Family

How to cope when you're the second-favourite parent

Author: Canadian Living

Family

How to cope when you're the second-favourite parent

Your preschooler trips and falls. You open your arms and she runs, sobbing….to Daddy. Ouch. Although we generally won't admit it, most moms relish being our offspring's frontline parent: the one they reach for first when they need comfort, want to share news, or snuggle into a hug.

Sometimes however, Mom isn't #1. Then what? Below are some dos and don'ts for coping, and how to still be a great parent.

Do realize it's not a big deal
"Kids can be more attached to one parent (today) and then at another time, feel closer to the other. It's important that you try not to attach too much meaning to which your child is enjoying the most. It's really not personal," Esther Kane, a Courtenay, BC-based clinical counselor and family therapist. (Don't you ever go through periods when you relate better to one of your children than the other, and vice versa? It doesn't mean you love either less, right?)

Don't see this as a critique of your parenting
Are you available for your child? Do you spend time together? Do you meet your responsibilities and obligations as a parent: feeding, clothing, protecting, reading to, playing with and nurturing your child? Do you use positive discipline and ensure they meet childhood obligations such as being prepared for school, getting along with others and treating other people, animals and property with respect? Do you talk with them and listen to what they have to say? We thought so.

Don't beat yourself up. More importantly, don't turn this molehill into a mountain. Be happy your kid runs to Dad first when he wants to play Battleship: now you've got time to read a book!

Page 1 of 2 - Are you planning to ask your child why your spouse gets more hugs? Don't! Discover why on page 2.

Do remember times have changed
Dads are more involved in hands-on parenting than in any other time in history! Is it any wonder some kids might bond closest with their Dad the way others might with Mom? "It's important to give up this notion that kids are supposed to prefer their moms. The truth is, kids do best when they have two parents and can bond with both without feeling that they have to choose one over the other," says Kane. (Also, just because they bake more with dad doesn't mean they love you any less.)

Don't request "a talk" with your kids to "share concerns" about this "issue."
We repeat: DO NOT, do this

"This sort of thing is called 'parentifying' and puts undue stress and pressure on a child to meet your adult emotional needs. It is neither their job, nor a normal part of being a child," says Kane. Are you really hurt or bummed out? "Talk to another adult and let your child be a child," says Kane.

Do get professional help if you need it
"If you're feeling really upset about this situation, it might be helpful to see a therapist. Oftentimes, feeling like your child doesn't like or love you enough has more to do with 'unfinished business' from your family-of-origin than it does with your relationship with your child. Bottom line: it's not fair to put this stuff onto your child. Both you and your child will benefit from you doing some therapy around this issue," says Kane.

Don't say or do anything you'll regret

Your relationship with your kids will evolve over the next, oh, 50+ decades! Big-picture: try to understand that it doesn't really matter which partner your child feels closest to today. Things may be different next month.

If you all love and respect one another, things could be a lot worse than having a fabulous partner your kids adore!

Page 2 of 2 - Is being the second-favourite parent affecting relationships within your family? Don't take it personally, therapists advise. Learn more on page 1.


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How to cope when you're the second-favourite parent

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