My ex keeps accusing me of being overly controlling but he’s just really disorganised. What shall I do?

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Dear Sheila

My ex and I have three beautiful girls aged 11, 8 and 5. We recently separated after I found out he has been having an affair with a junior colleague at work. Despite never really having an interest in our kids while we were married he has suddenly started taking an interest in them, has joined the PTA and says he wants to spend half the time with them. I’m worried though that he doesn’t really know how to look after them. They come home from school in clothes with marks all over them and I’ve bought three lunchboxes in the last month because the 8 year old says he lost them. I am finding it hard to cope with as it feels like he’s only doing it to make a point but when I challenge him about it he says I’m ‘not being child-centric’ or accuses me of being overly controlling. What should I do?

Jean, Fulham

Dear Jean

Thank you for writing to me regarding your daughters.  I see that you are only recently separated and I am guessing things will take a little while to settle down. This is a difficult time for all the family as they adjust to a new way of living and being.

All of you will be fragile and feeling vulnerable, the hope is that your children will see both their parents working together and managing their new co parenting relationship.  It sounds easy, but it isn’t. The greatest gift you can give your children is “permission”, to love both their parents. A question for you, “Do you think your children love both their parents?”  If the answer is yes, then it is really important that they are “allowed”, to love both of you. In my experience of meeting with so many children over the years, I have rarely heard them say they love one parent over another.  I appreciate your feelings for your ex-husband are probably pretty low, but your children’s feelings about their dad will not be your feelings.  I understand it is frustrating when their uniforms are grubby and the lunch boxes go missing, but again try not to make this a problem for your children.

If they can see you working with their dad trying to make this better this will increase the stability you want them to feel.  In time if something happens like this the best way to communicate might be to offer some help to their dad and guidance. I know it’s frustrating but it really would be better for the girls if they are able to have a meaningful relationship with him. Try and find a solution as this is best for the children. If you can, have some spare uniform at both houses and a spare lunchbox.

I frequently hear parents accuse each other of being overly controlling. But what does that mean? It’s generally a symptom of the anxiety felt when a relationship breaks down and there is uncertainty about what happens next. It’s natural to latch onto or retreat to your area and plant a flag in it – whether that is running the family’s finances or organising the children’s routines. But opening up a dialogue can be the best way of tackling the underlying insecurities.

Above all, remember - it WILL get better!


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