Law Office of Stephen W. Penn and Associates


After going through a divorce, you probably won't think too highly of your ex-spouse. The children you share with your ex, however, are your world. These conflicting feelings sometimes motivate ex-spouses against one another for the love of their children.

Competing with your ex for your child's admiration is selfish and will likely affect your child negatively. Here's a few tips to avoid falling into this competition.

Don't change rules because of your ex

Many children refute their parent at some point or another with the phrase, "But, Mom/Dad said I could." Half the time, the sentiment isn't true. But, even if it is, it's important to stand your ground.

Remind your child that you and the other parent operate separate households. Just as children have different rules to follow at school, they must follow different rules depending on which parent they're with.

While your child may not like it at the time, teaching them to respect you and your rules will help them respect authority in other aspects of life, such as at school or work. This lesson is much more important than being the "fun parent" in the moment.

Think of your child's best interests first

It's not uncommon for custodial parents to feel like they got the short end of the stick. The daily responsibility of being a single parent is tough and weekends are usually the best time for chores and recuperation.

Meanwhile, your ex may be able to spend his or her couple days of child custody time doing fun activities with the kids that you don't have time for. This can feel frustrating, unrewarding and unfair.

One way to get past these feelings is to think of your children's best interests. Are they having fun? Is the experience helping them feel loved and valued by their other role model? If the answer is yes, it's probably better to let go of your jealousy and be happy for the experiences your ex can give to your kids.

Stop comparing yourself

The number one way you can avoid competing with your ex for your child's affection is to stop comparing yourself to the other parent. Try to expel these thoughts and feelings when they come flooding in and instead focus on how you can improve your child's day or interests.

That may mean playing a game together, sharing a meal or signing up for an activity that appeals to their interests or skills. Don't appeal to your child to make yourself feel better. Instead, think about what you can do for them.

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  • SCBA | Santa Clara County Bar Association | EST 1917
  • State Bar Of California | California Board Of Legal Specialization | Stephen W. Penn
  • Henry P. Collada Memorial Award 2012