Thursday, December 11, 2014

In the Children's Best Interest

We all know that divorce doesn’t end the struggle with controlling spouses. (I hear your collective, “No, duh.”) The power struggle and control continues after divorce and the pawns most often used to needle one another are the children. In many cases an ex is trying to control his former partner through the children. It’s the most tender area an abuser can attack a mom. Many victims stay with the abuser so that he doesn’t have the children alone, she’s there to protect them. While I understand this (did it myself,) I would not recommend staying with a violent partner.
Children are wounded when they live with abuse. I know that it feels like the court system’s understanding of family violence is moving ahead at the speed of a snail. Laws need to be honed or established in many states to protect kids. My hope is that we will come to a time when courts listen to qualified people who assess every situation and recommend what is in the best interest of the child when it comes to custody and visitation.  
Many Mom’s have mentioned that they feel the continuous custody issues are a game their ex is playing with them. As a controlling person, he’s trying to rack up wins for himself and losses for her.  Power struggles like this are at the expense of the children’s well being. I suggest mom’s change the way they view the situation to prevent them from getting sucked into his game. 
If you’re dealing with this problem, consider thinking differently. The next time you get a request/demand for adapting or adjusting your child's time or activities, instead of feeling it’s another opportunity for your ex to “score one” against you, ask yourself: Is this opportunity in the best interest of my son/daughter? Let your answer to this question be your bottom line. The controlling person can think what they want. You have no control over that. What’s different is that you know in your heart you are making the right decision for you child. (However, if the request is to take your child out of the country and your gut says that he may not return, trust your instincts and block the request.)
Be gracious where you can. If your ex has signed your child up to play a sport, musical instrument or other activity that may infringe on some of your time with you child or be inconvenient for you, cooperate for your child’s sake. Take your child to practice. Go to the games or events and cheer the loudest. Varied activities are important for a well rounded education. Anything that feeds you child’s spirit is a win for him or her.
Your ex may never reciprocate and agree to your requests for adjustments to visitation, but you will have done the right thing. Your child will notice. I’m not suggesting that you give on every issue. Work through the courts where needed, ease up where you can. Kids should not have to deal with adult problems. Let them be kids. It takes a lot of pressure off them to know that you are handling and protecting their wellbeing. 
If you are making decisions and judgements on behalf of you children’s best interest, you will no longer see requests as a power struggle between you and your ex. Your focus is where it belongs, on your children. You are refusing to play your ex’s game. It will take the emotional charge out of it for you, and the winners are your kids.
There is another power struggle to avoid. During this season it's worth mentioning. Often the ex is in a financial position to give more “stuff” to the children. Remember, kids don’t care about stuff. Granted, in their teen years having the same stuff their friends have does seems important to them. However, kids won’t remember who gave them what -- they will remember how you made them feel. Give your kids your time, attention and love. That is the most valuable gift you have to offer. The only one that matters.

I wish you peace and joy this holiday season. May the coming year be filled with happy surprises.


  1. I agree with this in theory but the reality can be somewhat different. At this point, the power struggle is not between my ex and me. It is between the ex and our teenaged children. I do NOT think it is in the best interests of my children to spend a great deal of time with him, I TRULY do not. The abuse is emotional and extremely damaging. I believe I have made strides over the past 2 years in realizing that I CANNOT protect my sons as they are of an age where they must learn to protect themselves. For this reason, I have told them (and the ex) that I will NEVER stop them from spending time with him, whenever, wherever and for any length of time they choose to do so. I MEAN that very seriously. The issue that comes up in my particular situation is that my sons RECOGNIZE the abuse and they do not WANT to spend time with him. They have taken a stand and, deep in my heart, I believe it is the right one. Still, I do not hinder communication and frequently remind them that they are free to re-establish communication whenever they desire to do so. I see them, literally, tremble with fear when they think he might show up and, the saddest part of this is, there was never really PHYSICAL ABUSE. I understand this reaction because I still have the same reaction at times. The very THOUGHT of confronting this man sends me into a tail spin, just as it does them.
    The ex is not satisfied with my getting out of the way of their contact, he wants me to FORCE it. He states that I should MAKE them go with him and, by not doing so, I am impeding his parental rights. He knows that, the truth is, my children respect me enough that, if I insisted they go, they would likely go (although I believe that one of them might actually refuse anyway at this point). The way I see it, he is attempting to utilize MY relationship with our children to make them bow down and submit to HIS abuse. I simply cannot do this. Do you have any feedback on this situation? My twin sons are 15 years old. Thanks.

  2. The way I see it, I'm not a therapist or a court system, it was the boys' father's job to nurture a close, loving and safe relationship with his sons. Since he did not live up to who a father should be, instead he chose to emotionally abuse you and the boys (emotional abuse is just as bad as physical abuse) the boys, as teenagers, have a right to choose to not see him. If they are afraid of him, it is not in their best interest to force them to go. I know that sometimes court systems force children to see the abusive parent. If this is not the case with you, then the boys should make the decision.
    You have nurtured a mutual trust and respectful relationship with your children. That took time, patience and love. No one, especially your ex, has a right to coerce you to break that relationship.We know that controlling men can become violent and deadly. Only you can judge what is safe for you and your boys.
    I think this is an important conversation to have since so many women are dealing with these issues and each one has it’s own set of complications. Your thoughts are welcome here or on my Facebook page.

    1. Thank you. I like the wording you used...."No one, especially your ex, has a right to coerce you to break that relationship." I FELT that but never thought of it EXACTLY that way! I truly think that my attempting to make my children go into a situation that they KNOW I do not think is in their best interest...WILL make them question MY JUDGEMENT and MY MOTIVES. It WOULD damage my relationship with them and bring up a great deal of guilt in me. By using their attempts to cooperate with me out of respect...he is attempting to manipulate the whole situation once again. I have had to ask my children to do things they REALLY did not want to do and they usually do so BECAUSE they trust me and they know I am working in their best interests (to the best of my ability). If I begin pressuring them to do things I am pretty sure will harm them, I am giving them reason to mistrust me. I just can't do that! Thanks again!