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By: Thomas Hoerner

Non-Custodail 'Ex'For most fathers it's hard to imagine once feeling like a dog in heat over the "EX." Funny how things change. But let's look at the mother's role charitably, trying to see this new lifestyle from her perspective.

First, understand that society does not look favorably on the non-custodial mother, and she knows it. The first thought most people have about a mother without custody is the mother must be selfish, mentally ill, immoral, have a drug and alcohol problem, or just plain emotionally unfit.

Peter shares his experience: "My daughter, Dawn, was in tears when she overheard her grandparents describe her mother as a whore with no morals. Dawn was depressed and mad at my mother and father for weeks."

The most unfortunate thing about these disapproving societal views is that they may have a negative effect on children's self-esteem. If this happens, try to stay positive about the ex-, their mother. If she is gone from their lives, present the circumstances of her leaving as a sacrifice on her part that was intended to benefit them. I know this will be hard for some fathers to do, but belittling a child's mother is detrimental. Children will feel it's wrong to love their mother and if you disgrace her, your children will suffer, possibly resenting you. If a mother is truly bad, her offspring will eventually learn it without anyone telling them.

Another problem may occur when a child idolize the absent mother. In this case it is best not to counter such idealization, rather just let the child just let the child be. We all need our crutches.

A mother's feelings for herself may also be harsh and unforgiving. Don't believe for a moment that a mother could walk away from her children and never feel remorse, guilt or shame. These are powerful emotions and can be difficult for some mothers to deal with, especially if Mom was unable to cope with the children or if she left for selfish reasons such as, "I need my space," or "I want to finish school."

These guilty feelings may result in mothers avoiding school functions and extra-curricular activities because these gatherings might expose the fact that they do not have custody. Some mothers may even have difficulty handling visitation. If the children are unloving or have hostility towards their mother, visitation is even more difficult. Some mothers find it easier to avoid these situations altogether which, unfortunately, can lead to total desertion.

On some level it may feel good not to deal with an ex-wife, but the other side of this is a terrible loss for the children. Having an active mother in their lives helps them adjust and accept their new life with fewer problems. Fathers also have assistance with child-care, transportation for school activities, support during sickness, and accommodation of personal time for things like sleep-overs. The bottom line is, keep the mother involved with the children. It's the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, this is sometimes difficult because many mothers have an abundance of unresolved anger left from the relationship or divorce which makes it easy to get into a shooting match of insults and rude behaviors. This hostility can make co-parenting extremely difficult. But it doesn't have to be that way. How does one break the habit of hurting each other? Kindness. Ohhhh! That's right, kindness! And dad goes first. Eeeeee! Start out slowly and use the telephone. Drop the sarcasm and say something nice, even if necessary to fake it. Showing concern for the children is usually a safe subject. Try telling her something that happened recently like a new tooth. Inform her of a school activity or thank her for something like picking up the children. Don't worry, that nauseous feeling of being fake-nice will soon disappear, and she will volley a compliment or kind action.

Over time, if she regresses to hostile behaviors, overlook them. Then, if at all possible, forgive her and continue with the kindness. Soon she will be unable to show hostility and be less likely to cause chaos. If this fails, just ignore a nagging ex. Dr. Phil Stahl and Dr. Richard Mikesell describe "parallel parenting" for high-conflict situations as a parent in isolation from the other. Conflict is mostly reduced by decreasing exchanges of information, and not always arriving at solutions.

The following is from The Ultimate Survival Guide for the Single Father, by Thomas Hoerner. Copyright (c) 2001 Harbinger Press. Reprinted with permission, all rights reserved.

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