Trying to Help 6 Year old through a Divorce

Katie - posted on 02/11/2015 ( 12 moms have responded )

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Hi all,

I am a 27 year old woman who has never had kids but recently moved in with my boyfriend who has shared custody of his 6 year old son. He and his wife are currently going through the divorce process and I am concerned about the effect it is having on his son.

The shared custody schedule right now is she has him Monday, Wednesday, Friday and every other Sunday.

We have him Tuesday, Thursday, 1/2 day Saturday (her parents get him Friday night and Saturday Morning) and every other Sunday.

This schedule has been working for the past 5 months but since I have moved in, she has been requesting more and more time spent with him and my boyfriend has been accommodating. We are starting to see this lack of consistent schedule have an effect on him. And this week he has been on his normal schedule but we are still seeing issues.

Every night that we have him, he wakes up with nightmares or crying. He woke up last night confused about where he was and was asking for a toy that he keeps at his moms and his frustration peaked. He started crying and said he doesn't understand why he has to leave his room so soon to go somewhere else.

His dad had "the divorce" talk with him and he said he understood. But I cannot shake my uneasy feeling about the situation.

I feel that my presence in the household has caused this instability. His mom does have a boyfriend that lives with her but it's been my arrival that has set off a new round of possessiveness regarding her son and her attempting to keep him for longer periods of time.

When the nightmares started occurring, his dad tried to arrange a new custody schedule of a week with one parent and a week with the other but she is not amiable to that because "she can't be away from her son for that long".

I have never had the opportunity to talk to her other than the hellos when we pick him up or drop him off and the initial meeting.

Would it be helpful or make matters worse if I reached out to her to attempt to talk to her about my presence in the house? To have a woman to woman talk.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thank you.

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Sarah - posted on 02/11/2015

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How long have you been in the picture? Has the child known you for a good amount of time and have you gotten along with him so far?
I don't think reaching out to the mom is a good idea. That communication should be left to dad. What may be helpful is getting a counselor, mediator or court appointed guardian ad litem for the child. He is obviously stressed. Finding a peaceful resolution to the stress is the goal. To have a child flip- flop from house to house and then grandparents in the mix as well must be tough on the boy. Your arrival may have been straw that broke the camel's back but I suspect there is an underlying problem.
I agree that the parents should have 50/50 custody, but it isn't fair to force the child to accommodate to a schedule that works for the parents.

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Katie - posted on 02/11/2015

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Thank you, Raye. That's how it's been going, he and I discuss my concerns and he communicates with her. I just hate seeing Josh so confused and stressed out. My parents divorced when I was his age and my mom used my sister and I as a pawn to hurt my dad and I hate seeing the same thing done to him.
Seeing as how I don't have a good history with divorce, I tend to reach out to others who hopefully have had a healthier experience with the situation and can lend some advice or be a sympathetic ear.
I try every day to show these men that I do love and care for them and only want what's best for them. I could never hold Josh responsible for the mistakes his parents make, I just want him to have his best chance of getting through this with as little pain as possible.

Thank you all for your advice and sharing your experiences with me. It has helped tremendously.

Raye - posted on 02/11/2015

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Katie, I am a step-mom of two and I can tell you that it is difficult because the children's mother will always be in the picture. There's going to be a lot that you don't agree with, both with how each parent tries to raise the child and with the interaction between your partner and your ex. But you need to discuss it with your partner, and he and the ex need to work out the plan. The "woman to woman talk" is usually not a good idea. No matter how nice you try to be, chances are she will resent your involvement and consider it over-stepping. As a potential step parent, you need to step back and let the natural parents work it out. Do your best to love your partner and his kid(s). Don't hold grudges against innocent children because their parents can't find the best solution. Be patient and understanding. It's hard, but it can work and be a rewarding relationship.

Katie - posted on 02/11/2015

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I don't think my moving in is what triggered his stress, I believe it is the lack of consistent schedule that his mom sets because she has a problem with my presence.
He does not appear to have any jealousy regarding his dad and I's relationship. I believe we both equally focus on each other as much as on him. I make an extra attempt to allow him to have dad and son time as well.
There is also the issue of at his mom's house, he's allowed to sleep with her when he wakes up and he gets whatever he wants there. Dad has always been the disciplinarian. Do you think that could play a role in his stress as well?

