Ask DK...

DK Simoneau often receives questions on how to handle situations.  She addresses readers questions about shared custody, parenting, and split family living situations.  To submit a question, please use the form below.

First Name:*

Last Name*

Email Address*


Your Question:

Please enter the phrase as it is shown in the box above.  
Ask DK

October 8, 2014
Daughter doesn't like who I've now been dating for 5 years.


I been divorce for 8 years I have a new relationship for almost 5 years all of the sudden my daugther told me that she does not like him because he is stoping from her dad and I getting together please help me. JQ

Hi JQ. have been dating this man for 5 years?? OK, well I am not a child psychologist or anything, but I do understand that kids love to test boundaries and see how far they can push. Assuming that there is really nothing wrong with your new relationship (there is no kind of verbal, physical abuse etc. going on with you or your daughter, and if there is, then you need to deal with those issues asap), then for whatever reason your daughter has decided this is they way to try to get your attention. Some kids pierce their nose, some get into drugs, some steel, some start lashing out. Your daughter has taken the lashing out approach, which is probably good. I would recommend you sit down with your daughter and have a heart to heart talk. You listen to everything she has to say, and acknowledge her feelings. But then you need to explain to her that while you respect her feelings for her Dad, you do not share them. Explain that even if Mr. new relationship went away tomorrow, that her Dad and you are not a good fit, and you would not be reconciling. Explain to her that there were plenty of good things that came out of that relationship, the big one being her, but that it is over. Then come up with a broken record phrase, something like, "I understand you wish that Dad and I could be together, and I'm sorry, but that doesn't work for me," And every single time she brings it up, do not go into any discussion, just keep repeating that broken record phrase. Do not engage into any further discussion. Repeat the phrase, repeat the phrase. Eventually she will stop (and likely move onto something else!)
Hope that helps!

September 17, 2014
It's Terribly Complicated

Hi. I have one child and she 7 yr old. I have a complicated situation. My daughter's father is not her biological father (NonBio) yet he's been her daddy since day one. (Her biological father did not and still wants nothing to do with her) I became pregnant during a 3 month break up but we got back together and he stepped up to take responsibility as her father. He has not been a consistent father or a good partner. We have a tumultuous and toxic on and off relationship. We haven't lived together in 6 yrs yet I have stayed around so I didn't have to see my child hurt. I did everything I could to keep my childs relationship with her Daddy. Too often he selfishly let's her down and uses her as a tool to pull on my heart strings. Each time I ultimately concede and get back to keep us together. Recently I realized that I am depleted and depriving myself and I cannot keep doing this just for the sake of her seeing him at his leisure. In the past weeks I've been seeing a man who has awakened me. He is a single father himself of 2 girls. We have know each other because of our children. Typically I wouldn't bring a man around but I have and have been hanging out as fun play dates. Lately my daughter misses her daddy but since I am seeing someone else so he refuses to see her. My daughter is heartbroken and is misbehaving, and sort of lashing out on my new manfriend. I feel so confused about letting her dad walk away and continuing this relationship. Historically I would give in to his threats of walking away from her but I really have no desire too. I feel like if she is important to him nothing should get in the way. Yet I feel like I'm being selfish and responsible for this. I'm afraid I have broken her spirit and she will blame and resent me. Please help. ~catch22

Dear catch22:

I'm going to start with some advice you have heard probably many times if you've ever flown on a commercial airline. I call it the oxygen mask advice. They always tell you to put on your oxygen mask first before helping your small children. The reason being, if you don't help yourself, you will run out of oxygen and then cannot assist your child. I tell this to people who are in these situations a lot. If you look back, you can see that maybe by not taking care of yourself first, you probably have caused your daughter a little bit of prolonged pain in what ultimately will shake out however it is going to regardless of what you do.
So I suggest that you cannot go back and look at what is done. I suggest you start from right where you are now. I am not suggesting you have no regard to how your daughter feels, but I am suggesting that you begin taking care of yourself first. And staying in a toxic relationship is not good for YOU, and ultimately not your daughter. Her Dad is going to do whatever he is going to do, and you cannot control it. And in time (it may be many years) your daughter will see him for what he is. (And maybe, just maybe he will surprise you and once he realizes you are gone and he can't manipulate you by using your daughter any more, he will actually step up and be a good Dad, who knows?) Ask yourself if your daughter were grown up, would you want her to be in this kind of toxic situation? And then each time you waiver, remember your answer to that. You are setting an example here. Your example is to take care of yourself first. That doesn't mean you need to bad talk him. That doesn't mean you need to stop her from having a relationship with him. It just means you need to take care of yourself and set an example of what that means. Explain to your daughter that her Dad will always be her Dad, and that he does the best job he knows how to do at being a Dad, but that he isn't a good partner for you. Don't make her feel bad for loving her Dad. Just keep explaining that it doesn't work for you.
And as far as the new relationship goes- if the new guy is right, he will weather the storms and the barbs. He will be steady and understand that your daughter is in a tough place. And if he is steady and kind, eventually she will begin to trust that he is steady and kind. She is used to someone who isn't steady and kind, and she is just testing him.
Hope that helps some.

