Ask Amy: Divorced parents disagree on co-sleeping

July 15, 2012

DEAR AMY: My 9-year-old daughter sleeps with me on a regular basis when she’s with me, which is about 50 percent of the time. She says she’s scared in her room.

If I want to read in bed or simply don’t want her to sleep with me, I will make her sleep in her bed, and she does it, but I don’t see the harm in her sleeping with me.

Her dad and I are divorced, and there are no other men in my life, so I feel it’s okay. She’ll outgrow it when she’s ready.

My ex-husband thinks that I’m doing it for myself and babying her, and that I am causing her to be dependent on me. I disagree but I certainly don’t want to do anything that would harm our daughter. What’s your opinion? -- Single Mom

DEAR MOM: I see both sides of this. Your daughter is able to sleep by herself when she is at her dad’s house and she is able to sleep by herself when you ask her to, so you should cop to babying her, and also admit (at least to yourself) that you enjoy this togetherness.

Your ex-husband has a point — establishing consistent routines between households will be good for your daughter. However, when it comes to parenting, no one thing works well all the time; good parenting is circumstantial.

You and your ex should be supportive and respectful of one another’s styles and not involve your daughter in this discussion.

I firmly believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with babying a 9-year-old from time to time, and I hope her dad finds ways to baby her a little bit when she’s with him.

Is she “dependent” on you? I assume so. A 9-year-old should depend on both of her parents, though she will look to you and her father for different things.

When my daughter was at that age and I was a single parent, I decided to limit the co-sleeping to Saturday nights. This might work for you.

DEAR AMY: Many years ago, I left my first marriage. At the time I tried to explain myself to each of my children (the youngest was in her late teens) and to my former wife.

Given our histories, she and I had a difficult time communicating. This situation was then made impossible when I decided to annul our marriage in order to retain my Catholic faith. While an “administrative” requirement of the church, it deeply wounded at least one of my children, and also her mother.

So far, despite many amends and taking full responsibility for my actions, my former wife remains bitter and unwilling to have any contact with me. I worry about the effect on our children who remain close to her — and we’re both getting older.

Any thoughts would be most welcome. -- Sad Dad

DEAR SAD: You should do all you can to continue to forge your own relationship with your children. Attempt to see them, tolerate the awkwardness, and try to build on experiences together.

Their mother should not further poison your relationship by insisting that their loyalty is on the line — but realize that your children might be in a completely untenable situation.

My understanding of “making amends” is that to make amends you need to actually “make up for” or undo a wrong in order to make it right.

You cannot undo an annulment the way you can undo a marriage. And so you must apologize, acknowledge the hurt, and — importantly — ask for forgiveness.

The people in your family also have a responsibility not to live in their bitterness and not to punish you for an action you have acknowledged, apologized for and cannot undo.

DEAR AMY: Responding to the issue of the parent who didn’t want guests to bring gifts to a 5-year-old’s birthday party, we dealt with this issue in our household by asking guests to bring a favorite book. The birthday boy opened them at the party, thanked the guests, read them and then we donated them to our local book drive. -- Worked for Us

DEAR WORKED: I love the idea of a book party. Thank you.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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