Q – I have been divorced for a couple of years and tried to be supportive of my Ex having a relationship with our son. Even though I have made it easy for her to spend time with him, my Ex frequently doesn’t show up and rarely calls. She is constantly making promises to our son that never come true. I am worried about how this is going to affect him. What can I do?
It’s heartbreaking for kids when a parent chooses not to be an active part of their lives. Unfortunately, when divorce occurs there are some parents who become less involved instead of more involved. Of course when this happens, it’s not just heartbreaking for our kids, it’s usually pretty tough on us as “involved” parents to see them repeatedly disappointed.
Instead of expending energy into trying to change or fix the other parent, accept the fact that you can’t make Mom keep promises or show up. I’d suggest redirecting your efforts into being the most supportive loving parent you can be and helping your son learn how to constructively cope when Mom lets him down.
When Mom drops the ball, do your best not to gloss it over or jump in to fix it. It’s also important not to swing the other direction either and rant about what a loser Mom is. Even though Mom isn’t an active part of your son’s life keep in mind that he still identifies with her. Most kids literally view themselves as half Mom and half Dad.
Perhaps the best thing you can do is make sure your son understands that Mom being unreliable isn’t his fault. Often when a parent isn’t involved kids usually take it very personally. In an effort to make sense of a parent’s actions, kids often blame themselves which is incredibly damaging for their self esteem. Therefore, your son may need to hear in a non-judgmental way that not all grownups know how to be involved parents. Do your best to support how this feels for him and work together on coming up with ways to deal with the disappointment. Make sure he knows it’s not his responsibility to try to change or fix mom. You can follow that up with how wonderful you think he is and that you will always be there for him.