Whether you are recently divorced or have been for some time, don’t worry that you have ruined your child’s life. You haven’t. While divorce can be a big part of your child’s life, what will determine their ultimate quality of life is still in the hands of each parent.

Can children be affected negatively by their parent’s divorce? Does divorce lead to behavior problems in kids? Most certainly. But it’s important to understand that children are not necessarily doomed because of a divorce. There’s plenty you can do as a parent to make this difficult time easier.

Let’s take a closer look at a few everyday situations that arise in divorce families and how you can best handle them so that your child doesn’t get caught in the crossfires.

1. It’s Okay to Parent Differently From Your Ex

One of the reasons you got divorced might have been because you had a hard time agreeing with your spouse on most things. Being divorced is not going to make that any easier. The good news is that your ex cannot tell you what to do when you have the kids. And, of course, you can’t tell them what to do, either—or how to parent.

[Note: Unless there is a case of proven abuse or neglect, you do not have control over how your ex will parent your child. Courts usually back the rule that what a parent does when with their child is their own business.]

Here’s an important rule: you are the only one in charge when your kids are with you. The key is to make rules and enforce those that support your principles. Expect your child to follow your home’s rules, and don’t worry about what is going on in your ex’s home.

Of course, it is beneficial to work together with your ex when it comes to parenting your child, if possible. You can suggest things, let your ex know your concerns, listen to and consider their concerns, and then decide for yourself what you will or won’t do. You can try to discuss your parenting ideas, but if your ex is not on board, stay focused on your parenting values in your home. In other words, focus your energies on the things over which you have control.

2. Disengage When Your Ex Complains About Your Parenting Style

The answer to your ex if they complain about your parenting is to say:

“Thank you for the input, but I’m good with how I’m doing things.”

If they continue to complain, again repeat:

“I’m comfortable with how I’m handling things.”

Don’t engage in any more conversations about this topic. And don’t let your ex drag you down into a fight.

Along the same lines, don’t go crazy about how your ex is parenting. What matters is how you parent when your kids are with you. Even if you only have your child part-time, your parenting influence matters greatly and it’s something you control.

Related content: What to Do When Your Ex Undermines Your Authority

3. Don’t Put Your Child in the Middle

Children can get caught in the middle when parents put them in the middle. Therefore, don’t talk to them about your ex in a way that will force them to take sides. Kids don’t want to take sides—they want to be free of worrying about the other parent when they are with you.

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Let’s say your child says, “Dad says that you don’t help me enough with schoolwork.” As long as you believe you’re doing your best with that, instead of saying “That’s not true!” or unleashing some choice words about your ex-spouse, try to respond non-defensively. You can say:

“I think we’re doing a good job together. I’m sorry your father feels that way.”

By doing that, you have successfully ended the battle and gotten your child out of the middle. It also sends the message to your child that the other parent can do or say whatever they want, but it doesn’t matter when your child is with you. You won’t engage in the battle.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid saying anything negative about your ex to your child. You may have to bite your tongue, but it’s important. Even if your ex is behaving badly towards you, keep your child out of it. If you need to vent, do so with a friend, not your child. By doing this, you’ll be helping your child have healthy relationships with both parents, and that’s good for everyone in the long run.

4. When Kids Play Parents off Each Other

A by-product of divorce is that sometimes kids will play parents off one another. It’s a source of power for them that, quite frankly, often works. You’ll hear things like, “Mom says that I don’t have to go for extra help at school if I don’t want to.” Or, “Dad lets me stay up until 10 p.m.” The bottom line is that children will often use that edge to manipulate you to get what they want.

When you catch your child manipulating you in this way, pause and say:

“When you are in my home, you follow my rules. If you’re in Dad’s home, you follow Dad’s rules. I don’t control what your Dad does, and he doesn’t control what I do.”

Here’s what you can do to prevent their manipulation from becoming effective: check with the other parent directly. Verify that what your child says is true. If it’s not true, you will know, and your child will figure out quickly that this type of manipulation won’t work.

By the way, don’t get into the habit of relaying messages to your ex through your child. If you have a message or question, call the other parent directly.

If your child lies about what the other parent said, and then tries to hide it, confront your child. You can say:

“I talked to your mom, and she did not say that. I don’t want you lying to me.”

When you do this, you are letting your child know that you are dealing directly at all times with your ex and that they can’t get away with playing you off the other parent.

5. How to Manage Your Child’s Transition Between Homes

Many kids have difficulty transitioning back and forth between homes each week. On the day they arrive home, they might act out by throwing tantrums, having outbursts, or by “acting in” and shutting the door to their room and refusing to speak.

Why do they do this? They might be testing you to see if you are strong and steady. They may have kept it together with the other parent and now are letting loose with you. They may be expressing their anger at the disruption in their lives and their wish for you to be back together as a family. Sometimes kids will be a problem on purpose because they hope their parents will get together around this “difficult child.”

