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When the other parent says "Don't tell."

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I have been separated/divorced for four years. We have joint custody of our children, who are now 20 and 16. The 20 year old is at college, and the 16 year old is still in high school. When we first were divorced, we communicated frequently about the kids and their needs. The younger child has some medical special needs, so we have to be in touch fairly regularly. We have always had similar views on child-rearing, so there have been few disagreements. We have been able to stay out of each other's way, and try to respect that we may do things differently in our own homes--or, at least we don't interfere. For instance, my daughter goes to sleep by 9:30 at my house on a school night. At her dad's house, he often doesn't even get home from work until 8:00. By the time dinner and the routine is done, it's much later. I have told her that she is old enough to be in charge of her own routine, and that it's her responsibility to make sure she has enough sleep, but I know it's a different scene over there. She misses school a little more when she's with her dad, which I think is because she is tired, which can make her ill. As time has gone on, he and I communicate less frequently about what each other is doing, which I find difficult some times. I've asked him to meet with me once in a while for coffee, just so we can catch up with things about the kids, but he avoids this. I think he is still angry or something about our breakup, and doesn't like to be around me that much.


The issue is this. Lately, he has been doing some things and asking our daughter not to tell me. There is no reason for this, other than that he feels his life is private, and I don't need to know. I don't have a problem with this, I feel the same way. The thing is, if there is something I don't want my daughter to tell her dad, I don't tell her. I don't ask her to keep secrets, I think that's unhealthy. He has a lot of money and so he's been buying toys and doing improvements. Good for him. But, he tells her that it's not a secret, but don't tell me. Same thing with buying a vacation home, a new motorcycle, and things about his girlfriend. I don't need to know things--I really don't care. But, when she tells me things anyway, she feels guilty and upset. I think it's totally wrong for him to share things with her and then tell her not to tell me. But, since she isn't supposed to tell me, I am in a quandry about talking to him about it. When he found out that I knew about the vacation home, he talked to her about it, which made her feel bad. I don't want her to stop telling me things she wants to say, but I feel if I don't say something to him, I am feeding into his inappropriateness. And...on the other hand, is she old enough to just have a conversation with me where I tell her that this is how he does things, and it's him, not her?? I can't control him, but I can try to help her understand and cope with it. He is generally a great father, he loves her very much, but I think he is having some trouble dealing with single parenthood--while being unwilling to really talk to me.


What do you think?

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I think he should cease his "secret telling" to your daughter. I would tell him, in her best interest if he does not want you to know, he should just not tell her. Also try telling him (if you can ever talk to him) that what he does with his life now is his business and whether you know or not does not affect you in the same way as when you were together.

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Well the kids are old enough that it's really their business with their father. Maybe they will accept that , that is the way things are with him. Their are secrets at his place.

Whereas things are pretty much open with you it seems.

If it makes the kids feel bad, maybe it's up to them to tell their father what they want from him.

Parents are people. It takes a long time to accept this. 20 and 16 is just the beginning.

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As a father I can say your right. It is not healthy for him to put her in the middle of something that does not concern her or you. You need to talk to him and let him know you don't care what he does with his money or his new SO. But as for your daughter he needs to think how this is affecting her and should stop now before it gets worse.

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You have to ask yourself what is his motivation for asking her to keep secrets, and try to remove that motivation so he doesn't do this.


If he is hiding his financial success, i suspect he is afraid if you know about it, you could try to take him to court to get more child support. And he may be afraid that if you are jealous of his girlfriend, that will also motivate you to be angry and take him back for more child support. (so all roads lead to his fear of you taking him back to court for more child support.)


So my suggestion would be to call him and say, look, i think it's great you're doing well and are enjoying your life, and i have no intention of taking you back to court for more child support, so you don't have to tell our daughter to keep your financial success secret from me. And i'm glad you're happy with your girlfriend and really don't care about either of these things, but you do put our daughter in an awkward position trying to hide this stuff.


If he feels more 'safe' from a financial onslaught, he may not feel the need to disguise his situation.

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I don't have any advice or insight regarding 'dad'.


But I personally think it would be alright, and a good thing really, to talk to your daughter about it (mom to daughter talk about how she feels about it and letting her work out different ways to deal with it when she is with people, not just dad.)


At 16, that whole issue of 'secret keeping' is a pretty big issue, not just in this situation but in general. So it makes sense to me to speak to her dad, but also to her so that when she faces situations like this in the future again - someone she cares about asking her to keep secrets she isn't all that comfortable with and puts her in a bind, she has a good working model worked out to deal with it.


A non parents perspective. I remember 16 and onwards and you know , being able to stand up directly to those who put me in uncomfy situations and speak my mind sure did come in handy.

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Well, look at it this way. Do you have things in your life that you would rather other people not know about but that you share with your family, including your children? Or things that you share with your children that you would prefer even other family members, such as your parents or siblings not to know about. I don't mean things that you need be ashamed of - just things you prefer to keep private to close family?


Most of us do.


Well, at the moment your daughter - his daughter - is his close family but you are not. You were when you were with him but now that relationship is different. So he has things about his life that he feels it proper to share with his daughter because he has decided he wants her to know - but since you aren't his close family any more he prefers you don't know.


This isn't asking your daughter to keep from you things that you should know or have a right to know. They aren't shameful secrets. He is simply asking your daughter to be discreet and not share things with you that he prefers you not know.


It is not an overwhelming burden on your daughter to be discreet and keep certain things to herself. She already does keep some of her own personal stuff away from you and as she gets older, has partners and children you will find that occurs more often.


I don't see that he has done anything wrong.

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Thank you for all of your comments. I appreciate your willingness to offer your points of view.


I feel comfortable with the idea of speaking with my daughter if it comes up, and just helping her think through what seems right to her--as I would with anything that might be upsetting or controversial. I totally agree that it would be empowering for her to express herself to her dad, if she wants to. I would also like to find an opening to speak with my ex husband, but he has made it clear by his actions that he only wants to interact when necessary.


DN--your comments are very helpful. You're right, I am no longer his close family. This is something I have difficulty accepting, I guess. So, that's something for me to deal with and not put on him or on her.


Thanks again,


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