Author Topic: Children's Perspective of Deadbeat Parents  (Read 7087 times)

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SPuck

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Children's Perspective of Deadbeat Parents
« on: May 13, 2012, 09:55:57 AM »
I was reading Dear Abby's column and came upon this letter:

Found here: http://www.uexpress.com/dearabby/?uc_full_date=20120512

I was just wondering, what is the etiquette of letting children form opinions of their parents. I know you shouldn't bad mouth your former wife or husband, but its completely okay to let children come up with these opinions on their own? Basically do you have to prop up a bad parent in the eyes of their children?
« Last Edit: May 13, 2012, 12:33:47 PM by SPuck »

AdakAK

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Re: Children's Perspective of Deadbeat Parents
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2012, 10:02:25 AM »
Children aren't stupid.  If you try to make excuses for the other parent, it will only hurt your relationship with them. 

camlan

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Re: Children's Perspective of Deadbeat Parents
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2012, 10:16:53 AM »
I saw that letter and I have mixed feelings about it.

First, the father loving his step-kids more. These kids are kind of young--it could be that they are misinterpreting the actions of a live-in father, taking the step-kids places, buying them things, doing things with them, as his loving the step-kids more, when it is just a fact that he spends more time with his step-kids, so he knows more about their day to day activities and sports and hobbies and favorite TV shows and latest fads. This could be interpreted as "loving them more." So, to me, this one thing could be true or it could be the kids' perception and not completely true. Not enough info in the letter to say for sure.

The bit about him loving them more than their mother? Manipulation. Not wanting to pay child support? Manipulation.

Most of the divorced parents who have custody that I've known have bent over backwards to present a good picture of the non-resident parent. The kids have all figured out on their own, as they got older, exactly what both parents were really like. But the custodial parents didn't lie about the other parent. If he/she screwed up, the kids knew that. The custodial parents would try to cushion the blow, but more because they didn't want to see their kids hurting than that they were protecting the reputation of the other parent. It's a fine line between protecting your kid and letting them experience the unvarnished truth, in some cases.
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sparksals

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Re: Children's Perspective of Deadbeat Parents
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2012, 10:59:59 AM »
Op.  You need to edit out the letter.   We are not allowed to copy that much from another website on here.  You can only fo a couple lines and then provide the link.

Winterlight

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Re: Children's Perspective of Deadbeat Parents
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2012, 11:19:01 AM »
I think the kids may be reacting to a perceived closeness with the steps, but also to his attempts to manipulate them by badmouthing mom. Dad sounds like a winner. /eyeroll

I think the best thing mom can do is to continue to take the high road by not bashing dad back. Even if he does deserve it.
If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.
Caroline Lake Ingalls

Hillia

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Re: Children's Perspective of Deadbeat Parents
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2012, 12:28:15 PM »
Ugh, this guy sounds like my ex.  When we got divorced, DS was 6.  Because DH had very little money at the time, having lost yet another job, DS lived with me about an hour away from Ex.  I made sure that Ex got to spend every other weekend with him and did half the driving.  In return, DH told DS that he didn't know why I had divorced him, that he still loved me and wanted to stay together but I wanted to be single and have fun, that I didn't love DS because I had moved and made DS move schools...on and on.  When Ex started dating and eventually married a woman with 4 kids of her own, custody went to 50/50 (judges, please don't order this when the parents don't get along, it's a nightmare for everyone, especially the kids) DS was definitely the odd one out, always in the wrong, always second best.  All this time I tried very hard not to badmouth Ex ("Daddy is very sad, and sometimes when people are very sad they say mean things because they can't think of what else to do").

12 years later, DS can't stand his father and refuses to talk to him.  Which is ok with the Ex, because his stepkids are still the most amazing, perfect things ever and DS is a loser who'll never amount to anything.  Yeah, all he did was graduate 6 months early from a double academic/vocational program, earn professional licensure in 2 states, and start his own business.  Total loser.   ::)

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SPuck

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Re: Children's Perspective of Deadbeat Parents
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2012, 12:34:55 PM »
Thanks Sparksals.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2012, 12:37:36 PM by SPuck »

weeblewobble

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Re: Children's Perspective of Deadbeat Parents
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2012, 02:09:52 PM »
I don't think you should protect the "deadbeat" spouse against the consequences of their actions.  If Dad forgets the kids' birthdays, I don't think you should buy a gift and put Dad's name on the tag.  If Mom blows off an important baseball game or recital, I don't think you should make excuses for her and say and emergency came up. 

However, I think you should work that much harder to make sure the kid knows that they are loved and that there is a support system of people who are there for them.  If Dad can't take your son fishing (or forgot his promise to) you should take them or arrange for a trusted grandparent/uncle/cousin to take them.  If your daughter seems to need to talk about "women's issues" and you're a dad who feels ill-equipped to do so, arrange for a friend, an aunt, the school nurse, somebody, to lead them through that minefield.

Kids are smart.  They figure out what's going on long before the parents tell them.  If you can get through these hard times without trashing their other parent and maintain your class/composure, all they will remember is the love you showed them.

