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Annie’s Mailbox: Tell ex parenting is not optional

Kathy Mitchell

Dear Annie: I am a single mother of six children, the youngest of whom is 12. I divorced their father 10 years ago. I am the custodial parent and receive child support. I don’t have any issues with my ex’s financial responsibilities. It is visitation that is the problem.

Although he’s never been one to phone the kids, he used to see them every other weekend and had them for a week’s time twice a year. Three years ago, he married a woman with no kids, and that’s when visitation became less frequent. Last year, he and his wife had a baby, and they moved 100 miles away into a two-bedroom apartment. When he does have our four minor kids, he arranges a hotel stay.

My ex is a consultant and is currently between jobs. He informed me that he cannot afford the hotels now, so visitation is on hiatus. Then he took a weeklong beach vacation.

My kids don’t appear to think there is anything wrong with his behavior. I think it is abhorrent, but have never said anything to the kids because I don’t want them to resent their father. But I also don’t want my children, especially my sons, to think that if a marriage doesn’t work out, parenting is optional.

I get that my ex is completely smitten with his baby, which is fine. But why should he ignore his other children? Do I talk to them about this and let them know it’s not acceptable behavior? – Curled

Dear Curled: Please do not criticize your ex-husband to your children. They understand exactly what is going on and can feel how unacceptable it is. Instead, try speaking to your ex-husband. Tell him that his older children still need to be part of his life, and by neglecting them, they absorb the message that he no longer loves them. Perhaps you could work together to find a solution. It also would be in everyone’s best interest if they form a relationship with their new sibling.

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