homeislove asks:

My 5 yr old has visitations 3-4 x per month.  During the visits he brings a new girlfriend along to spend their time.  Concerned that this is not ok b

My sons father has bipolar disorder and well as chemical dependencies to a variety of drugs.  During the course of my son’s life he has cancel 75% of his visits and has no communication with me outside of visitations schedules.  Though some of the visits are typically with my sons grandparents or brother (which does make me feel better) I have noticed over the last 3 years a change in my sons behavior upon returning from his visits.  He says things that are troubling me and he has little eye contact, which is not normal.  When  he comes home distraught or his behavior is unusual, it has been on the frequent visits that his father will bring a new girlfriend along for the day.  I have concerns that this is not appropriate for my son and that he should be getting the one on one time with his family and father.  Is it wrong of me to ask that he keeps his dating life outside of his sons visits and when he finds one that is a keeper then gradually introduce her.
In Topics: Parenting / Our Family, Divorce Issues
> 60 days ago



Mar 1, 2012
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What the Expert Says:

I'm sorry your son is having some troubles when visiting his dad. If you feel that he isn't safe when he's with his dad (and the grandparents aren't around) - it's time for you to visit an attorney or mediator and get the visitation supervised. The safety of your son is of the most importance.

As far as your husband dating, children- especially little ones don't take the dating as seriously as we do. To them it's logical for their to be a "mommy" and "daddy" in each house, so when the girlfriend is present- this seems more natural for them.

You didn't mention what statements your child is making when he returns.  You may want to take him to a counselor (one that specializes in play therapy) to figure out what's wrong.  Your ex-spouse dating in front of the kids is not a problem (athough I  think it's ideal to wait a few months before introducing your girlfriends/boyfriends to the kids- you can't control this with him) - but you say there are other issues, so something may be happening that your child is uncomfortable with, or is unsafe.

So- outside of seeking the advice of an attorney, mediator and a play therapy counselor, here are some tips on how to talk to your son:
-Tell him you love him very much and miss him when he's gone, but it's important for him to spend time with both his mom and dad.
-Tell him that mom and dad may see other adults at time, to date, and maybe to one day marry. These relationships don't effect how much you love him- that will never change.
-If at anytime you feel unsafe- let's talk about it (Note from Shirley- if a 5 year old won't talk about it and you still have concerns, then I recommend the counselor.)

Hope that helps.

Shirley Cress Dudley, MA LPC NCC FACMPE
Executive Director of The Blended and StepFamily Resource Center
Best selling author of the book Blended Family Advice
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