Be empathetic to the feelings that might drive these behaviors. After all, your kids are being impacted by something they don’t have control over and probably didn’t want.

Keep in mind, though, that you do not need to put up with the behavior if it crosses the line and becomes disrespectful or inappropriate. When you talk with your child about it, you might first acknowledge their legitimate feelings. You can say:

“You sound angry. Do you want to tell me what’s going on?”


“You sound sad. It must be hard to leave Dad’s home and know you won’t see him for a few days.”

If your child continues to have tantrums, ignore them the best you can. Respond only when your child has calmed down. Whenever your child transitions in a positive way, acknowledge the good behavior. Say to your child:

“I noticed this week when you came back home, you were pretty calm and in control. I know that’s difficult for you, and I appreciate you keeping it together.”

6. How to React When Your Child ‘Overfunctions’

Kids react to divorce in different ways. They may begin to overachieve or underachieve. Or, they may act out or withdraw. Some may even try to take on the missing parent’s role and act too adult-like instead of a child, which psychologists refer to as overfunctioning. Overfunctioning is a way that people deal with anxiety by being over-responsible for others, and it’s not effective or helpful for either person.

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Children often overfunction for their parents after a divorce because there’s a vacuum that’s been left. They move right into it because they feel like they have to fill the missing parent’s role. It’s a way to deal with the stress of the breakup. What will help your child the most is to assure them that the best thing to do right now is just to be a kid and live their own lives as best they can.

As a parent, you can remind your child by your actions and your words that they do not need to take care of you. Although you are going through a rough period, reassure them that you can take care of yourself and your family.

7. Understand Why Your Child Acts Out

There are many reasons why kids act out after a divorce. Here are some of the most common:

  • They feel out of control.
  • They’re angry, sad, or scared about the unwanted changes in their life.
  • They hope the parents will get back together.
  • They’re testing the new boundaries.
  • They’re trying to push you to be strong.
  • They feel like the divorce is their fault.

Some kids act out right after a divorce in an attempt to push you to be strong. If your child is acting out, it helps to understand that their behavior might be coming from their anxiety about the divorce. It makes kids nervous when their parents seem to have lost strength. If your kid is pushing you in all different ways, it could be that they’re hoping to see a parent that doesn’t break.

If that’s going on in your home, you can again empathize and understand where these behaviors might be coming from, but you don’t have to put up with them. Let your child know that it will be most helpful to be more cooperative and not give you a hard time. Then set limits and follow through with consequences consistently.

8. Don’t Forego Consequences Out of Guilt

Many kids act out and misbehave due to the stress and anxiety of their parents’ split. As a result, many parents skip giving consequences after a divorce because they feel guilty about what they have done to their child’s life. They forego consequences because they blame themselves for their child’s behavior.

Although the feelings of guilt are understandable and expected, skipping consequences is not effective and doesn’t help your child. Effective consequences teach your child how to manage their feelings appropriately, and they need these skills now more than ever.

Remember, the best thing you can do for your child right now is to be consistent. Yes, be empathetic to your kids—they are going through a rough time, too. But hold the line when they cross the line. The limits you set and enforce provide much-needed structure during this difficult time.

If your teen keeps breaking curfew, give them the same consequence you would have given before. If your 10-year-old calls you names and screams in your face, again, follow through with some appropriate discipline.

Be sure to talk with your child after everyone has calmed down and find out what’s going on with them. Be open to talk about the divorce and their feelings around it if the subject comes up. Let them talk and listen to what they have to say. Sometimes your child just needs to vent.

9. Accept the Fact That You May Fall Apart

Understand that it is normal and natural to fall apart right after the divorce. Divorce marks the end of a relationship, and there is a grieving process we go through when we call it quits with our spouse—regardless of how amicable the split is. You may feel overwhelmed, sad, angry, and less patient in general.

Your child’s behavior will likely be affected as well. They will go through their own grieving process, but added to that are their worries about their parents, how to transition between Mom and Dad’s home, how to deal with each home’s rules, and what the future will hold.

But here’s the truth: you are entitled to fall apart. You do not have to hide all your sad and difficult feelings from your child. This is different from over-sharing with your child or telling them too much about your personal life or your relationship with your ex. Over-sharing is a mistake because it forces your child into an adult position, making them your confidant. It can also create a bias against the other parent. So, instead of over-sharing, just let your child know you are having a hard time and that you will get better.


To keep your mind at ease, and to help you stay calm, recognize that how your child turns out has the most to do with the relationship that they develop and maintain with each parent. Divorce is not the only factor that will impact their life. How maturely you behave with your ex will keep your child out of emotional harm’s way, and it will help you maintain a solid relationship with your child.

