By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
It’s a common scenario. One divorced parent is spoiling the kids. Usually, they aren’t equally sharing parenting. So they treat the children to lavish gifts, trips and other indulgences when spending time with the kids.
Often the custodial parent may be struggling financially. Which infuriates that parent. In many cases it’s mom who finds herself in that position. However, not always. Either way, it’s a challenging dilemma to tackle.
Smart parents know not to bad-mouth the spoiling parent to the kids. (They understand that put-downs will only backfire on them in the long run.)
So custodial Mom (or Dad) is looking for suggestions on how to best handle this situation. Not surprisingly, there is often an underlying motive behind this kind of behavior. In many cases i t’s related to how frequently the other parent sees the kids.
Before attempting to find realistic solutions, it’s wise to ask yourself some series questions. Knowing this is not based on gender, consider these questions (I use Mom and Dad here as examples):
- What kind of relationship does Dad have with the children when he is not there? Are they close? Do the kids respect him?
- Is Dad doing this to anger Mom — or is it more likely to be unconsciously irresponsible behavior?
- Is he resentful about not seeing more of his children and intentionally trying to hurt Mom?
- Is he aware that Mom is struggling financially? Does he care?
- Is he trying to show her up and influence the children away from her?
- Does he know that spoiling is often sabotaging to Mom’s relationships with the kids?
- Does he think he’s being a wonderful Dad?
Once you understand the agenda behind his behavior you are better able to offer a solution. Or at least find a direction in which to initiate a conversation. Clear communication is important at this time. Here are some suggestions.
- Have a heart-to-heart chat with Dad. If you can communicate without anger on this level, remind him of how his behavior appears from the children’s perspective. He might want to consider their confusion between the two lifestyles of their parents. Equally important are the lessons the kids are learning about fiscal responsibility and other consequences of spoiling children.
- Send Dad a note. Ask him some of the questions above if you are not sure about the answers. Share your frustrations with him without accusing him of intentionally creating these challenges. Explain that the children are aware of the different economic climates of their parents and ask you about it. Suggest that the children will be more at ease if there is less contrast between their lives with both parents. Invite him to talk to you if he has unresolved issues that need to be addressed.
- Accept the reality and talk to the kids. Explain that Dad wants to make his time with them very special. So he treats them to things that are not part of their everyday life. This is also true for many grandparents and others who do not live with the kids on a daily basis. If he were at home with them, that wouldn’t be the case. Mom can’t do that because there are too many routine chores, responsibilities and expenses to address. Let them know how lucky they are because this way they get the best of both worlds.
It’s difficult for kids to grasp the consequences of being spoiled. It’s especially hard when one parent shows them different values and a different lifestyle than they experience with the other parent. If that is the intention, you may have to back off and live with this reality.
However, Dad may not be fully aware of the impact on his kids. He may agree that spoiling the children is not necessarily in their best interest. So, try to discuss the issue together. Once you know Dad’s take on the situation continue to be the best parent you can be. In time your children will recognize your love and devotion despite the attraction of material lures and temptations.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books, e-courses and programs on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to: childcentereddivorce.com/book
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