Avoid a Power Struggle

Dear Dr. Jann: I am so angry. I buy our children the majority of their clothing. I know that the clothes are theirs and they’re free to take them from my home to their mom’s. I just found out that my ex-wife has donated my kids’ clothes to her niece and nephew. Am I being petty?

Dr. Jann says: In a word, yes. They aren’t your clothes; they are your children’s clothes. It doesn’t matter who buys them. It’s common to hand clothes down or donate them to a charity. This sounds more like a control issue — “I bought the clothes and I want to control what happens to them.”

Parents often lose sight of what’s really important (their kids) after divorce and end up in a power struggle.

Let’s reframe this in a question: If you were still with your child’s mother would you have had a problem with her passing your children’s clothes down to their cousins? Doubtful. You’d probably expect it.

The only relationship that changes after divorce is the one between the two parents divorcing. Grandparents are still grandparents. Aunts and uncles are still aunts and uncles. Cousins are still cousins.

From this point on use your children’s best interest as the criteria for your decisions. (They don’t care where the clothes go after they grow out of them. You shouldn’t either.) Cooperation and compromise are essential to good co-parenting. In the future, if mom donates the clothes to charity, a good compromise might be to split the deduction. It’s an idea. Head off an argument. Talk about it now, agree what’s fair, and stick to your agreement.