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Notes and References


For more than 25 years, Debbie has offered compassionate and effective therapy and coaching, helping individuals, couples and parents to heal themselves and their relationships. Debbie is the creator of the Calm Parent AM & PM™ program and is also the author of numerous books for young people on interpersonal relations.

Comments (39)
  • concerned step parent
    what to do if the other parent is allowing dangerous behaviors such as smoking pot vaping and drinking? my husband has done everything legal but is only told this is a teen thing and there is NO supervision.
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      Thank you for reaching out to Empowering Parents. We hear from many divorced parents facing similar issues, so you are not alone. There may not be much you can do about what goes on in the other parent's house. It's general most effective to focus on the culture of accountability you develop in your home, as James Lehman explains in his article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/the-disneyland-daddy/. If there are concerns of abuse or neglect, then you may find it helpful to contact Child Help to speak with a specially trained counselor about your concerns. They may be able to help you figure out what your available options are for your particular case. You can find them here: https://www.childhelphotline.org/

      We appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents community and wish you all the best moving forward. Take care.

  • Eric

    My relationship with my ten-year old daughter has deteriorated so badly over the past three years that she refuses to see me. She tells her mom she doesn’t feel safe. It is completely baffling to me as I ask her to follow my rules when she is here. My ex-wife has told her that at any time she feels uncomfortable, nervous or “unsafe”, that she can call her and my ex-wife will come pick her up. I have spoken with multiple counselors, clergy, and friends and no one can or has pinpointed anything I am doing that is out of the parental norm. My daughter has complete say on whether I see her. For example, since May 2021, I’ve seen her for a total of three hours. And, I’ve not spoken with her. She refused to FaceTime on Christmas, refused to call on my birthday and on Father's Day. I’ve read books, followed Empowering Parents, watched parenting videos, Super Nanny, anything and everything to improve my relationship. However, I have no say in anything as my ex-wife asks her if she wants to see me and allows her to say no, despite or separation and divorce agreement for shared custody.

    I know saying my daughter feeling unsafe sounds horrible and it’s heartbreaking that she feels that way. I can’t for the life of me figure this out. She’s claimed I’m mean but, again, in talking with counselors and friends, I’m not doing anything but setting rules and consequences. However, I feel completely powerless to set consequences because I see her infrequently. It’s obvious I have lost any parental authority or standing with her and it’s been that way since she was about six. Friends suggest my ex-wife is undermining me and that’s why my daughter feels she can just leave my home or demand I take her home on a moments notice. She also has very violent outbursts. I call them her seeing Red. Since she was seven, about the time I moved out, she’s hit, kicked, bit, thrown things, and hit me with things when I ask her to do simple things like turn of lf the television or get ready to go home.

    I’m now in a position where I immigrated to the UK to be part of her life but my ex-wife will not support a parental visa because I have not co-parented or had shared responsibility over the most two years. But this is solely because she allows my daughter to say when or if she sees me. I’ve spoke with family lawyers about court ordered visitation but am concerned forced visitation might irreparably harm the relationship. Of course it can’t get much worse. So, I’m four months from deportation and all I want is a healthy relationship with my daughter. I just don’t know what to do. My ex-wife says she doesn’t want me to leave as it will probably severe any future relationship but she allows my daughters behavior to continue as she feels she is protecting my daughter from harm. It makes no sense to anyone who has seen my daughter and me together. I feel completely lost.

  • mccarti
    nice one herr
  • MarkCarpenter
    I am posting to share my train of thoughts. I have a son who is about 12 years old having a hard time understanding why his mother and I are divorced. I tried many times to save this marriage, willing to do anything like counseling. My ex did not thinkingMore I'm the bad guy where she put up walls to prevent and go on with divorced. I had to fight for my visitation rights when my son was 1 1/2 years old which is my right to see him as a parent. Now I'm facing challenges where my son has anger issues at him with his mom than with me. He seems happier with me. Also trying to move forward to find a new companion or wife to share my life with to fill in the void. I have a close friend, but I feel I need something more and wish to find it over time. I'm a kindhearted man who acts well and respect others. I only stand up for myself when others treat me wrong. I let people walk all over me when I was in school and teen years. Now I defend for myself. I was also a shy person and grew out of my shell to share my thoughts and feelings. My goal is to find new friends maybe more to bring happiness in my life again.
  • lbrownh
    so my ex didnt treat me very well. He picked on me a lot and we had difference in opinions on how to raise our son. My ex also put me through heck and back with his drinking, going out - even when I asked if I could go andMore coming home very late, cops, telephone polls etc. in the end I asked for a divorce and we did it together (cheaper that way). Now my son (13 by the way) has told me if he had to choose he would choose his father of course as his mom I told him he would never ever have to choose that we both love him I never put his father down but he comes back with things like my car isnt good enough and neither is my house. There is more to the story but I am trying to make this short. His father lets him do things that I do not and the way my son has been treating me lately is unacceptable and down right hurtful. He was always my buddy, we always did stuff together and now when I say lets go for a walk, dinner, swimming- he doesnt want to unless someone else asks him to do it. He still smiles and is still polite but the way he is treating me personally hurts. His father DOES put me down a lot.. he says one thing like not put our son in the middle and he continues to do it. Even today he came into my store (where I work) with my son and he said right in front of my son and another lady he was hesitant to give me his card to pay for the goods he bought and then he expressed and YOU KNOW WHY.... my son walked in all smiles never said hi to me- I said hi to him, he never said by to me- but I said by to him. He doesn't think it's a big deal of the lack of respect. I am probably bouncing all over the place here but before this gets worse how do I fix this. I am a young mom and he is my only child. He never wants for anything and gets good grades. everyone is telling me the apple doesnt fall far from the tree.... help please in NH
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      I’m sorry to hear about the issues you are facing with your

