Jill Goldson
A relationship expert with over 25 years experience counselling couples, individuals and families, Jill's here to help navigate the rocky road that is Other People.

Jill Goldson: Dealing with a slack parent

My relationship with my recent ex-husband is very acrimonious despite my best efforts. He only wants to see our two pre-teenage kids when it suits him. How can I explain this lack of dad's involvement to the children so they don't constantly feel rejected?
What do you do when one parent isn't pulling their weight?
Photo / Thinkstock
What do you do when one parent isn't pulling their weight? Photo / Thinkstock

Research tells us that the best outcome for children whose parents separate is for them to continue to have regular contact with both of their parents.

I wonder how involved your children's dad was with your children when you were married? Often parents who are unreliable after separation were never very hands-on anyway, even when they were all under the same roof.

That parent might love their children, but were never dependable. So, possibly, not having Dad very involved won't actually not be such a big change for your children when they eventually get used to the idea of the separation?

Do the children feel rejected, or are you angry about his lack of involvement? Or is it a bit of both?

Got a broken heart, relationship niggle, infuriating family member, or anything in between? Email your questions here and check back next Friday to hear Jill's wisdom.

Ideally there should be proper and regular contact. But, ultimately, the key issue is that there is some regular contact. If we focus on the needs of children, this is actually more relevant to kids than frequency. For them, it's about quality, not quantity.

This is hard to accept when you, as the other parent, feel upset and frustrated at the lack of responsibility your ex is displaying. But the truth is that your children will do better if they are able to experience a sense that Mum and Dad are not constantly criticising each other. The hostility you describe between you both will be spilling over into the quality of your shared parenting. Communicating with each other about what your kids need will not be happening, for example.

What would happen if you told your ex-partner that the children need to see him more, because he matters to them?

It is a good idea to think about a neutral person, a friend, or perhaps a professional, who might facilitate a discussion between the two of you, to work out the best arrangements for your children.

It's not easy, but try and focus on your parenting - and not on the adult issues between you. You will be glad you did.

* For personal assistance from Jill Goldson visit The Family Matters website here.

- www.nzherald.co.nz

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