July 21, 2014
Living in an RV

Dear DK: Going through a divorce and in the process of getting a condo but it will not be ready for a couple weeks or so. In the mean time i am staying in a friends Rv and My ex mother in law and the father does not want our daughter who is 3 to stay with me there. Would staying in Rv for a couple weeks 3-4 nights a week have an effect on her emotionally?

Dear staying in an RV: I'm sure that moving around is going to be difficult at first no matter where she stays.  BUT, I can say that rather she is in an RV or a condo does not matter.  The main thing is you start establishing some consistency and routines so she knows what to expect each time she comes back to stay with you.  Hope that helps..........


July 21, 2014
Transitioning from 50/50

Dear DK: I'm the step mom to a 5 year old girl.  We have had 50/50 custody for 2 1/2 years now and we can all see that the back and forth is really wearing on the child.  It's time to decide where she will live because she will start kindergarten this fall and we aren't quite sure how to make the transition of back and forth every week, to back and forth only every other weekend.  Any tips on how we the parents and she the kid can make this easier on everyone? 

Dear step mom:I would start by talking to her about what she wants.........if she is in agreement that missing one of the parents every other weekend is what she wants then the transition to that might not be so hard.  If she doesn't then I have to say that you will need to evaluate if in fact you should be transitioning to that plan.  Many kids do just fine with the going back and forth.

Good Luck!

July 21, 2014
3 year old coping with abuse and divorce

My husband hit my daughter and I had him arrested.  He has a no contact order and I am going to divorce him.  I don't know how to explain to her that daddy isn't around.  So far I have been telling her that he is at work.  He is telling me that if I divorce him, he won't be a part time dad, but I am still divorcing him.  I am concerned about how to let my child know that daddy is gone, but at the same time am hoping that this is just a tactic and once he sees I am not changing my mind he will still spend time with my girls.  After that extensive background my question is, What do I say, how do I say it so that she doesn't blame herself or hate him?

Dear coping: She is 3?  I would just explain that Daddy is having some trouble right now and he had to go away to see if he can get it worked out, but that he loves her and hopefully will be back to spend time with her soon.  Keep explaining that he loves her and he's trying his best to be back soon.  And then......hopefully  he will!

Hope that helps.

November 1, 2009
Being the other "parent" in the middle

I am the girlfriend of a man who still isn't divorced but hasn't lived with his wife in a year and a half. He and I live together for the last 4 months and since she finally let us see the kids we have the kids 4 days a week. The kids are 3 and 1.5 years old. HIm and her do NOT get along at all. they can't have a conversation with out the two of them hanging up on one another. So I tend to be the one in the middle figuring out a compromise which really doesn't bother me because I dislike the two of them talking because she has issues with him and tries to manipulate him into doing things her way or no way. She continuously tells us when she is mad that we won't get the kids the following week but always within 24hrs she is calling and asking when I will be coming to get the kids. yes I am the one who drives the 75 miles to pick the kids up. Recently the 1.5 year old has taken to calling me mom which is fine by both the boyfriend and I but I am sure she would freak if she heard him so we continually redirect him to call me by my name as the 3 year old usually does this sometimes she will call me mom as well... When the kids are here I am their primary care giver and as their father is working 2 of those days and their mother works when she has the kids. At times I feel as though she really doesn't spend any time with her kids and I think that is part of the reason they have taken to calling me mom. I don't know my main thing for writing this is to get some insight. She wants him to come to birthday parties she is having for the kids, Christmas at her families and so on... She never lets us have anything and I realize that it will be this way until the divorce happens which will be soon we almost have the money for a lawyer and we are 95% sure we will end up with full custody of the children as she is unfit to care for them full time (Put the 3 year old in a car without a car seat to travel 75 miles home with her but put the 1.5 year old in a car seat?!) After the divorce is finalized he and will be able to get married like we plan and will be able to start living our lives under our own control instead of having to abide by her rules. I just would like some insight on whether or not it is going to be detrimental to the children if we do not attend their birthday parties and christmas but instead have one for them with us and his side of the family?  Thank you for the insight! Lost in the middle...