      son, and the way that your ex is treating you.  As Debbie points out in

      the article above, it tends to be most effective if you focus on your own

      relationship with your son because this is where you will have the most

      control.  I hear your pain in the way that your son is treating you, and

      the statements he is making toward you.  At the same time, I encourage you

      to do your best https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/disrespectful-child-behavior-dont-take-it-personally/ these statements.  In addition, given your son’s age,

      it’s actually pretty normal for him to start pulling away from you, and not

      being as interested in hanging out and doing things together as a part of his

      development.  Janet Lehman offers some advice on how to handle this type

      of behavior in her article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/adolescent-behavior-changes-is-your-child-embarrassed-by-you/  I recognize how

      difficult this must be for you, and I wish you all the best.  Take care.

  • Aitchison
    Any advice on a mother who tells the kids to misbehave when they are at their dads house? What do we tell the kids? Telling the older one that they don't have to be bad because mom doesn't know what goes on here worked but the younger one is stuckMore in her ways so far. Trying to get through to her has been more difficult.
    • Marissa EP



      after a divorce can be a tricky thing to navigate for many families, and even

      more so if one parent is trying to sabotage visits with the other parent.

      Regardless of the reasons for your daughter’s acting out, the most effective

      thing you can do is keep the focus on the rules in your home, and hold her

      accountable with a consequence when she breaks them.You can also have a conversation with her at

      a calm time, and ask her what she can do different next time to make sure she

      is following the rule or rules that she broke. As Debbie Pincus mentions in her

      above article: “You

      are the only one in charge when your kids are with you. The key is to make

      rules and enforce those that support your principles. Expect your child to follow

      your rules in your home and don’t worry about what is going on in the other

      home.” Best of luck to you and your

      family as you continue to work through these behaviors.

  • s713707
    Sometimes, the situation is not so pretty. My parent's divorce left me friendless, alone, and really without a family. I said hi to my mom each day, and my dad other days, but I never really had parents or family. My mom did all she could, but seeing as IMore spent 7 1/2 hours a day in school I never really saw her or got to talk with her. Instead, at the age of 9, I became a part time mother of my three younger siblings at my dads. He said awful things about my mother, and did not do a good job providing for our emotional needs. I was the one to carry my baby brother up three flights of stairs at 11:30 p.m. after my dad had brought us home from a date with a girlfriend. I was the one to resolve fights there. I had few friends at school, though I had good friends, and I never did anything outside of school. My parent's divorce was in no way, shape or form better than what existed before my dad left my mom. I remember him throwing water at her, and she just stood there and tried to hide the conflict from us. She did really well. She taught us to love him and to respect him, though after the divorce I never did. His authority was meaningless to me because I knew that if I wanted to I could just leave the house for a couple of hours. He took away my phone; I never used it enough to miss it. He took away my books; I snuck them back. Every time I was punished, it was for 'defying his parental authority' or 'doing the parent's job', which I only did when I saw that there was a need that needed meeting that he was not meeting. I saw nothing wrong with comforting my brother when he scraped his knee and my dad ignored him. And when I talked to my counsellor and gaurdian ad litem, they ignored it and told me I was just telling them things that my mom had told me to say. My whole childhood was ruined. It isn't always a mutual decision with a sense of normalcy.
  • 1lonelydad
    I have a 10 year old son whom i love more than anything or anyone on this planet. his mother and I were together for the first three years of his life before we separated. she now has a new husband  which means my son has a new dad. inMore effort to avoid causing my son any confusion, or making him feel he has to choose who he wants to be his dad, as well as other concerns, i feel i should step out of the picture and let them be a happy family. besides i am no competition for the new dad, he has lots of money and gets to spend more time with my son than i do. am i wrong about this? i dont know what to do for my son. any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    • djmeston

      Dear 1lonelydad,

      It saddens me to hear this. And i can feel your heart breaking in your words.

      I am 54 years old, my dad passed away 21 years ago, when I was pregnant with my now 21 year old son.

