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My son is 10.

The Ex-Wife cheated twice during our 14 year marriage.

Divorce ensued instantly upon this discovery, and no alimony was entitled to her (as per the local laws of the country.)

Although she walked away with 100% ownership of a profitable company we co-founded, her parents felt she was still entitled to receive an alimony payment, even though they acknowledged her wrongdoing, and therefore decided to close all ties with me and my family.

Since the divorce our son has taken it upon himself to consistently attempt to include me in all of her family's events (Xmas, vacations, etc.) and he even ends every call with grandma with a, "Hey do you want to talk to Dad?" she stone-cold says, "NO."

Up to this point, he thinks everyone is still friends and the love he has seen between all family members is still there, as I continue to show nothing but love and respect to all.

Now however, he growing very suspicious and can't reconcile why her side of the family suddenly went cold. It will be very soon before he starts asking hard questions.

Knowing this, how can she and I collectively explain to him this new inter-family protocol (which they set), without getting into the dirty details of the divorce?

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    You haven't told us about your relationship with his mother. Are you co-parenting amicably? Did she feel entitled to alimony? Has your son asked her why her family is aloof? If so, what was her answer? Some missing, but important, details. Thanks. Jan 4, 2023 at 3:00
  • Are there any legal factors that might restrict what you can say to him? For example, I know a mother in an ongoing court case who was advised not to tell her children anything on certain subjects in case it shows the father in a bad light, which the court might see as an attempt at parental alienation. As a result, a few of her oldest's questions go unanswered, or he gets told to wait until he's 16 for an explanation. Jan 5, 2023 at 9:18
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    A 10 year old understands quarreling and arguments perfectly fine (they do it half the time at school and at the playground). Just tell him. As someone whose parents divorced around that age: The worst part is the shouting and crying (and generally the strained atmosphere). How you break the news really doesn’t make much of a difference.
    – Michael
    Jan 5, 2023 at 12:05
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    @anongoodnurse the relationship with his mother is cooperative at this stage, and we are co-parenting amicably. She feel VERY entitled to the alimony, and has manipulated her family with a false narrative to bring them on her side. Prior to the manipulation they were all on my side and felt horrible/empathetic after the initial discovery of the adultery. Their tune changed when the payout wasnt there.
    – Arturino
    Jan 5, 2023 at 13:10

8 Answers 8

40

You don't need to get into any details to explain this to a ten year old.

Son, sometimes people decide that they don't want to talk to other people any more. The reasons don't matter; it's their choice, and they've made the choice to not talk to me, and I have to respect that. It's not your fault, it's not anything you've done or can do anything about. It's up to them to decide who they want to talk to, and in this case they decided I'm not one of the people they want to talk to.

Do know that we both love you very much, and that will never change. We might not get along with each other anymore, but we still both have your best interests at heart and will do everything we can to take care of you.

That's what is important to communicate: that it's their decision, that you respect that, and that it's not something he can, or should, try to fix.

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24

You cannot shield your son from the truth, because the truth will always come out, be seen, be heard, and be talked about. You cannot shield your son from loss, pain, confusion, and change, among all of the other feelings we get to experience in life.

You chose to delay talking to your son about the changes in his family, and now is a good time to fill him in.

He will likely feel pain, loss, and confusion about the change, and about your choice to delay this discussion. With your support he'll get through this and find his own new normal.

It's painful for everyone when a family dissolves. Everyone feels the loss, even those who's behavior caused the loss, so it's fair to tell your son that this isn't what you or his mom planned, but this is how it is, and he is loved, now and forever, by all of his family.

Then, you tell your son that it will take some time to adjust, and that you are here for him, and that he can talk to you about this, or anything else, whenever and wherever he wants.

This isn't a "one conversation" issue. It will resurface, again and again, as your son grows and understands more and more of the world. Keep it short and simple this time, and when your son needs more info, he'll let you know.

11

how can both her and I collectively explain to him this new inter-family protocol (which THEY set), without getting into the dirty details of the divorce?

As @Joe said, you don't need to go into any details about the divorce. Your son has eyes and ears, and knows something is wrong. He'll figure it out eventually. In the meantime, reassurance and validating that his observations have a basis in reality are all that's needed.

My question is why you think you need to do this with your wife. Without knowing any of the details, I imagine she won't want to partake in any conversations with negative implications about her family. You can't control this.

People are more alike than different. Does he know any kids who were once close friends but no longer are, having gone their separate ways? Has he experienced this himself? There doesn't need to be a painful explanation; it is what it is. Tell him that his family will never stop loving him. Let him know he can continue to have loving relationships with everyone involved, and that you're genuinely grateful he has these relationships that make him happy. Explain that he can't fix things that are not of his doing. It's a good time to learn that we can't control anyone but ourselves.

