives a very self-centered life. He’s devious, spreads false rumors about me, and his mother is no better. If I stop the interaction now, I feel my son will not get attached to someone who I know will not be there for him. I’ll admit that it is also convenient for me because I do not want to have to deal with problems that I know will arise when dealing with my ex. I accept that my decision is based on personal issues, but I truly believe my son and I are better off without his father in our lives.

A. It sounds as if you and your ex had a child at a very young age and your child’s father’s behavior is a result of immaturity. With maturity comes selfless parenting, and at 23 your son’s father may just not be there yet.

This is a scenario that happens quite often. A young couple has a child, but the young man is not ready to be a father figure. He literally abandons the bio mom for years while he grows up. In his late 20’s, he meets someone, has another child, and all of a sudden the light bulb goes on. Because the timing is right, he realizes how selfish he has been and sincerely wants to make amends for his immaturity. He attempts to re-enter his first child’s life. This presents problems on a couple of different levels.

First, the child in question is seven or eight and greatly affected by his father’s previous lack of interest. He may have bonded with another father figure and the reappearance of his bio dad can be upsetting for both.

Second, a very resentful ex thinks to herself, “He made my life so miserable and look how well he treats his new wife and her child. I hate him for that and I’m going to make his life miserable now, too.” The resentful bio mom then makes it difficult for dad and child to easily communicate and the father/child relationship is affected forever. Remember this article in years to come and try to not get sucked into resenting the situation because he’s treating her so much better than he treated you. It’s timing, not people. Just remember that.

That you are angry and protective of your child is quite understandable. You have been dealt a raw deal and it’s human nature to want to lash out and pay him back for the wrong your ex has done. However, the first rule to successful co-parenting (even if it appears to be single parenting right now) is “always put your child first” no matter how angry or hurt you feel. Preventing the bio father from seeing his child will ultimately hurt the child, not protect him, and most likely cause resentment when he realizes that you contributed to the alienation.

For your child’s sake and for your own sense of well being, look for ways to smooth over the rough spots. Try not to run defense for your ex–let him make his own mistakes. Your job is to reinforce your own relationship with your son.

Be careful what you say to your child about his father, even in passing. When you put down your child’s father, no matter what a jerk he is, you are attacking your child’s very essence, his DNA. Your angry words will affect your child’s self esteem, not affect the father in any way. To make sure you don’t contribute to hurting your child without even knowing it, I suggest you buy a book explaining Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Try Divorce Poison, by Dr. Richard Warshak.

Dr. Jann Blackstone 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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