      My parents divorced when I was 12. And my mom remarried to a man who she is still married to this day.

      Although he is a good man, and has treated me(and my syblings) well, the bottom line is he is still not my father. :(

      As humans we are capable of loving more than one person at a time. I tell this to my children all the time. And children especially hold this trait because they can love more unconditionally than we, because they are unblemished from many of the things in the world that can make them insecure and hesitant to love freely.

      Please don't remove yourself from your son's life. My father did that, and I missed him terribly, even as I said,.my step-dad is a good man. But I still miss my dad even to this day and miss what "could have been".

      Fight for what is yours. You have the right to be with your son. Keep that right. He will give you much joy, (and of.course headaches, lol), but you won't change it for the world.

      Don't give up. You deserve to be in each others lives.


    • breiter


      I know you feel Iike stepping aside may seem like the right thing, but please don't sell yourself short. By you admitting how much your son means to you tells me you need to be a part of his life. All the money and time in the world will not buy the love a father can give to his son. Keep your head up it'll get better.


    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      I can hear how painful this situation is for you. While I’m

      not in a position to tell you whether or not you should continue to be a part

      of your son’s life, I can tell you that it is possible for a child to have both

      a loving father and a stepfather without issues. You can still play a major

      role in your son’s life even if his mom has married someone else. It doesn’t

      have to be a competition to see who is able to buy him more or spend more time

      with him. It may be helpful to find someone in your area you can talk to about

      this situation who may be able to help you determine your next steps. The 211

      Helpline can give you information on resources in your community, such as

      support groups for single and/or divorced parents, counselors, and family

      therapists. You can reach the Helpline 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-6222

      or by logging onto 211.org. Best of luck to you and your son moving forwards.

      Take care.

  • Danni
    Hi , my partner and I split after 21 years . We have a 10 year old son together, since parting. I have found that he is a narcissist and has already moved onto to his next victim.I am not in a great financial position at present and amMore finding it difficult to please my son. Whatever I do, is never good enough and my sin states that it's me! He still sees his dad twice a week, always coming back on a high. I had to fight 10 months for this dir to the fact he thought I was trying to control him, I was trying to move forward! My son has outbursts and is very disrespectful to me, he has even slapped me. I don't know what to do !
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      I’m so sorry to hear about what you are experiencing with

      your son since your divorce.  It can be very difficult when a child comes

      home from seeing another parent, and is comparing the two households.  As

      Debbie mentions in the article above, you cannot control what happens when your

      son is with his dad.  Ultimately, you are going to be most effective if

      you focus on your son’s behavior while he is with you.  In addition to

      this article, you might find some useful information in https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/stop-aggressive-behavior-in-kids-and-tweens-is-your-child-screaming-pushing-and-hitting/ and https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-respond-to-disrespectful-children-and-teens/.  I recognize how

      difficult this must be for you, and I hope that you will check in and tell us

      how things are going.  Take care.

  • Helpless mom
    My daughter who has 4 children 2,4,6,& 8 husband walked out on her with no warning.  He has his own business and comes from a wealthy family, he has threatened the children about not paying for things that they love unless they are nice to him and he threatens theirMore mom with not giving her money for her personal use.  She actually has to beg for it.  He moved in with his parents who are there to help him but when my daughter has the kids she has no one to help her, except for a babysitter who comes when she needs to run errands.  So it is easy for him to come and go as he pleases when his children are being watched.   He is asking for 50/50 for the children but how can a man who runs a business find the time to be with his children 50/50, especially when they are sick and home from school.  My daughter is devastated and all she wants is for us to tell her everything is going to be all right, but we can't, because whenever we say it will be all right the laws in this particular state favors the MAN....what are we as parents supposed to do for her.... she tells us we don't know what it feels like but we do.  it is killing us watching our daughter being destroyed by her narcissistic husband.  If anyone has any suggestions for us please let us know.
  • jna5232
    My son has been divorced for 4 yrs. He has a 13 yr old son who he shares joint custody, but mom has physical custody. The divorce was messy, my son ended up with all debt and ended up in a bankruptcy. Mom has not been very mature during or after the divorceMore and has not missed any opportunity to belittle or be negative in front of my grandson about his father. He has started to become very disrespectful with his father on his weekly visit and weekend visits.  Twice he has taken his son back to his mothers because of his disrespectful behavior.  My son feels and has indicated he won't allow his 13 yr old son control the household with this behavior.  He has tried to enlist his mother to co-parent on his disrespectful behavior, with little success. I think she is fine with it, and suspect she may be encouraging some of it. Of course, my son is not perfect but I can say when it comes to his son he is very diligent when it comes to quelling any disrespect his son starts about his mom. My concern is whether  sending him back to his mom's, either at my grandson's request, or my son's style of not putting up with such disrespect from a 13 year old is the right course of action.
  • mimiesco1013
    My husband was never married to the mother of his 2 children but they did have a relationship of 10 years. When they split she took the children with her and basically bashed my husband to the point where the 12 year old boy disrespects his father every chance heMore gets and his 21 year old daughter wants no type of relationship with her father because from what she tells me "I know everything my father has done to my mother." My husband has NEVER talked ill about his ex to the children and basically has allowed the bad behavior and disrespect because he's scared of losing what little relationship is left. We have a 2 year old son of our own who is also being affected by all of this situation. Recently my husband put in a request to lower his child support payment since his daughter is of age where family court rendered that my husband is done with paying support for her but he is still paying for his 12 year old which is fine but he is still paying the same amount that he was paying for the 2 but only for one now. The reality is that we a family here are struggling financially here to the point where my husband is not financially for the son we have together. My parents are the ones who financially support our son. Long story short.....his children are beyond livid that he requested a decrees in the child support payment and now hos daughter wants to be involved in this process which I feel has nothing to do with her. It has to do with her parents. My question is....How can my husband tell his daughter that she needs not to include herself in their issues as parents because it is not her place no matter what she is? This article talks about not putting the children in the middle but these children want to be in the middle and I just feel that it's not right. Please help?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport



