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Dr. Keane
Dr. Keane, Family Counselor
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1760
Experience:  Parenting Workshops, Teacher, PHD Clinical Psychology, 30 yrs. Exp. 4 Children
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I am involved in a contentious custody battle with my ex-wife

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I am involved in a contentious custody battle with my ex-wife who moved to another state. The court recently granted me temporary custody of the children (daughter, 7 and son, 4). Understandably my ex is very angry about the situation and is essentially brainwashing the children--telling them that their life would be better with her and making them feel like they are being 'forced' to stay here with me. Our son seems to be regressing and displaying infantile behavior--whining excessively, throwing (mild) tantrums and has even resorted to some 'baby talk.' I know he is acting out because of the confusing custody situation, being torn between two homes. BTW, his mother has witnessed the same behavior. How do we best deal with these behaviors? Are they 'normal' for a 4.5 year old? In other words, how concerned should we be?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Dr. Keane replied 6 years ago.

Hi, sorry your children are being used as pawns by your wife, this is way too common and so bad for the children. I would suggest you find a good child psychologist and bring both your children for play therapy. With the current situation it is normal for a child to react that way, he doesn't have the cognitive ability to understand what is happening to his family. I'd be concerned and if it's at all possible I would suggest to your wife that she is hurting her children to satisfy her own agenda. She won't like it but she may start to think twice about what she is doing. Be supportive of your children, try to console and comfort. Don't try to make your son stop using "baby" talk, just ignore the fact that he is. Don't say anything negative to them about their mother either (I know wouldn't), just validate that both of you love them and are doing what is best for the family.

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Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I have tried unsuccessfully to suggest to my ex that she is hurting the children by saying the things she says, but she absolutely refuses to see it. This is making the situation even more difficult. She is so consumed with her own agenda that she honestly believes (in my opinion) that she is doing right by the children by trying to convince them that being with her (in another state) is the best thing and that the life they know here is 'bad'...or worse yet, detrimental. So, it is very challenging trying to clean up the damage she is doing to the children while trying to take the high road (ie, not contradicting what she says, not saying anything negative about her)--although I am trying my hardest to continue to take the high road. I am also trying to set boundaries for the kids without coming off like the "mean" parent. I don't want my son to think that it's ok to whine constantly and throw tantrums if he doesn't like something (meals; going to preschool; cleaning up his toys; etc)--but perhaps I am worrying too much?
Expert:  Dr. Keane replied 6 years ago.
Hi, it's easy to worry when you see your children acting out, but worrying won't solve anything. Discipline is fine, if he doesn't want his meal, fine, don't make him eat it...but don't give him anything until the next meal, he will soon eat his dinners. If he whines, time out, he's four that means four minutes. If he puts up a fuss about school try a reward chart, go without whining, get a sticker on the chart, five stickers a reward (ice cream, time alone with Dad) same with clean up, stickers work wonders. Remain calm and try to present yourself that way when you reprimand. If he sees you calm he'll know his negative behavior isn't getting him anywhere. A child psychologist can help you greatly in this area.
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