Dear Lost in the middle:  I think you will benefit by not thinking about "her", but instead what is best for the children.  If you can all get along as adults for a couple of hours I think it is great to set that example for the kids, and yes going to co-birthday parties and such is a great idea.  If you cannot, then of course, stay away.  But I highly recommend that you figure out how to act like adults for a few hours.

November 1, 2009
Three-year-old having accidents after divorce...

Hi, I am going through a divorce. I have a three year old and a five year old. My ex and I have been seperated for a little over a year. My three year old isn't acting right and lately keeps haveing accidents. How can I help him through it? J

Hi J.  I certainly would recommend getting my book, We're Having A Tuesday.  It provides a nice opening for kids to talk about their situation and what might be bothering them.  It isn't like 3 year olds necessarily know, but the story may stimulate some conversation.  Other than that I would highly suggest keeping as much of his routine the same from day to day as possible.  It is a little bit like having an infant or toddler go through separation anxiety.  But the more you do things the same, the more likely it is he will begin to undertand that this is how it is going to be.  My kids were 1 and 3 at the time of my divorce.  They are now 11 and 13, and completely well adjusted kids.  Just keep the routine as much as possible, and let them know how much you love them.  There are lots of good blog entries and articles on my website.  I suggest you check them out.  Hope it all works out for

April 2, 2009
How do I survive not having my kids full time after divorce?

Dear DK,I continue to struggle with not getting to see my kids every day.  I am trying really hard to get myself OK with it, but I'm just not getting there.  I know a big part of this is that I don't think my ex-husband deserves them.  He wasn't around when I was married to him.  I couldn't even get him to get off the couch to tuck them in at night.  Now, suddenly he is super Dad.  I know it is good for the kids to have a relationship with their father, and I work really hard at keeping my feelings to myself.  In fact, they appear to be clueless about my feelings towards their father.  I just feel cheated.  I guess none of us enter into parenthood with the plan of seeing them only half the time.  How do I get myself OK with this arrangement?


Dear feeling cheated,
 Ahhh.  I remember the days of sitting in my kitchen floor crying my eyes out because I couldn't see my kids 7 days a week.  My ex was a little hands off when we were married, and then kicked in suddenly when he had them after our divorce. As far as getting yourself to be okay with it, I would begin focusing on just that...."yourself".  There are so many things that "full-time" moms neglect about themselves when they are raising kids. Us part timers have a gift in that we can do our chores while the kids aren't underfoot so that we can really enjoy the kids when they are home.  We can take bubble baths, meditate, shop, see our friends, read books, or whatever we enjoy.  Find ways to enjoy yourself when they are away.  Begin finding your own identity (you do have one that does not involve the letters MOM).  As you begin to start enjoying yourself again you will likely enjoy the balance of kid time and no kid time.  And as far as your ex goes............well, be thankful on your kids behalf that he seems to have had some kind of wake up call.  If he is stepping are all very fortunate.  Appreciate that for what it is, and save the resentment for something else, because it won't serve you well here.  I hope that

March 22, 2009
How do I get teens to open up about divorce, breakups and other issues?
My wife and i are divorcing, i have been staying in the sofa for the last 8 months and she should be moving out in about a month. 3 years ago we went trough the same thing and i moved out to my sisters with 55/45 joint custody. We have 3 girls 13,10,8, and a 17 year old son. My concern is how can i know how they are doing trough all this when its seems like they just don't want to open up? I feel as if i am trying to be to much in their business, but i just  want is to be there for them.It breaks my heart to just think that they may be hurting so much and not saying anything. Last night my son and hes girlfriend of 7  months broke up and he did not take it well, he had us worried all night and he doesn't want to talk about it. I did not push the issue, and i will talk to him as soon as i find the right opportunity with out having to making him feel pressured, what do you suggest....  concerned dad of teens
Hi concerned dad........raising teenagers under any circumstances can be tough.  So much is going on in their heads and we want them to not have to learn things the hard way like we had to. When you are dealing with divorce and teens it can be even more so. But unfortunately, there is not much you can do.  There are some times that kids are better at opening up than others.  One is in the car.  So volunteer to drive them to practice or whatever...they seem to think that it's safe to talk there because they know there is an ending.  Another might be late at night when they come stumbling to the kitchen for a snack.  If you are there sipping a way at tea or something, you might be surprised. With boys, it might be while engaging in some sport activity.  Maybe go shoot some hoops or play a round of golf, go to the batting cages etc.  My best suggestion is don't pry, don't nag, don't question......but just be available for the moment they do open up.  Try to be a consultant when asked, not a control freak!  If you know they like to go to a special restaurant, offer to take them and pay for lunch, breakfast or whatever, but take them one at a time. Be patient..........think about how you feel when someone tries to get you to share, and treat them with the respect and patience you would want, and lots can happen. If you try to force it, you will likely be met with a brick wall.  And last but not least.............Do NOT say, I told you so!  Hope that helps!  dk

March 5, 2009
How do I help my 3-year old cope and sleep in her own bed after divorce?

