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Hello, I am available to assist you. Thank you for your post tonight.
It is understandable that you feel left out- sounds like your ex's "neediness" is getting center stage. Children, no matter what the age, rise to the occasion when a parent "needs" them.
So the million dollar question is how do you get your children to "hear" and respond to what you are saying?
When people respond defensively they may be feeling put down, judged, etc. and it's natural to put up the defenses- in some way they may think they have to "defend" them self.
Something worth considering is approaching your children, first with lots and lots of validation for their devotion, kindness, and generosity, in helping someone- just happens to be their father. You had a lot to do with raising your children to care enough, who are generous, rise to the occasion of helping. You may not agree with their father's "need" for help, but somehow, in some way your children feel the need to help.
The more we validate and meet people where they "are" the better we will be heard. Right now your children "are" helping their father. I would imagine that if and when you need the support and help, your children will be there for you. Simply saying to your children "wow, you are so generous and giving", those are wonderful, human, loving qualities. Once your children begin to feel validated for doing what they feel "called" to do, you can then work towards making plans for time together. If they feel unconditional support from you, they are more apt to seek you out, want to spend time with you.
All you want is more time with your children- very understandable- as a mother myself.
Children love their parents equally, but when "called" to help, it sounds like that's what your children are doing. It also may be an opportunity to seek out a relationship they didn't have with their father? As mothers, we are more of a "for sure" thing with our children- it's unconditional, not so much with the father- and might your children be taking this as an opportunity, a second chance to "bond", or get to know him a bit better?
Validating and giving your children lots of kudos for their devotion- may create easier access to your children- when we feel supported by someone, we naturally want to spend time with those people.
Please let me know if what I posted makes any sense, and or if you have other comments or questions. I look forward to your response. Thank you for your post! I wish the best to you and your family.