Every family has different ways of doing things. Try not to think of this as a negative; most children can manage new rules in different places, as long as they are clear about what’s expected of them. Being able to do this will help your children grow up to be more adaptable people – and that’s a definite plus!
“We have such different ideas about discipline, chores and routines – the children don’t know if they’re coming or going.”
“My ex gave our children expensive presents for their birthday that I’d said we couldn’t afford. Now it’s making them spoilt and demanding.”
“We’ve always opened presents at breakfast. In my ex’s new family, they open some at breakfast and some later in the day. My children are confused and upset.”
Being consistent with your children
Your children will benefit from having some consistency in their environments, Sit down with your ex and talk about the things you both think are important. Try to come to an agreement about what stays the same, and what can be left as 'the way we do it differently'. Being flexible is important and you may both find yourself considering your own rules. Likewise, it can feel difficult to change certain family customs around special celebration days. This is because the new way of doing things is a reminder of the way things have changed, and this can be upsetting.
Talk to your children
Talk with your children and with your ex about the importance of family tradition and how this makes us feel secure. When they understand why changes to family traditions upset them, you may be able to agree a new formula that combines the best of both old and new. This way, you can help to manage their expectations about what their routines will be from now on.
The issue of presents is a common one for causing bad feeling after a separation. Some parents may use presents to say sorry or to make up for what has happened. This is not usually a helpful tactic - children need love, security and attention far more than gifts. Since objects never fill the gap, they may get into an impossible spiral of wanting more and more that never actually satisfies. Acknowledge your ex-partner's love for them and desire to do what is best, but explain that expensive presents are not what they need. Time and attention would be far more effective in helping everyone to settle smoothly into the new arrangements.