Q: Each time my husband’s daughter comes to visit, there’s a fight. We live in another state and she stays with us for months at a time during her school vacations.

With spring break coming up, I’m anticipating yet another problem. For example, during her last visit I asked her to clean her bathroom.

Her father overheard me and chastised me for asking her to do chores when she’s visiting. He’s very protective of her and likes her to relax when she is with us.

But, it doesn’t seem fair to assign chores to those who live with us and not to those who live here part of the time. What do you think?

A: Well, you can … but we predict your family will break into factions – your side against his side – and, if that is the case, be prepared for the possibility of another divorce. We aren’t trying to paint the ultimate picture of doom. You can save it, but it’s going to take some backtracking and sincere dedication to the commitment your husband and you have made.

The key word in your husband’s exclamation is “visiting.” Noncustodial parents are often afraid if things are too tough around the house, their child will not want to return so he likes her to feel like it’s a vacation when she comes to see him. It’s not uncommon in situations like this that parents start trying to bribe their kids with puppies or new bikes or the newest version of Rock Band.

In his defense, he’s trying his best, but probably unaware that what he’s doing creates problems. His relationship with his daughter can stay stuck in the “visiting” mode and not progress to the deep father/daughter relationship we are sure both would like. And the obvious favoritism can cause animosity between your husband and the other children in the home, and between siblings as well. The best thing you can do at this point is get on the same page with Dad. Establish rules and treat all like family, and dad might look into counseling to help him conquer his insecurities associated with being a noncustodial parent.

Jann Blackstone-Ford, Ph.D., and her husband’s ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of “Exetiquette for Parents,” are the founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com).

– McClatchy-Tribune

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