7

At ten years old, your son will understand the difference between "being at fault" for something, and "getting blamed" for something. So what happened is that you and his mom have fallen out, and he probably has seen elsewhere when people have an argument, each one blames the other. That's just how people work.

And because his grandparents are his moms parents, they blame you. That's normal. That's what grandparents do, they support their own child. Nothing he can do about it. So what he should do is get along with them, because they are his grandparents. If they say bad things about you, he should know its because they are his mum's parents and not yours. If he doesn't like it, he can tell them.

The important things are: You don't say anyone is at fault. Everybody acts like normal people are acting. Sometimes they way normal people are acting is annoying, but usually it's not worth falling out over it.

3

I wouldn't try to hide it from your son, but neither do you need to go into great detail. Understand that

  1. Your child is going to figure this out sooner or later
  2. You want your version out there first

The catch on this is not to overplay your hand. Some pitfalls include

  1. Attacking your ex-wife
  2. Impugning the views and motives of your ex-wife's family
  3. Saying too much about what caused your divorce

In other words, your description to us here won't work well for this

Although she walked away with 100% ownership of a profitable company we co-founded, her parents felt she was still entitled to receive an alimony payment, even though they acknowledged her wrongdoing, and therefore decided to close all ties with me and my family.

That's way too much info for a 10-year-old. Instead, you should tell them information on their level. Something along the lines of

Your mother did some things that I couldn't accept and remain married to her. You're not ready to know what those things were yet. When we got divorced, your mother and grandparents thought I owed your mother some money. I don't agree, and they don't want to talk to me as a result. I know you mean well by trying to get them to talk to me again, and I know it's probably painful to you that they feel that way about me. I also want you to understand that this is a problem between them and I. I can see you want to fix this, but trying to get them to talk to me won't do that.

I can't stop you from talking to them about it. They can tell you how they feel and why, if they want to. But if they don't, you need to give them some space. This is a painful time for all of us, and your pushing too hard on this might only bring more pain. I love you, and I know your mother and grandparents love you, too. But I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't try to get them to talk to me. They know I will talk to them if they call.

Key points

  1. Divorce is painful for everyone, even for your son. Don't pretend it's not.
  2. There are reasons for the divorce and he doesn't need that information right now. That question is already there (even if it's not been voiced), so acknowledge it. It lets your son know there will be a time and place for that conversation later.
  3. You're telling your son his grandparents don't want to talk to you. Don't pretend you don't know why or it will damage your credibility. Worse is that they tell him their side first (where you will be the bad guy) and you wind up in a "he said; she said" situation where your son gets two conflicting stories. That won't be good for you or him. By telling him just enough to understand, you head off any salacious stories (i.e. "Your father is a dirty, rotten scoundrel", but in far less charitable terms).
  4. You help establish trust by not demonizing them. That's a hard one to rebuild. You're telling your son the truth. That can be a powerful mooring if your ex-es decide to go full nuclear and say nothing but bad things about you. Your son will still have one parent acting like an adult and not treating him like a pawn.
2

It's understandable that you would want to protect your son from the difficult and potentially hurtful details of the divorce. However, it's important to be honest with him and to communicate in an age-appropriate way about what happened. It might be helpful to reassure him that the situation is not his fault and that you and his mother still love him. It's also important to validate his feelings and let him know that it's okay to feel confused or upset.

One approach you could take is to sit down with your son and his mother and have an open and honest conversation about what happened and why her family has stopped communicating with you. You could focus on the fact that adults sometimes make mistakes and that sometimes relationships change as a result. It might also be helpful to emphasize that although you and your ex-wife are no longer married, you both still love and care about your son and want what is best for him.

It's important to be mindful of your son's age and development level, and to provide him with as much information as he is able to understand. It might be helpful to have this conversation with the support of a therapist or a trusted adult who can help facilitate the conversation and provide additional guidance and support.

0

I would advise to ignore internet advice on this subject and engage a specialist.

I would further suggest that you should meet with that specialist to discuss this issue before bringing up the subject with your child or other extended family members to be sure you are minimizing damage as best as you can.

If you are more comfortable, start a discussion with your usual M.D. and you will get excellent personalized advice on average next to what you will find on ANY web site.

In summary, treat this like what it is...a health issue.

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I would not try to explain. 10y old is not this young not to understand simple matters like this.

I would simply say him not to intentionally annoy his grandmother because she will not like me any better.

p.s. The advice is not really tried. My ex-in-laws never went this much uncooperative and my son (7y old back then) got the hints rather quickly.

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