      is a challenging situation when an adult child wants to be involved in a legal

      matter between her parents.  While you cannot control what their mother

      chooses to do, you can control the boundaries you choose to set.  Even

      though this situation is a bit different than the article in that the children

      are looking to become involved in issues between their parents, I still

      recommend doing your part to not discuss these matters with them.  You

      might also consider using local resources, such as a mediator or family lawyer,

      to help your family through this time.  You can find available community

      supports by contacting the http://www.211.org/ at

      1-800-273-6222.  Take care.

  • Faithformom
    I first want to say thankyou for the information that has been made available on this website, I reference it often. I have an 8 yr old son, he lives with dad full time I have visitation every other weekend. I am trying to keep things between us civil andMore 2 sided as best I can. He will often decide the week of my weekend visitation to spout off demands such as I will bring him to your house Friday 9pm ( our normal time is 4pm) because I have made plans with him. I feel that he does this to bate me into arguments however I no longer engage and I now struggle with how exactly to communicate with him in an effective way. He has full custody yes but I have visitation, how do I exert that authority. It feels like a setup like he wants me to go there and I just don't. I'm really wanting to keep things calm and cool for the sake of our son. This is just one of many examples, I can elaborate if need be. Thanks!
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      Thank you for your kind words. We are glad we can offer

      support to parents who are facing tough issues. I can hear how much you want to

      keep things amicable between you and your son’s father. It’s unfortunate that

      he doesn’t seem to have the same goal. Where there is a current visitation

      agreement in place, it would probably be in your best interest to talk with

      legal counsel about this matter. A legal professional would be able to give you

      guidance on how to ensure the agreement is being followed. If you are not

      currently working with a legal professional, the 211 Helpline would be able to

      give you information on such services in your area. You can reach the Helpline

      24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging onto http://www.211.org/. Good luck to you and your son moving

      forward. Be sure to check back and let us know how things are going. Take care.

  • AnnetteWhite
    My ex daughter in law has not let her daughter see her dad. The court say she has to go to her dad's house every two weeks. She agrees to meet the child's dad so the child can be with her dad. But then when the dad drives 50More miles to pick up his daughter the mother drives away with her. The dad loves the daughter very much. The mother is using the child to get back at the dad. The mother cheated on the dad and caused the divorce. What can the dad do about this?
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      What a tough situation. I can only imagine how upsetting it

      must be to watch your son suffer this way. Since there is a court ordered

      visitation schedule in place that his ex wife isn’t following, it would be best

      to talk with legal counsel about this situation. Someone familiar with your

      local policies and laws would be in the best position to discuss what options

      are available for your son. The 211 Helpline would be able to give you

      information on legal services in your area. You can reach the Helpline 24 hours

      a day by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by visiting them online at http://www.211.org/. Good luck to you and your family moving

      forward. Take care.

  • lost one
    I am recently divorced after 26 years of marriage. We have a ten year old daughhter. My ex husband has custody and I have visitation every other weekend. My ex husband is letting her do what ever she wants to do. He let her bleach her hair and then dyeMore it an unnatural shade of red. and he let her get an industrial bar thru the top of the ear. After which I told her no to at my house. He is trying to treat her like he is her friend instead of him being her parent. When I say things to him about it he  says I just want herr to hate him so she will run away. She has changed dramatically since the divorce. Doesnt want to do things she liked to do. dresses in dark depressing clothes. JUST not the same little girl I used to know. I told him to find herr a counciilor and he said he would but hasnt. I dont know what to do.. can someone please help me?
    • Darlene EP

      lost one 

      I am so sorry you are facing

      such a challenging situation. It is so hard to see your child change into

      something you did not expect or don’t approve of. It is tough when it is a

      divorce situation and the other parent is allowing things that you would not.

