What to do When Divorced Dad Spoils the Kids
A friend asked me a question about her ex-husband treating the children to lavish gifts and trips when he has them, while she is struggling financially. She knew she should not say anything negative to her children about her ex, but she was finding it difficult in the face of her circumstances. She wanted my opinion about what can she do.
This is a common situation with no simple answer. It depends on how often Dad is seeing the children. What kind of relationship does he have with them when he is not there? Is he angry about not sharing custody? Is he resentful towards Mom regarding other issues? Is he aware that she is struggling financially? Does he care? Is he trying to show her up and influence the children away from her? Or is he oblivious that his behavior is creating an issue for her? Is he aware that he may be spoiling the children? Does he think he’s being a wonderful Dad?
I acknowledged my friend for understanding and respecting the importance of not bad-mouthing her former husband to their children. I also agreed that it was indeed difficult when Dad spoils the kids with material toys and lures while she is struggling to make ends meet.
I offered some suggestions. She could explain to her children that Dad, like many grandparents and others who do not live with the children on a daily basis, wants to make his time with them very special by treating them to things that are not part of their everyday life. If he were at home with them, that wouldn’t be the case. Mom can’t do that because there are too many day-to-day routines, chores, expenses, etc. that she has to tend to. So this way they get the best of both worlds.
She could also talk to Dad, if her communication level with him allows that, and 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 as well as the lessons they are learning about fiscal responsibility and other consequences of spoiling children.
There are also several questions Mom needs to consider. Is Dad intentionally doing this to arouse her anger — or is it unconscious, irresponsible behavior? Is he resentful about not seeing more of his children and therefore intentionally trying to hurt her financially? Each of these factors plays a part in how Mom can best communicate the consequences for the children when Dad shows them different values and a different lifestyle than the one they are living with her.
If you have some other ideas and suggestions on this subject, I encourage you to share them. Let’s get a dialogue going on this tough topic. Just keep in mind there’s no absolutely right and wrong takes on this, especially when we don’t know all the circumstances. However, we can all learn from each other’s experiences and, hopefully, grow in more positive ways ourselves – for the betterment of our children.
Written by: Rosalind Sedacca
About the Author:
Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right! and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, visit www.childcentereddivorce.com.