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Single and Happy

Working with Your Ex

Q. When the children spend the weekend with my ex-husband, his new wife lets them stay up late, eat junk food, and pretty much get away with everything. When they come back, they're cranky and out of control -- and I'm angry.

A. You can't make the rules in your ex's home, but you can calmly spell out your concerns to him and ask him to work with you for the sake of the kids. And don't dis wife number two, which will only make him defensive. Instead, thank her for taking care of your kids and point out the things she does right before bringing up any problems. ("If the kids stay up late Saturday, it's hard to get them to bed on Sunday. Can you help me out?") You just might get the support you need, and the payoff will be huge.

Q. My ex almost always has his girlfriend sleep over when he has the kids, who are only 8 and 10. What can I do to make him stop?

A. This is a sensitive topic that requires a face-to-face meeting with him. Stay calm and rational, and start by affirming his right to date. Then explain why your children shouldn't be exposed to his personal life. Point out that they can quickly form attachments to girlfriends and feel hurt when they leave the scene, and that it's inappropriate for him to have sex when they're around, even behind closed doors. Share with him any comments the kids have made ("Mom, it's so weird when Dad and his girlfriend disappear into the bedroom"). Then ask him to stop inviting his girlfriend over when the kids are there. If he refuses, talk with his friends and ask them to speak up for you. If he won't change sufficiently and you feel it's in your kids' best interest, consult your lawyer about suspending his visitation rights.

Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the September 2007 issue of Family Circle magazine.