MOLLY: The reader explained that she and her ex have been having family dinners once a week for the past three years as a way to connect and set a positive example for their daughter. Her ex has said he's hurt and angry and doesn't want to do them anymore. How does the reader explain to her daughter (who will be devastated) that the end of family dinners is not the daughter's fault and that there's nothing she can do to help.
Dr. Susan Rutherford (MOM): I understand this kind of issue and how it must be very painful for this mother, but the reality is that the ex-husband is psychologically unable to participate in these kinds of dinners because he's in too much pain, then there can’t be any dinners at this time. As the ex-wife, she needs to respect his pain.
The reality is the marriage is over and the daughter will have to come to terms with that just as her parents must accept it.
It doesn’t mean that the parents can’t be friends or be friendly; hopefully they will be because it will be better for the the children all the way around. But at this point, she can’t pretend that everything is okay for him when it’s not. That would actually be worse for the child to experience than not to have them eat together once a week. It’s probably unrealistic to expect that they would continue to do that anyway because they each will likely move on to other relationships.
MOLLY: It seems like the more important thing is not to trash-talk each other. The daughter doesn’t need to see them together interacting in the same room, but she does need for her parents not to talk badly about each other to her.
MOM: That is the most important thing. The number one rule for putting the kids first in a separation or divorce is to never, ever say anything negative about the other parent to the child. Trashing the ex- will usually boomerang...
Molly Skyar and Dr. Rutherford are behind the blog “Conversations With My Mother”: a blog about raising kids and how our parenting decisions now can have long term effects.
Dr. Rutherford is a Clinical Psychologist in practice for over 30 years. She has degrees from Duke University, New York University (NYU), and the University of Denver.
Molly is Dr. Rutherford's younger daughter and the mother of two children under six.
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