How can my kids spend time with their dad?

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - PARENTING - WITH DAVID COLE­MAN dcole­man@in­de­pen­

I’VE a nineyear-old boy and an eightyear-old girl. I’m sep­a­rated for the last four years and my ex lives abroad, but comes to visit the chil­dren ev­ery two weeks and stays with us in the house. I met some­one

THERE is no doubt that sep­a­ra­tion and re­con­sti­tu­tion of new fam­ily struc­tures are in­vari­ably com­pli­cated! It does sound like you and your ex­part­ner had found a very sta­ble way to main­tain his re­la­tion­ship with the chil­dren, al­low­ing the chil­dren to con­tinue to know and spend time with their dad.

If he is fly­ing in ev­ery two weeks to visit them, then he has shown great com­mit­ment to them, ir­re­spec­tive of what­ever led to the re­la­tion­ship break­down be­tween you and him. It seems like you and he had found a way to keep the con­nec­tion solid for him and the chil­dren. You both de­serve a lot of credit for mak­ing that work.

It does seem like you are now fac­ing a dilemma, how­ever, given the de­vel­op­ment of your re­la­tion­ship with your new part­ner. Mov­ing in with him will change the dy­namic of all of your re­la­tion­ships. Even without the po­ten­tial dis­rup­tion it will cause to the chil­dren’s time with their dad, just hav­ing your new part­ner liv­ing with you could be dis­rup­tive in its own way. else a year ago and we are now con­sid­er­ing mov­ing in to­gether, which would mean my ex couldn’t stay with us in fu­ture, but he has no house to bring them to ei­ther. My kids are fu­ri­ous, and blam­ing my part­ner that their dad won’t be able to come and stay. How can we make this all work, without dam­ag­ing the kids?

The anger that the chil­dren are dis­play­ing to­wards your new part­ner may, in fact, not only be about the change in their dad’s vis­its, but also about the deep­en­ing of your re­la­tion­ship with him.

It is re­ally com­mon for chil­dren to have strong feel­ings (of­ten neg­a­tive) about new part­ners, and their po­ten­tial to draw love and at­ten­tion away from the chil­dren. Chil­dren do of­ten fear be­ing dis­placed by a new part­ner, or that you might love your new part­ner more than you love them.

These kinds of feel­ings may be brew­ing in the back­ground, and may be be­ing ex­pressed, sim­ply, as anger that their dad can’t come and stay with the ap­par­ent ease that has been there for the last few years.

It will help for you and your cur­rent part­ner to be sen­si­tive to this, show­ing lots of warmth, em­pa­thy and un­der­stand­ing to the two chil­dren, to show them that you might just be able to un­der­stand how big a deal it is for you (and them) to move in with some­one new. They may also need to know that you can un­der­stand that the dis­rup­tion to their time with their dad may be up­set­ting for them too.

That said, I pre­sume, if your ex-part­ner is fly­ing in and out in a week­end, that his time is prob­a­bly quite lim­ited and prob­a­bly very fo­cused on the chil­dren and try­ing to max­imise time with them. If so, then per­haps the location where that time is spent is less im­por­tant than the time it­self?

Per­haps your ex-part­ner may be able to rent a short-stay apart­ment, or book a ho­tel or B&B for his fort­nightly week­end trips? Who knows, the nov­elty of feel­ing like they get lit­tle mini-break hol­i­days ev­ery two weeks could be ex­cit­ing for them.

Is the stay­ing over with the chil­dren the key el­e­ment of those trips? Could it be that your ex­part­ner might spend all day with them, at your new shared home or away for the day, and then just sleep else­where? This might seem eas­ier for your new part­ner to ac­cept, since I could imag­ine he may be the one that is re­luc­tant for your ex to come and stay.

I do think that your cur­rent part­ner does need to be flex­i­ble about how your chil­dren get to spend time with their dad. He needs to ac­cept that part of his re­la­tion­ship with you in­cludes the chil­dren. Meet­ing their needs is a fun­da­men­tal el­e­ment of what makes your re­la­tion­ship with him sus­tain­able. Fa­cil­i­tat­ing ac­cess with their dad seems to me to be a cen­tral part of his duty.

It sounds like lots of time talk­ing, ne­go­ti­at­ing and trial and error may be re­quired be­fore you find a new sta­bil­ity that works for all of you.

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