Q – I have been divorced for several years and have recently fallen in love with a man who lives out of state. I desperately want to move on with my life and take both children with me. However, my Ex and his entire family are here. A move would mean taking the children (12 and 8 yrs old) away from people they love. Should I let my children choose where they want to live or is it better to put my foot down and make them go?
A – Striking a balance between your personal needs and what’s best for your kids can be incredibility tough. Especially when it involves a major change like moving. Chances are good that forcing your children to move with you is probably only going to make a difficult situation even worse. However, placing the burden on your kids to make the decision isn’t doing them any favors either. When big decisions (i.e. where kids live, how time is spent between households etc.) are handed over to kids, they usually feel trapped in a no-win situation. Saying “yes” to one parent by default means saying “no” to the other.
To avoid adding additional stress to your children’s already full plate, consider taking a more thoughtful approach. Begin by sitting down with your kids and having a heart-to-heart about the situation. Explain your reasons for wanting to move and your concerns about what it will mean for them. Do your best to offer a balanced perspective and avoid only pitching the upside of a move. Truth is whether they stay with Dad or move with you, it will be a difficult change for everyone.
Be sure to give them an opportunity to share their perspective and feelings. You might even consider helping them make a pros and cons list so they can weigh out the opportunities and challenges of each option. You can also discuss the possibility of creating a short-term plan. Perhaps you could explore other short-term alternatives like agreeing to move for a six-month period after which you could all sit down and evaluate how things are working.
If you and their father have an amiable relationship it would be a good idea to include him in this process as well. While taking your children’s feedback into consideration is important, I would recommend leaving the final decision about where your kids live up to you and their father.