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My mother watches my 2 children ages 7 and 4, 3 times a

week. She has been divorced...
My mother watches my 2 children ages 7 and 4, 3 times a week. She has been divorced from my fathers for 30+ years but still harbors resentment towards him. Growing up she told us things about the divorce and would make comments to try to get us on her side. Growing up with that pressure, having to worry during celebratory events about trying to keep them separate, and her always asking for separate weddings, birthday events, etc was stressful and put me into an adult role early on.
We have a trip planned to Disneyland my father will be going on. My 7 year old asked why my mother is not going and why I have 2 dads (my mother remarried). I explained they were divorced, both love me and him, but it would make Nana uncomfortable to go. He asked if Nana hated Grandpa, I said yes but we love both and that is ok.
He made a comment to my mother one day which lead to her bringing up the subject the following day. She explained my dad had cheated on her and once people fall in love they usually stay in love and that he left her. She told him she cried and it made her sad and other details of their divorce.
I was upset by this as I think it is a boundary being crossed again, this time involving my child instead of me. She thinks he is able to handle all of this and it was ok to tell him because it is the truth. I asked her not to do that and she needs to keep answers short and simple. She asked me for canned answers and she will repeat them.
Since I do not have healthy boundaries around my parents divorce and was told, coincidently at the age of 7 too as well as the rest of my life, the sorted details of my parents divorce what is the best way to answer my 7 year old.
My question is: what can I tell my mom to say that is A) age appropriate regarding her divorce and B) corrects what she has done? Also what do I say to my mom? She is now irritated with me for saying this behavior was wrong.
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Answered in 32 minutes by:
1/17/2018
LeahMSWuofm
LeahMSWuofm, Clinical Social Worker
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1,166
Experience: 10 years post-MSW experience
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Hi, thank you for writing. My name is ***** ***** also have a 9soon to be )7 Year old son and 4 year old, at home and their ana watches the youngest!

Here is my take....for one, try not to worry. your 7 year old is going to be exposed to concepts like this and it is okay for people to be honest about life events, both sad ones and positive ones. With that being said, I agree and understand your point - the 7 year old doesn't need the nitty gritty details nor does he need details that may cause him to question the goodness of his grandfather, who he also has a relationship with. However, if your son did not come to you outwardly upset about this, then it is probably not something worth dwelling on in terms of helping him handle the reality of things like divorce.

So my advice about what to say regarding divorce would be to explain that people are entitled to the way they think and feel and that the way people think and feel about things, including people, can change over time. Sometimes, relationships change and this can cause people to grow apart and change their mind about how much time they want to spend together. Putting this in the context of friendships can help where he can be shown that he has the choice over who he spends time with and that this may change as people do come and go from each other's lives for a whole lot of various reasons.

As far as correcting what your mom has done, I think I spoke to this above where I don't think it is worthy of great concern unless your son has made it clear he is upset or wants more info. His question about why Nana isn't coming on the trip shows he is getting more mature and noticing such things and so he deserved a honest answer, which it sounds like he got, and then some. So basically, I would tell your Mom not to bring it up again unless he asks and if so, to filter her response to include factual information about what a divorce is - two married people deciding they would be better off not married, and helping him understand that life is full of people coming and going and that luckily, the world is also filled with opportunities to seek out and find people who love and adore you, just like his family does him. Just know that your son is going to be exposed to real-world things like divorce within his peer groups, if he hasn't been already so helping him know truths about it from someone who loves him, including emotional ramifications of the situation, is likely appropriate and will help him understand the situation more clearly then if he is exposed to it from a peer who sheds a different light on it completely. .

And for what it is worth, I clash with my parents sometimes about parenting my children and usually find that if worth it, I will circle back to the conversation after the intensity has passed and try to validate that I understood my parents approach or concern, but feel ... because.... Then, I try to let it go knowing that most things in these phases are of fleeting importance regardless of their seemingly massive implications at anyone time and that in general, me and my parents have the same goal of raising my children successfully and heir intentions are always positive even if their delivery may not be of my choosing all the time.

I am here to chat more if you'd like!

-Leah

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I should also note, I understand your sensitivity to this given 7 was a big year for you so I appreciate our want to protect your son from these BIG concepts, given it was something that affected your life greatly.

Keep up the good work!

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Customer reply replied 7 months ago
Thank you! We are living the same life story in many ways it seems! Kids of the same age and Nana- babysitters! I do feel fortunate she is in their life and helping us as much as she can. She is emotionally unstable and prone to tears and meltdowns occassionally. One of her sisters has stopped speaking to her which she has likened to a divorce. I try to always answer my son honestly when he asks questions and agree kids cannot be shielded from everything, nor do I want to! My husband is a police officer so the gritty details of life come through a lot. My son has friends now who are divorced and has asked about divorce in general before. I like that answer you gave, to compare it to friendship. My mother is against any explanation that does not include blaming my dad and questioning his character. My concern is he will feel pressure to choose a side or worry about my marriage to his father. She is still angry about the divorce and I do not want my 7 year old feeling he has to comfort her or try to grapple with the level of detail given.

Yes - I understand how you want to shield your son from taking sides and agree, this is where your sensitivity to it should be. I still lean towards being honest with your son, especially if your mother happens to be more sensitive. Ironically, I also have a close family member who is emotionally iffy and I have had to be honest with my children that he is more "sensitive" so things affect him differently and sometimes, they need to be a bit more "gentle" and kind to him and follow my lead when I request something of the way they treat him. So, being honest with your son that your mother was hurt by the divorce and still carries some of those sad feelings today is an okay thing to say. Perhaps your son finding ways to address this with her on his own is a healthy thing for him to learn, specially since yo can't moderate her honesty at all times. Then, just sustain your efforts to have him spend positive time with both of your parents and try not to allow your own worries to cause too much anxiety over the natural course of these relationships and the natural evolution of your son being exposed to the trials and tribulations of life.

LeahMSWuofm
LeahMSWuofm, Clinical Social Worker
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1,166
Experience: 10 years post-MSW experience
Verified
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