How should I handle the child I had with my ex-wife?

My ex-wife married and used me to have a child. She now uses that child as a pawn. I know my child misses me, but I need to move on and not live in the past. How do I do this? Do I see my child as much as possible or very little? Is it more confusing for the child?

Philip Kolba
Philip Kolba
Relationship Counselor

You can "move on and not live in the past" in the context of your ex-relationship, but that does not mean moving on from your child. "Moving on" then would involve accepting the end of the relationship and developing a civil relationship with your ex-partner as far as is possible for the sake of your child's development.

Generally, it's good for a functional (non-abusive) parent to spend time with his/her child, but only insofar as that doesn't cause your child unnecessary stress. That requires the two adults to act like adults with each other for the sake of their child.

What's confusing for children is seeing their parents act uncivilly or manipulatively. Children also do well with routines so regular dependable visitation is preferable to random visitation or, worse, not following through on commitments.

But if one person is exploiting their child to harm their ex-partner, then visiting your child in that context may be stressful to him/her (depending on what you mean by using your child as a pawn). When dealing with a hostile ex-partner, your first challenge is to negotiate rules and boundaries with your ex-partner about appropriate behavior for the good of your child. If you cannot come to an agreement, a counselor can help mediate a conversation. If that's not an option, then it may be possible to turn to family court to stipulate visitation rules (for which you'd have to consult with an attorney).

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Carmy Howard, LMHC, DCC
Carmy Howard, LMHC, DCC
Change is possible one session at a time

Hi, your situation sounds very complicated and sensitive.  It is important to handle it with care as it involves your children.  When parents are attempting to co-parent, the clearer the boundaries and expectations are the easier it gets to effectively co-parent.  Parenting your child is not “living in the past”, allow me to reframe that approach and instead view it as an investment in your future.  Your child will forever be your child and deserves and active loving and caring father.  Staying away sends a different message to your child and leaves room for resentment.  Find a way to create an agreement between you and your ex-wife with the best interest of your child as the focus.  The courts are able to assist with this goal as well.  

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Candice Lawhorn
Candice Lawhorn
Online & Text Therapy

The thing that confuses a child the most is for a parent to come and go from their life. Children have a way of making things their fault, even when they have done nothing wrong. Because of this, when parents cut off contact, the child thinks it's their fault. 

As hard as that already is for a child, it is even worse when a parent pops in and out of their life. This makes the belief even more strong for them. They start to think, "why does dad keep leaving? What am I doing to keep making him go away?"

I believe a child needs both parents in their life. Whether she used you for a child or not, that child still exists and never asked for this. They didn't ask to be born into drama and two parents that can't make things work. 

You can move on and start over while still maintaining a relationship with your child. If you start over far away, this may mean less visits but you'll still be a part of their life. Just make sure when you make a commitment to this child to stick to it. Every child deserves that much. 

Good luck to you! :-)

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW
What are the ways your ex-wife uses your child as a pawn?

This answer determines the best ways to handle particular situations.

Basically, distinguish that your father relationship to your child lasts has great meaning for your child and as the adult, the responsibility for managing this relationship falls on you.

Your relationship to your ex wife took place between two adults and therefore you are only responsible for your own actions to repair the damage done to you.
From what you write, you already have a plan in progress to do this by separating yourself as much as possible from contact with the ex.

In a way the challenge of keeping active as a parent while also distancing and clearing your emotions of the hurt and betrayal done to you, will establish both a solid relationship with your child and grow more acceptance and self-forgiveness of having been taken advantage of and tricked.
The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Toni Genovese
Toni Genovese
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

I am really glad you reached out. When parents get divorced, they still need to figure out how to have relationship so that they can parent their child. We might divorce our partners, however, we don't divorce our children. If anything our children need to know that we are still a stable force in their lives. Unfortunately, in some relationships children get used as a bargaining piece and I am hearing that may be happening in your relationship. 

You can move on from the relationship with your ex while still maintaining a relationship with your child. It is possible and it takes both parents to agree to do the right thing by their child. It is important for your children to have some consistency in his or her time with you. For example, if you and your ex don't have a parenting schedule it is something that you want to create so that you can not only decide for you when you will see your child, but your child can know when you will be available just for her. This will lay the foundation for consistency and allow your child to have some security in troubled times.

I would highly recommend you sit down with your ex and discuss how you can both be a positive source in your child's life. How you can both be there to help raise her. If this is not a conversation that you can have on your own you might seek out help from the court. There are parenting experts and mediators who might be able to assist you.

Remember, in any discussion keep the focus on what is best for your child and you will be moving in the right direction.

Best of luck to you!

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Dr. Bonnie Howell
Dr. Bonnie Howell
Dr. Bonnie Howell Coach and Counsel

If you have a good relationship with your child then you have already accepted and been accepted as this child's parent and you have a commitment and an obligation to play that role.  If you suddenly absent yourself from this child's life then you may be doing real damage. Working out an arrangement with the child's mother for regular visits the child can count on and committed to by both parents will serve the best interest of the child, which I assume is what both parents are truly concerned with.  The visits don't have to be every day, once a week, even once a month, is better than hit and miss with long absences in between.  Best of luck to you, and the fact that you asked the question says volumes about your parenting potential.  Feel free to follow up with me, on line or in person.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Karen Keys, LMHC, CASAC, NCC
Karen Keys, LMHC, CASAC, NCC
Recovery and Wellness Expertise

You're in a difficult situation and on behalf of you and your child, I commend you for trying to find the right thing to do.

Short version: your child needs you as much as possible. period. Always. We used to think that children were almost always harmed by divorce, unless there was extreme conflict or violence. More recent data shows that children are not necessarily harmed by divorce if they keep both their parents. In other words, the damaging part is losing half of themselves and losing the value of being connected to everyone who loves them, especially the other parent, in addition to the extra benefit there is from the other parent's perspective, strengths and so on. 

The best thing for your child is for you to be available and loving and doing everything possible to allow the child to be whole - a person who incorporates BOTH parents. It's a tragedy for everyone to use a child to achieve adult aims, like getting back at a former spouse. In such a circumstance, your child needs you more than ever. If you and your wife have different rules and so on, your child will learn to adjust and adapt, just as they would if you remained in the household. A child quickly learns that they talk to mom about x,y,z or get away with whatever, but has different rules with dad. He/she will not be too confused in the long run. 

Please stay the course in dealing with a difficult ex-wife for you and your child's wellbeing. Best of luck to all.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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