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Hello Everyone,
Some quick facts about me and my situation. I am currently going through my divorce(filed but not yet finalized) and have sole custody of my children (ages 7 and 4) I am having a hard time trying to balance co-parenting with their father. After we separated, about 2 years ago, he let his addictions overcome him. He has always fought alcoholism, but after I left with the kids he started falling into hard drugs(mainly meth). Eventually, he was arrested and spent some time in jail. He is now out on probation but has been violating his terms of parole. He was caught past curfew and drinking so they are sending him into a 90-day rehab facility. The last time when he was in jail I didn't really explain where he was to the kids, they seemed too young to explain that kind of thing to. But my older child is rather smart and has picked up on context clues that her dad was in jail. I've lightly explained that he broke some rules and will be going away again(and missing the entire holiday season and possibly her birthday in January). She understands but obviously is still having a hard time accepting that her dad is unreliable and gets in trouble often. How do you help small children to cope with an unreliable parent? Especially someone who abuses substances and may be in and out of their life for the majority of it? It breaks my heart to see her heart broken over her parent and I don't know how to help.
 

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I hope he isnt getting any kind of custody or any unsupervised visitation! Have you considered asking him to sign away his parental rights? Removing him completely could be the best answer. My niece had to do that with her ex boyfriend, he agreed and signed away his rights so now they do not have to deal with him at all. Its brought everyone peace. Their daughter adjusted pretty quickly, even though she was really young when it all went down, she struggled with his lack of dependability, he was constantly letting her down. Be honest with your kids and keep communication open, you can let them know he is sick (which, he is), and that the kind of sick he has makes him unreliable and he makes bad decisions.
 

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Only one way, he must stop first or your endangering the kids, if you have to involve the legal system such as a protection order against him for being understanding the influence of drugs and any judge should sign off on it he surreners his rights under them. And then must abstain from said booze and drugs with blood clariferatations prior and during said length of time they are with him.

Because testing takes some time for results if found in his system he surrenders right from that point forward allow him 1 yr of violation to get clean or never to see them without a neutral supervise visit (such as a registered nurse that he must pay for the visitation). The time has come to hold him accountable for his actions and your fail marriage proves he isn't capable.
 

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And by the way quit putting up with his crap. He's a jerkoff. And l a male l can see them a mile away.
 

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Like 3X said he is sick, but sick people want to be healed. But abusers don't. That's the difference!
 

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And make him pay for all the testing outside of the future divorce settlement.
 

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... But my older child is rather smart and has picked up on context clues that her dad was in jail. I've lightly explained that he broke some rules and will be going away again (and missing the entire holiday season and possibly her birthday in January). She understands but obviously is still having a hard time accepting that her dad is unreliable and gets in trouble often. How do you help small children to cope with an unreliable parent? Especially someone who abuses substances and may be in and out of their life for the majority of it? It breaks my heart to see her heart broken over her parent and I don't know how to help.
Your older child is 7yo, right? That is old enough for a basic understanding of "right and wrong" and basic understanding of "breaking the law = going to jail." Without insulting or speaking poorly of her father, it is probably best to explain to him/her the truth in words s/he can understand, like "Well, remember when your dad made some wrong choices and was in jail for a while? He had some rules he agreed to follow to get out, and he broke one of the rules. So the law says that if you break a rule, you don't go back to jail, but you do go to a place to help you practice being out of jail. It can also help with things like helping stop drinking too much and stuff like that. So your dad will be at that place--it's called rehab--and he will be there we think until February (or whenever)."

See how it's true, simple, and not disparaging of the child's father? See, their dad will always be part of them, so to be insulting and critical of him feels like you are criticizing them! So use this as a good time to talk about right and wrong, and choices and consequences...that kind of thing...while keeping everything honest and respectful.

For kids who have a parent that's away, it is SUPER important to them to know that they are not forgotten. Now, Daddy Dearest may be thinking primarily of himself, but if you can let your older child know that while he's away, they can write to him or draw pictures (whatever) then the child feels like they are remembered. You might also want to figure out some "far away rituals for connecting" so that the kid knows that every Friday night is "Draw Daddy a Picture" Night... or whatever works for you guys.

It's also SUPER important to be honest with the children because they already know that one parent isn't all that dependable--thus, they need to feel like the other parent IS dependable, and will always be there for them and tell them what's what. If you do not tell them the truth in a way they can understand, two things will happen: a) they will think it is something THEY DID that made their dad go away, and 2) when they find out the truth (which they will) they will feel betrayed by the trustworthy parent! Thus, to avoid this, don't try to "protect them from the truth" because that almost always backfires, but rather just make it a level they have the emotional ability to deal with. When you tell them, ask them to tell you how they are feeling or if they have any questions, and then LISTEN TO THEM.

The last thing I'd suggest is essentially "empowering the child." In real life you can't control anyone, and sure as shooting you can't control your STBX! He can choose to be a poor parent if that's what he chooses to be, and you may not like it but it's his choice, so it will impact the kids and you can't make him be a good parent. What you CAN DO, though, is help your kids learn how to stand up for themselves. For example, a child doesn't "need to be available" for an unreliable parent who just shows up. A child can have other plans or can say "I am not ready to be with you right now." A child can have boundaries. A child can let a parent know what they want. A child can tell a parent how they feel. A child can say "You just showing up out of the blue is not okay with me." Etc. The point being that you can't change or fix your STBX, but you can teach your children how to have healthy relationships and how THEY can advocates for themselves. They can also learn that Dad may not be reliable, but Gramma, and Uncle Steve, and this teacher and that coach are people who ARE reliable. So the kids can still learn what it means to be dependable people, and still feel like they have dependable people in their lives, but at the same time, just recognize and accept their Dad for who he is...
 

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I would like to clarify some things. My ex is already not allowed to have the kids by himself and only really sees them once every other weekend for at most a night. He currently has an ankle monitor that takes a blood reading every two hours to ensure he is sober when he says he is. I also have spoken with my children about things like right and wrong and that their dad made wrong choices and that's why he is where he is. My question was more so in helping them to cope. Obviously I try to encourage them and be as stable as possible in their lives to show them that they have people there for them. We are also fortunate to have my family be extremely supportive of all of us, so the kids have grandparents, aunts, and uncles that shower them with love when they need it. But I was raised in a stable environment by parents who didn't smoke, drink, so I'm not able to understand on a deeper level what it is that my kids will have to face growing up. If any of you were raised by a single parent or had a parent that fought addiction I would appreciate your input. Unfortunately, I cannot currently afford to pay for therapy/counseling for my children, and in my area, there aren't many options for low-income households to have access to a therapist.
 
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