In this current series, April (@Aprilabtbalance) is sharing her story of how her husband’s struggle with drugs made her end her marriage. Her marriage lasted about three years and together they had two children who were almost three and six when April and her husband divorced. That was seven years ago. April’s ex continues to struggle with drugs and has been been in jail for drug-related offenses. He’s in touch with them sporadically. That, say’s April has been one of the hardest parts of her divorce. How much of his problems should she divulge to the children? Here’s April:
The hardest part is balancing how much to share with my children and helping them get through it. Their journey is harder than mine. With me, it was a boyfriend that turned into a husband … it’s not a blood relationship. He’s their dad and he’ll always be their dad.
They ask questions but I think we’ve gotten to a point now where we can talk about him as a full person. I can talk about the things he did that were funny or nice, I can talk about his positive traits without them worrying about thinking that it means we’re going to get back together. So I think we’ve crossed a threshold but it’s still hard.
They’re old enough now to totally get it. My biggest concern right now is with my youngest. She says quite openly that she hates him, that she doesn’t want anything to do with him. That’s kind of hard but I need to allow her the space to express that because that’s going to be part of her growth process to get to the other side. My oldest has come the furthest because she had the hardest time with it. She remembers a time when we lived together so it was a much bigger adjustment for her.
The girls do still see his family and they love his family. They have cousins who are about their age from one of their aunts. Their cousins from their other aunt are grown but they are all great with the girls. I’ve spent time with his family and at first, I was worried about how it would go but they know who he is, they wondered why I stayed with him as long as I did. So were very close. We’re Facebook friends.
Just like I shouldn’t be judged for my ex’s mistakes, they shouldn’t be judged for their brother’s mistakes. We have a common bond there.
It’s heartbreaking to have to teach your children not to expect anything from their father but that is where we’re at. Guiding them through this brings back all the feelings and emotions I went through with the marriage but I have to push those down and focus on helping them get through this stronger than I got through it.
April’s clearly in a difficult position – she has to teach her children about values and making good choices yet in doing so they have their father as an example of a person who hasn’t made good choices. Not speaking ill of your ex is co-parenting 101 but what you DON’T say also sends powerful messages to your children. As frustrating as it, your ex may turn out to be a better dad than a husband but that’s not the case for April. Perhaps the best you can do is to present the facts and hold back on the judgments.
I love too that April can let her daughter say that she hates her dad without chastising her – not only do I agree with April that it will help her daughter deal with her feelings, I think more importantly, it is keeping the channels of communication open (especially important for online safety these days.) If April shuts her down about her dad, what else will her daughter feel she can’t talk to her mom about? I think single-moms have a hard time here because in a co-parenting relationship, the simple probability is that a child has two choices of confidant.
April’s ex was recently released from jail and visited with the girls. You can read about that the end of April’s post about the Yahoo Mother Board – that the girls handled it so well is a credit to April.
I’ll be wrapping up April’s series tomorrow with April reflecting on how she has transformed her life and believe me, it is impressive. It all happened one step at a time.
Photo Credit: rptmorris at Flickr