Winterlight

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Re: Children's Perspective of Deadbeat Parents
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2012, 02:20:34 PM »
I don't think you should protect the "deadbeat" spouse against the consequences of their actions.  If Dad forgets the kids' birthdays, I don't think you should buy a gift and put Dad's name on the tag.  If Mom blows off an important baseball game or recital, I don't think you should make excuses for her and say and emergency came up.

Agreed. There's a difference between the high road and enabling.
If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.
Caroline Lake Ingalls

sparksals

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Re: Children's Perspective of Deadbeat Parents
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2012, 02:31:23 PM »
Hillia....such a sad story for your son being forced into such a situation.   How a judge could not foresee him being odd one out is beyond me.   I'm so glad he rose up from it and made himself a success.   Glad he had you.

SiotehCat

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Re: Children's Perspective of Deadbeat Parents
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2012, 02:34:01 PM »
Big M and I split up when Ds was 2. When DS was 6, Dh and I moved far far away. DS is 11 now and visits with Big M during the summer and for Christmas.

We absolutely do not, under any circumstances, speak badly about him around DS. And, believe me, there is plenty we could say. We also don't say good things about him that aren't true. We encourage DS to have a relationship with him without making our opinions known.

Big M does have several step children and I do think he gives them more then DS. A few things about that bother me, but I keep my feelings and opinions to myself.


O'Dell

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Re: Children's Perspective of Deadbeat Parents
« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2012, 02:48:35 PM »
I don't think you should protect the "deadbeat" spouse against the consequences of their actions.  If Dad forgets the kids' birthdays, I don't think you should buy a gift and put Dad's name on the tag.  If Mom blows off an important baseball game or recital, I don't think you should make excuses for her and say and emergency came up. 

However, I think you should work that much harder to make sure the kid knows that they are loved and that there is a support system of people who are there for them.  If Dad can't take your son fishing (or forgot his promise to) you should take them or arrange for a trusted grandparent/uncle/cousin to take them.  If your daughter seems to need to talk about "women's issues" and you're a dad who feels ill-equipped to do so, arrange for a friend, an aunt, the school nurse, somebody, to lead them through that minefield.

Kids are smart.  They figure out what's going on long before the parents tell them.  If you can get through these hard times without trashing their other parent and maintain your class/composure, all they will remember is the love you showed them.

I totally agree with this. My case is a little different. I'm the kid with the divorced parents. My mother had custody and *she* is the one that badmouthed my "deadbeat" dad. Of course I eventually figured out that my dad was in part (not completely as he was no saint!) a "deadbeat" dad because she took out her anger at him on me and he kept contact with me to a minimum as a kindness to me.

I also think you can explain a person's bad actions or characteristics without excusing their behavior. That's about as far as I would go with the truth. One thing that affected my trust in people is how would try to cover over my mother's nastiness and make excuses for her. Candy-coating the deadbeat's behavior is just as bad as badmouthing it.
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
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LEMon

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Re: Children's Perspective of Deadbeat Parents
« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2012, 04:45:26 PM »
I think in general it is better to not hide the truth or cover it over.  Reading on here, I have noticed many stories where a child (now an adult) is dealing with the aftermath of being told everything was fine when it wasn't. 

As a made-up example, a child grows up feeling dad just does not love her.  Mom, when asked about this or given examples, always insist that this isn't true, dad loves child just fine.  Siblings back mom, relatives say everything is fine, but child can't shake the feeling.  After the child grows up, it is finally admited dad didn't love child and everyone knew it.  Child now is left with many hard emotions and damage to deal with to overcome all of this.

Plus there is always the truism that "we feel what we feel".  It might be right or wrong, but that feeling is there.  Better to teach kids to deal with what they feel, and to teach them to figure out when their feelings are wrong or right.

I am totally behind cushioning the letdowns or flakiness, finding other ways to support the child's needs, and making sure they have lots of love.  But to hide their parent's true nature and pretend that what they are feeling isn't real seems more damaging than dealing with ex's lack of character.  (Not trying to suggest that it will be easy to handle in the slightest.  Such a situation is heartbreaking for both child and the parent trying to help the child.)

readingchick

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Re: Children's Perspective of Deadbeat Parents
« Reply #13 on: May 13, 2012, 05:40:07 PM »
I agree that you shouldn't shield the deadbeat from the consequences of their actions. I also agree that parents shouldn't hide the truth or cover it up. However, I think that kids shouldn't be made to feel ashamed or like they're being rude for politely expressing their feelings about a parent.

blue2000

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Re: Children's Perspective of Deadbeat Parents
« Reply #14 on: May 13, 2012, 06:03:01 PM »
I think you need to be matter-of-fact about what the ex is doing and leave your opinion of them out of it.

My cousin's ex is a deadbeat. She does not want the kids, nor does she do much about visits. He was concerned about her behaviour during a visit (nothing awful, just lax parenting) and whether the kids liked it. Did they think he was too strict? Lots of issues there! I told him kids are smart, and they will figure out pretty fast who loves them and who doesn't.
You are only young once. After that you have to think up some other excuse.