My husband and I divorced a few years ago after he refused to give up a relationship with another woman. My oldest child found out what was going on and told me that she lost respect for her dad and didn’t want anything to do with him. I was required to have her spend time with her dad due to the divorce decree, but now that she’s an older teenager, it doesn’t make sense to require her to spend time with her dad. My daughter also told me she doesn’t want me sharing information about her life with her dad (like who she’s dating, where she’s working, etc). This seems a little over the top and I don’t want to feel like I’m caught in the middle between them. My other kids still like being with him and don’t seem to have the same issues. Any advice on how I should handle this situation with her?
Your daughter isn’t being unreasonable. She is simply asking you to respect her voice. Even though it sounds like you didn’t have many options about the outcome of your marriage due to your ex-husband’s choices, please recognize that your children had even less influence over the outcome.
Your daughter’s feelings about her dad should be validated and understood. She needs to know that it’s okay for her to desire space from him, even if that may not be entirely possible due to the fact that she’s still a minor. I encourage you to do everything you can to respect her wishes.
Even though your divorce decree may still legally require her to have visits with her father, what she shares with him is entirely up to her. This is an area where she can be respected and guaranteed a voice, even if only by you.
Promise her that you’ll respect her wishes for privacy and that if you feel you need to share something with her father, you’ll work through it with her first. For example, if there were serious medical issues with her, it wouldn’t make sense to leave him out of the loop.
Regardless of their marital status, a parent needs to form an individual relationship with each of their children and not only rely on the other parent to facilitate the relationship. Now that you’re divorced, it’s even more critical for him to be in charge of his relationship with his daughter. If he has things to repair with her due to his poor choices, then he needs to do everything he can to fix the broken trust.
It wouldn’t hurt to let him know that you’re not going to be responsible for keeping him updated on your daughter’s day-to-day activities. Let him know that he’s going to have to build the kind of relationship with her where she’ll feel comfortable sharing this information with him.
Remember, you’re not keeping her secrets. You’re respecting the relationship he’s created with his daughter and allowing her to set the parameters between them. In a few short years when she’s on her own, this will be more pronounced and you won’t have any say about the kind of relationship they have with each other. Now is a good time to let them both work that out in their own way.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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