Me and my husband are getting a divorce and we have two children. One is 3 and the other is 1. The 3year old is not wanting to sleep in her own bed now. She also keeps saying she is scared. Its all day long and over nothing. How do i help her to see there is nothing to be scared of? She is not saying she is scared because daddy is not here it is just that im scared. Is that her just trying to tell me in her own way that she is upset? what can i do to help her sleep all night in her own bed and to not be scared of everything? Plz help im very worried about my baby.    Thank you   TM


Hi...your message really pulls at my heart strings, as my kids were just 1 and 3 when my ex husband and I got divorced.  They are now 11 and 13, and very well adjusted kids. I do believe that she is probably feeling some separation anxiety, wondering if she leaves your sight if you might move out too!  It is very normal.  What I always did, and it seemed to be effective, was I would allow them two choices.  One choice usually being their own bed, and the second was a place on the floor in my room with their blankets.  I would show them the place and let them first I would start right next to my bed on the floor.  Then after a couple fof  nights I moved it down to the bottom.  Then I moved it closer to the door.  Now I never had to move it out into the hallway outside of my door, because they always started choosing their own bed first.  I always let it be their choice, not mine, but I gave two choices I could live with.  Other than that, you will just have to really be paying extra attention to her during waking hours.  It will get just takes some time.  And the book I wrote, We're Having A Tuesday, really helps them cope with it.  I would highly recommend you at least request it from your local library.  Best

February 17, 2009
How can I not let my ex teach my 3-year old to hate my new husband?
Question: My husband and I have been battling with my ex-boyfriend who I have a 3 year old son with.  We do split custody, which I am not fond of and thinking of going back to my lawyer to get my son 80 percent or more of the time.  My ex is teaching my 3 year old to hate my husband and call him terrible names, it seems to be getting worse!  My husband and I don't know what to do??  We love our 3 year old soo much and are so upset about this!  Any advice?  Please help. AM
That is a difficult situation of course.  But I can tell you that putting a child through any kind of custody battle is not easy on the child and probably not going to improve your ex-boyfriend's behavior, in fact it will likely aggrivate it. I'm wondering if you've tried "ignoring" it when your 3 year-old says these awful things, so as not to draw attention.  He may be realizing when you are trying to get him to stop that it is getting him great attention and does it more.  Just simply ignore it, and change the subject or distract him.  Another thing that may help, but be very very difficult for you, is to try to understand what it must be like for your ex-boyfriend. He is likely really kicking himself that he not only lost your affections, but that you are now happily married to someone else, and that someone else is trying to play "daddy" to his own son.  Can you imagine how you would feel if there were some woman over at your ex boyfriend's trying to replace you as mom?  Maybe you can make a list of just five things that your ex is doing right, or benefiting your son with and focus on those things instead of letting the negative energy turn your life upside down.  Just thoughts........
Best, DK


September 29, 2008
When should the kids sleep over?

DK:  My partner (who I don't live with) is finding it difficult to source any information on whether it is healthy to have his 2 children aged 14 months and 2.5 years sleepover at his house yet.  He curently has custody 2 nights  for 3 hours and two whole days alternate weeks.  He has a very well set up home with good beds for the children and is an excellent fater and very responsible. Him and the childrens mother want to do what is in the best interest of the children and they love spending time with their dad.  Is it too young for them to sleepover or will it be an advantage to set up this routine from an early age?  Wondering in Australia

This is a great question.  I am not aware of any "studies" about this subject, and I
think there are different philosophies.  I can tell you my kids were 1 and 3 and they
started then going 3 overnights at Dad's and 4 overnights with Mom each week.  They are
probably two of the most well adjusted kids of divorce I know, and I've often believed it
was because they started the routine so young, they don't know any better.  I think that
you take your cues from your kids.  If you set it up to be an exciting thing and go that
angle they will adjust pretty well.  If they start having complete behavior changes then
you must reevaluate.  Be warned one year old tromped into our bedroom
every night for years to be put back to bed.  I think because he didn't always know which
house he was at and he needed to be reassured!