Sarah - posted on 02/11/2015

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She will always control the relationship. That is the reality of the situation. Your boyfriend has a son with another woman. She will have say or do things that will affect your relationship with your boyfriend. Even after marriage. You will have to decide if this is something you are ok with dealing with for the rest of the child's life. Over time she may be less controlling of certain things, but there are going to be things there that she is always going to do either good or bad. You really can't draw the line. You are the outsider. Things have to go between the mother and father when it is concerning the 6 yr old. You can voice your opinions to the father, but he has to be the one that decides how much or little he is going to push the issue. Dating for only 6 months is really not that long. There are lots of things you need to take into consideration when dating someone with a child......this takes time. My sister married a man with 3 kids. The mom is a flake. She will most likely not change the way she does things.....she has her own interests at heart and could care less how that affects the kids. She many times does not want the kids when it is her time to have them. This is heartbreaking for the kids as they want to spend time with their mom. It is also hard on them as the mom often changes the plans at last minute, so the kids have no idea who's house they will be at. For my sister this is hard as she also can never plan things in her life because there are many times her and her husband have plans or she plans to go out of town to visit family and those plans have to change when mom drops the ball last minute and my sister and her husband are taking them to their activities instead of mom who originally had planned.

Katie - posted on 02/11/2015

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Sarah H-
Thank you for your advice as well. I believe that she will cause problems no matter how slowly I transition in. You are right that it is unfair for him to be a casualty of that and that he needs some counseling. But I think that is the unfortunately going to be his life as long as his father is in a relationship with anyone.
I would like his mother to not be able to control my relationship with him and his father by making all of our lives difficult and us having to cater to her getting her way because that is easiest on the Josh.
At what point do you draw the line? When we are married?

Raye - posted on 02/11/2015

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I wouldn't be so quick to say that the child's behavior is strictly because you have moved in. Although I do agree that you should not have moved in before the divorce was final. But, if they have been separated for a couple years, then the child should be used to the idea that his parents are no longer together. Part of it could be that he feels jealous of the attention you get from his father, but he will have to come to terms with that. Your boyfriend needs to make his son feel more comfortable with the situation, and still not be neglectful of his relationship with you.

The back and forth every day thing is a bad arrangement, and then making changes to it and not being consistent is even worse. Of course he's confused about where he is. If you were sleeping every night in a different bed, you probably wouldn't be sleeping well, would be confused and maybe a little scared waking up and having to think about where you are and if you're safe. The parents need to come to a better, more stable, custody schedule. a week on/off would not be too terrible, or 3 days/4 days/4 days/3 days, or something a little better than moving around every night. Too bad if the mom can't be without him that long. She needs to think of the mental and emotional well-being of her child.

Sarah - posted on 02/11/2015

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Since the divorce is still in the works, having court appointed rep for the boy should be feasible. That way an objective third part can evaluate what the child is feeling and what living arrangements would be best for him. I can't imagine the night to night plan being a good idea for any child.

Katie - posted on 02/11/2015

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Sarah E-
I have been in his life for a little over six months. He is very comfortable with me and was very excited to have me move in. We did have our initial adjustment time when his dad and I started dating but now we get along very well. I pick him up from after school care on the days we have him (dad works late) and we do homework together when dad isn't home. Our relationship is very good. He talks to me and asks questions when he has them and our environment is very stable during the day.
I just worry about the stress I see him under due to the house hopping and I believe the negativity he hears from his mother about his dad and I. He asks me questions and states things of a sexual nature that a 6 year has no business knowing about that are her influence.
I do want what's best for him and would like to make this transition for him as easy as possible. Maybe a counselor for him would be best. His parents have tried family counseling and mom is uncooperative so maybe it should be just about him.
Thank you for your input about reaching out to his mother. I just want her to not feel such negativity about his father and the home he keeps.
Thank you for your input.

Sarah - posted on 02/11/2015

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It does not matter how many boyfriends she has had in and out. I think you living with him right now is causing issues.....right or wrong.....it is not fair on the 6 yr old. Allow for the divorce to get settled. Allow for the 6 yr old to get some counseling/play therapy to adjust to everything that is happening in his life. THEN when you two are ready to get married.....THEN SLOWLY start that process of adjustment with the 6 yr old. It is sad when all the adults in the 6 yr old's life are making choices based on what they want not what is best for the 6 yr old. You can't control what mom does, but you can give it some time for the best interest of the 6 yr old.

Katie - posted on 02/11/2015

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They have been separated for years and mom has had many boyfriends in and out of her house. I don't believe my presence is an issue for anyone other than her. You still think I should not be around?

Sarah - posted on 02/11/2015

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Actually what would help the 6 yr old the most is for you to not be living with your boyfriend right now. If they are just going through a divorce then it is WAY TOOOOOO SOON for you to be moving in!! That is going to cause more issues with mom, the 6 yr. old and dad. So my suggestion is if you care about your boyfriend and his son then step back and don't try to move so fast.

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