      Unfortunately, there is not a lot you can do to change it as long as she is not

      in danger. Her dad has the right to say yes to these changes if he wants to. At

      this point it is about finding ways to cope with a situation you have no control

      over. Try and also focus on your relationship with your daughter and not on what she looks like

      right now. It is very likely to be something she is trying right now and she

      will move onto something else soon. It is not a bad idea for her to get some

      counseling if you feel she is struggling. Maybe you can look into it for

      yourself and let her dad know what you found. That may help the situation

      along. You can find services in you area by contacting the http://www.211.org/

      online or by calling 1-800-273-6222. Good luck to you as you continue to work

      through this.

  • desperate mom
    I have never written into anything on line, but am desperate to understand what is going on with my 10 year old daughter. Her dad and I have been divorced for 6 years and separated for 8. I have been remastered for 4 years and she loves her bonus dadMore very much and made the choice at 4 to call him dad (lots of discussion went into this as she does see her bio father on a consistent basis, and I didn't want her to feel she had to call bonus dad dad, or her bio father to feel disrespected). I have had full custody for 5 years and lat year we had to move out of state. Everyone was ok with that. This summer she has visited her bio dad and 4 days into it she called crying and frantic that she wanted to live with him. He and I have a working relationship, but only when it suits him. I bend over backwards to continue the "working relationship", but in reality if he doesn't get what he wants he becomes belligerent and verbally abusive to me. A month ago my dad passed, and my ex had turned into an abusive monster. Note when I try to contact my daughter she will not respond our call me back. I am honestly frantic on what to do. My husband and I have decided to move back next summer and go back to the original papers of 50/50 visitation so she can live with and see who her dad truly is on her own. I am looking for advice on dealing with her bio dad in the interim so he doesn't fly off the handle, and trying to see if any one understand why my 10 year old (who I have a wonderful open communication relationship with) is treating is so disrespectfully. I am honestly heart broken. Please help
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      @desperate mom 

      Thank you for writing in, and it’s understandable how you

      would feel upset by the events of this summer.  Co-parenting with an

      ex-spouse can be challenging under the best of circumstances, and it’s great

      that you have put in so much effort to maintain a working relationship with

      your daughter’s father. I encourage you to remain calm and business-like, and

      to focus on your daughter’s best interests when you speak with your ex.  Sometimes

      it can also be useful to use a neutral third-party, such as a family counselor

      or mediator, to come to a compromise.  For assistance locating resources

      in your area, try contacting the http://www.211.org/

      at 1-800-273-6222.  It’s difficult to determine why your daughter’s

      behavior toward you has changed, and if she is refusing to speak with you, it

      can be even more challenging.  Ultimately, your daughter is responsible

      for her own actions, regardless of what might be influencing her.  It

      could be useful to bring up the change in her behavior in private during a calm

      time, and reinforcing your boundaries around how you want to be treated.  I

      appreciate your writing in for support, and I hope that you will write back and

      let us know how things are going for you and your family.  Take care.

  • foxylady278
    Hi is anyone can help I'm a step mother of a 2 year old daughter my hubby get her one week and the mom hlget her they other week dad works alot soo I'm alot with her as a step parent is kind of hard to be honest the 2More year old as bad behavior and tantrums and stuff mom's let her do everything even let her go to bed at 12 pm at night I don't thinks is right her at ur house she as a routine I know is very important but how can I Desi line her and make her stop her behavior here she can't have everything she whant and she give me bad tantrum even heating me in the face when I go to her level I don't scream all my classes I took for behavior management class don't even work for what I learn is hard when ur a step mom any advise plz if anyone as anything that will help me to help this little girl I just whant the best for her plz email me
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      Blending families can be challenging. This can be especially

      true when the rules differ greatly between the two households. One thing you

      might consider doing is sitting down with your husband and discussing what some

      basic rules and expectations might be, as suggested in the article Blended Family? The 5 Secrets of Effective Stepparenting. It’s also going to be

      important to defer to her dad whenever possible. I understand this may not bedoable, especially if you find yourself spending

      a lot of time with her alone. Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s not

      unusual for a 2 year old to act out or have tantrums when they get upset. Her

      frustration tolerance is going to be pretty low and she hasn’t yet developed the

      skills to deal effectively with any frustration she has. It’s also not going to

      be possible to talk her out of a tantrum. For the most part, once a child has

      reached that level of escalation, the best thing to do is give her some space

      to calm herself down. Due to her age, it’s not going to be advisable to walk

      away from her,  however. Most of the tools and techniques discussed on

      Empowering Parents are designed for children who are 5 years old or older. Some

      things, such as walking away, could make for an unsafe situation with a child

      this young. We do have several articles by Dr. Joan Simeo Munson that focus on

      young children. You can find a list of Dr. Joan’s articles here: http://www.empoweringparents.com/author.php?auth=Dr.-Joan-Simeo-MunsonChecking in with her pediatrician may also be

      beneficial. The doctor can help you to understand your child’s needs and

      possibly determine what techniques are most appropriate for her. I hope this

      information is helpful. Be sure to check back if you have any further

      questions. Take care.

