By Julie A. Ross and Judy Corcoran

In A Joint Custody With a Jerk: Raising a Child with an Uncooperative Ex, authors Julie A. Ross, a family counselor, and Judy Corcoran, a freelance writer, pooled their talents to develop strategies for effective co-parenting that are easy to apply, down-to-earth, and innovative. In their view, parenting is difficult enough in a family where two parents love and respect each other. In divorce, where the respect has diminished and the love has often turned to intense dislike, co-parenting can drive one or both parents to the brink of insanity. JOINT CUSTODY WITH A JERK provides examples of common co-parenting problems and offers many proven communication techniques for sticky situations. Here's what they have to say about the typical battles associated with children and money:

Divorced parents haven't cornered the market on disagreements, but they certainly have their share, with their primary discord relating to the issue of money. Many divorces proceed amicably as long as the monetary agreement is acceptable to both parents. When it becomes unbalanced -- when one parent needs more money or the other offers less, or if your child incurs unexpected expenses -- your ex can turn into a jerk in a second. And unfortunately, money problems usually do arise at some point simply because it costs between 30 percent and 60 percent more to operate two households than it does to run one. Often, too, one parent resents the other for having more money or feels taken advantage of for having to pay more.

When money issues arise, it's critical that you keep your child out of the argument. To do this, you must first recognize that you're putting her in the middle. There are many subtle, as well as overt, ways parents do this. Consider the following:

"My daughter wanted sneakers for her birthday that cost $119 and I just couldnt afford it. She kept nagging me and dragging me into the store to see them. Finally, one day, I just burst into tears and started sobbing that if her dad gave us more money, I could buy things like that for her." This mother subtly engaged her daughter in a money conflict with her ex. By implying that her ex was responsible for her inability to purchase the sneakers, she was essentially blaming him for not meeting their daughters "needs."

Let's see what she had to say after she'd thought about it a little more: "Later, I realized it wasn't that I needed more money from her dad. I just needed more money. I remembered back to when our daughter was younger, when my ex and I were still married. I didnt have $119 to spend on sneakers back then either." This mother came to the realization that with or without her ex, this type of problem might still occur, and dragging her ex into it was very unfair to her daughter. Had she said something like, "Honey, $119 is a lot to spend on sneakers, I'm not comfortable spending that much. Is there any way you can think of to save or earn the money?" she could have avoided involving her ex.

There are also very overt ways we engage our children in money conflicts. For example, it's really easy to answer a child's request for something with, "Ask your dad to buy it for you" or "Doesnt your mother take care of these things?" One mother writes,"Tommy had his heart set on a bicycle for Christmas, but my cash flow was really tight. I tried to explain that it might have to wait, but he just said, 'It's okay, I'll ask Santa. Then it won't cost you anything.'.....I felt terrible. I could tell it was his heart's desire. And in his letter to Santa, he wrote, 'You dont have to bring me anything else, Santa.. All I want is a new bike and Ill be happy.' I knew that I wouldn't be able to manage it this year, but I wanted so badly for him to have it. And then as I thought about it, I got angry. Why couldn't his father buy it? He had plenty of cash. I'm afraid I blew it, because when Tommy asked me if I thought Santa would bring it to him, I exploded and said, "Why dont you ask your father? He is the one with all the money. Ask him to get it for you."

This is a terrible setup. Not only is the child left wondering what he did to provoke the anger, but by passing the buck (pun intended), this mother has set it up so that in the future, Tommy will be hesitant about expressing his wishes and desires to her and may look at Dad as the approachable one.

In addition, Mom needs to consider whether she wants her son to get the material things he asks for whenever he asks. It's far better to be honest with your child about money, saying that sometimes we have to wait for things that are expensive, even if we really want them, and that even Santa can't always bring children what they want exactly when they want it.

Many times the money conflicts arise because parents worry or feel guilty that they can't provide for their kids as well as their ex can. Maybe he's always taking the children to Disneyland, or she has a bigger house with a pool, or he just bought them roller blades. This can be hard to swallow, but children are very good at differentiating between emotional support and material gain. Children know when their affections are being bought.

"I grew up in a divorced home, and whenever my mom wouldn't buy me something I wanted, I'd call my dad. He usually came through for me because back in those days, he had more money. I didn't think that he was nicer or better than my mom for doing it, though. I just used it as a way to get what I wanted. He used to buy me big presents for Christmas and my birthday too, and my mom always used to accuse him of trying to buy my love. But you know what? I saw through it all. Yeah, my dad bought the dolls and bikes and cars, but my mom was there to help me with my homework."

Reprinted with the express permission of its authors, Julie A. Ross and Judy Corcoran, St. Martens Press, 1996.

Posted on Saturday, February 24, 2007 at 02:26PM by Registered CommenterSite Administrator in | Comments Off

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