Best of luck, dk


April 2, 2008
Should I let my boyfriend sleep over with my kids at home?


DK- I have been divorced for two years now, and I've met someone new.  He's a great guy and I've introduced him to the kids.  I'm feeling comfortable enough to have him spend the night, but am wondering if that is okay to do with the kids around.  My kids are 5 and 7.  Should I let my boyfriend spend the night with my kids at home?  Perplexed grownup.

Perplexed- I think the fact that you are even asking the question tells me that in your heart of hearts you know it isn't the greatest idea.  You don't say this, but I am making the assumption that your kids are involved in some kind of shared custody arrangement.  That being the case, I ask you, is there some reason why you can't have your adult sleepovers when the kids aren't home?  I once had a boyfriend that shared an experience of how he had a strictly platonic friendship with a woman who had a little girl.  One night the three of them were watching movies, and the mother went to bed. That left the gentleman and the little girl to finish the movie.  The little girl said to him, "I like you because you don't sleep with my mom."  That was all it took for him to think twice about ever spending the night in front of any kids.  He always told me that as their mother, they want to respect you.  I always say when it comes from the mouth of babes we should listen.  Your kids understand more than you think they do, and they are exposed to plenty without us flaunting it in front of them.  I think in the long run you will all respect each other better if you keep the sleep overs out of sight from the kids.  Good

March 30, 2008
More Visitation?

My 7 year-old daughter seems to have anxiety about living  with her dad. At
this time i have 70% custody, mostly because he  was busy doing his thing. However now
that he is married, he now  contends he wants to spend more time with his kids(also
have a 3 yr  old son) and is requesting shared physical custody. My daughter  gets very
upset when this is mentioned or if she has to spend more  than 2 days with him. I also
am having difficulty dealing with this  possibility. I am also engaged to someone who
both my kids love and  respect. There father has never done his share of what's needed
for  the kids, I have always dealt with finding the daycare provider,  looking for a
school/preschool.  MOM OF TWO

Hi MOM OF TWO:  Well I don't really see a question here, so I'll do my best to address what I think
the question is.  I would recommend you proceed with allowing your daughter to have more
time with her Dad  Obviously his life is changing and he may be growing emotionally, and may
be more able to participate than he was before.  I would encourage your daughter to have
a "trial run" for 6 months or something.  In that time you will be able to see if she
just has the normal resistence to change that we all have, or if indeed there is some
kind of big problem.  Take it as a gift and enjoy the free time with your new romantic
partner.  I really believe that if your ex is wanting to be more involved you should give
him the benefit of the doubt and consider yourself fortunate that he is growing.  dk

March 22, 2008
Not able to see the kids since remarried?

Dear DK,

I'm just wondering how to fight this.  The ex won't let him see  his kids now that
we are married.  She is making excuses up that  they don't want to see him and that
they fill displaced.  The time  I got to spend with their kids there was absolutely no
evidence.   He hasn't had visitation since June.  He is a firefighter and  doesn't have
the money to pay an attorney right now to fight her.   I think her whole basis is that
the kids like me and she is worried  that they will like me more than her.He is very
hurt by this and I  know the kids are too.  I feel like I am in the middle of this and 
she is trying her best to wreck our marriage.  She is the one who  filed for divorce
not my husband.  Frustrated new wife.

Dear Frustrated Wife,

You did not say how old these kids are, but I assume they are young and not voicing
these concerns on their own.  These things need to be nipped in the bud, and you all
allowing this to go on for 9 months without taking action probably isn't good.  However,
what is done is done.  I presume that their divorce decree has some sort of set
visitation rights, and if so, she is likely in violation of that.  This is what I would
recommend.  I would contact an attorney that specializes in custody.  Most will give you
a free consultation visit.  I would see what they recommend.  I also would contact your
local social services- that should be free- and see what avenues they might offer. 
Lastly, I would really think about what you are saying about the money.  If your furnace
were suddenly to go out and you had to freeze every night, you would figure out the money
somehow and pay for it.  If he cares for his kids at all, he should treat it at least as
importantly as his furnace.  I would not think he's in for a long expensive battle if he
is just trying to enforce what is already documented, but again I would do at least a
free consultation- maybe a couple of them.  One more thing, try to understand that his ex
is somehow feeling threatened that another woman is going to be influencing her children.
 She is just very scared and trying desparately to gain control.  It is a hard place to
be imagining that your kids might like another mom better.  Hope that


©Copyright 2006-2010 DK Simoneau, AC Publications Group. All rights reserved.
Site design by LOmara Designs, Inc.
Created and maintained by WSI
Email Us