  • Jeffybridge

    Debbie, thank you for these great tips. My sister is going through a divorce at the moment. She has a lawyer helping her out with the case but is nervous for her children. It seems like many of your suggestions could help her continue to be a great parent when the divorce is finalized.


  • Caryl Anne
    Great advice tips Debbie. I couldn't agree more with not having consequences because you feel guilty. I had a friend that did this exact thing, and several problems grew from it. Personally, it's easier to implement this tip in the beginning or rather stick with what's been in place evenMore before the divorce.
  • SkyJensen
    Debbie, these are some really amazing tips. I love your tip about not letting your kids not have consequences because you feel guilty. My sister is going through a divorce and I hope that she doesn't let her kids get away with stuff. It seems like there are a lotMore of things you can do to be a good parent after a divorce.
  • kelseyhiggins

    What a great tip about not letting your ex criticize your parenting style! After one of my best friends' divorce, she was constantly feeling like a poor parent because her ex-husband would tear down her parenting techniques. It wasn't until she realized that he had no right to give hisMore input that she was able to start feeling like she was actually being a good mother to her children.

    • Judy Millikan

       Mature people are open to constructive criticism, and the other parent has a compelling interest in the rearing of their child. Her FEELINGS and self-worth should be controlled by her research and knowledge that she is indeed parenting properly. It is about the child, not the capricious feelings ofMore the parent. If she wants to be a good mother than do exactly that. Nurture, set reasonable boundaries, and administer reasonable consequences and discipline. If the other parent has a valid input, acknowledge and implement it. If not, simply politely explain why not, and then go about your business of doing the right thing...for the child.

  • MarcusFillion

    This is so important for divorced parents to know and understand. Divorce is hard on everyone in the family, especially kids. Their needs can often get lost in courtroom debates, so it's important to know what they really want.

  • BobbyRoosco

    My sister just got divorced and she has two kids. I am trying to find helpful material for her to read and I like this article a lot. I could see her children trying to take on the other parent role and so I'll point that part out to her.More Thanks for the article.

  • shannon7488

    I have 4 children, 2 grown and on their own and 2 almost.  The 2 at home are 19 (at college) and 18 (a senoir).  I recently married a man with 3 children.  A 13 girl and 2 boys (3 and 4 1/2).  His 13 yo daughter live with usMore full time and rarely sees her mother and the boys we have half of the time.  We really don't have an issue with his daughter, my issue is with the boys.  They are LOUD and wild and scream and hit and constantly tell their dad NO.  The problem is they have no dicipline what so ever at their mother's house and allowed to pretty much do whatever they want.  They have learned that if they pitch a screaming/crying fit they will eventually get their way.  To the point that BOTH the boys still have a pacifier.  My husband hates that he is the only one diciplining the boys and doesn't want to spend all of his time with them having to do so.  He wants to be able to enjoy his time with them.  He is constatnly threatening to take the pacifiers away but never does because he says "what's the point?  She's just going to give them back to them as soon as they go back to her house.  It's becoming the same way with everything else as well.  He threatens them with "time out" but they never seen to get put there and their behavior is only getting worse.  My question is, at 3 and 4 1/2 do you think they are old enough to understand that they have a different set of rules at our house?  I think they are but my husband isn't so sure.  What are your thoughts?

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport



      speak with many parents who wonder about setting limits and enforcing

      consequences with young kids, and whether children that age are capable of

      understanding the rules in different places.  Your stepsons are at the age

      where they are learning that there are different rules depending on where you

      are.  For example, there are different rules in a preschool classroom than

      on a playground, and there can be different rules at dad’s house and mom’s

      house too.  As Debbie states in the above article, ultimately, you are the

      one in control of the rules when the kids are with you.  It could be

      helpful to sit down together and develop a short list of simple rules for your

      house, such as “No Hitting”, “No Yelling”, and so on.  You can also write

      down the consequences associated with those actions, such as “Sit by yourself

      for 5 minutes” or “Lose a TV show”.  You can find more suggestions in our

      article by Dr. Joan Simeo Munson, http://www.empoweringparents.com/5-steps-to-giving-effective-consequences-to-young-kids.php.

      The next time your stepsons are at your house, your husband can go over the

      rules with them as well as the consequences.  Because it is hard to feel

      like a constant disciplinarian, especially when the kids are not with you

      full-time, we also recommend coming up with incentives for good behavior. 

      I understand that this is a challenging issue, and I appreciate your writing in

      with your question.  Please check back and let us know how things are

      going; take care.

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