I am the step-parent of two children, ages 3-1/2 and 5. My husband, has custodial-parent status and has shared custody with the children's mother. The mother moved out of state a few months ago, and has recently decided to "play a part" in the children's lives again (superficially only). She sees them once a month and calls them every-other day.
Lately, the mother has been telling the children things that have my husband and I concerned. She tells them how much she misses them, and how hard it is on her to be without them. How if they were up with her they'd be playing and having fun and doing all sorts of things. How she bought them a toy and next time they come up to see her (MONTHS form now) she'll give it to them.
She goes out of her way to "make them miss her" and it seems like she's trying to put a guilt trip on them so they'll always be thinking of her. She is interested only in making them "want for her" and has no daily responsibility to caring for the children. They come home with dirty clothes (same ones we sent them in), no baths all weekend, upset bellies from not eating correctly. But it seems she has plenty of time to guilt and manipulate them.
She has recently been telling the children that "when they're 12, they can decide who they want to live with for ever and ever". We've heard this directly from her, from her mother (the children's grandmother) and directly from the 5 year old. She continues to say it quite often on the phone and several times when she sees them.
My step-son told me last night, again, what his mom said. How do I answer it? I don't want to bash her, or create a struggle in his mind between the two families over the issue, but I do need to answer his question.
What kind of damage is she doing to them psychologically, by making them bear this burden so young?
Legally, we need to get with our lawyer to see if there's anyway we can stop her from saying things like that to her, but psychologically, we're not sure how to handle the issues with the kids.
My mom did this same thing when we were kids, how she was going to get us and all that. We didn't like our step mom, I still struggle with liking her. But I really don't like my mother much either (she was never there for me, and my brother and sisters). Even now i have a 6 month old daughter and she has never seen her. It does hurt some, but as an adult I don't have a relationship with her. My younger sister finally got the picture and sees my mom in the same light that i do now. My brother was the youngest at the time of the divorce and he is now 20 and I think he has her mentality. Some days I wonder how her survives other days i pray that he never brings children into this world, because it would break my heart to see him be the same kind of parent as her (they both have no common sense).
You need to talk to your lawyer about getting a court order about what can and can't be said to the children or consequences will be inforced. I know it may seem silly, but I remember my parents having one. They werent supposed to mention certain things to us or else suffer not talking to us or seeing us when we were kids. Of course I want supposed to see the paper, court ordered, and my mom showed it to me and my brother, but whatever, at least it will help the kids understand who was more "true" as a parent. Im sorry your going through this, mothers usually end up angry and use the anger on the kids they dont have because of jealousy that the ex has remarried and has the kids, Im sure it works both ways, but in your case its the mother. Maybe you can at least stop her from the lies and encouragement for future "promises", it can really affect the childrens emotional state negatively. Good Luck
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