I want my children to love their father even if I don’t
Q. My ex-husband and I had a terrible marriage, which ended recently. How can I help my children have a good relationship with their father even though I dislike him intensely?
A. Once, when I was a lunchtime helper at my daughter’s grade school, her classmate asked me to read a note tucked inside her lunchbox. The note was a reminder that it was Friday and she needed to take the school bus to her dad’s house. Her mother wrote that all week Dad had been missing her and now it was his turn to be with her. Mom expressed her love and hopes for a good weekend. Despite the stress of a recent divorce, the mother had been able to convey a sense of security and well-being to her daughter. It was OK to have a good time with Dad. Your question shows a similar attitude; despite your own feelings you want the best for your children.
Shift perspective. When we feel antagonistic toward someone, our first reaction isn’t cooperation. It is natural to think, “After such a terrible experience, why should I make his life easier?” But positive interactions with both parents are important for your children. It isn’t a matter of either one of you winning when making decisions. Instead, focus on what will lead to the most beneficial outcome for your children. Scripture tells us, “… everyone should be quick to listen but slow to speak and slow to human anger.” (James 1:19) Listen carefully to your ex-husband’s viewpoint and try to assess the consequences for your children.
Follow through on your agreements. Many states now require parents to complete parenting plans that are very specific. Spelling out details before circumstances arise can help reduce tension. Exactly what time do holidays begin and end? What arrangements need to be made for important activities for the welfare of your children, such as church attendance and sacramental preparation? How will aspects of your children’s health be addressed? This helps provide consistency and enhances the sense of security that your children feel.
Look to the future. Your future will be intertwined with that of your ex-husband for the rest of your lives. There may be teacher conferences, sports events, weddings and eventually grandchildren! Allow your children the freedom of sharing with you the good experiences they have with him. Since harboring resentment adds tension, pray for the desire to forgive your ex-husband for the behaviors that led to such intense dislike. Knowing that both of you are there for them will help your children in the ups and downs of life.