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Amicable Dinner With My Ex Ended Up Upsetting Our Kids

04/06/2015 04:07 pm ET | Updated Jun 06, 2015

Reader Trying To Be Amicably Divorced Writes,

Is it a bad idea to occasionally invite my ex to have dinner with the children and myself? We did share a meal recently and on the way home my 5-year-old daughter became very emotional and questioned why mommy and daddy can't be together and why I don't simply move back into the house we all used to live in. YIKES! What I thought would be a nice dinner for all of us backfired on me! Perhaps when the children are older we can re-attempt? We have two daughters ages 7 and 5.

Dear TTBAD,

Totally get where you're coming from and I applaud your efforts to do what seems to be the "right thing" and be friendly with your ex.  Sadly, your kids are not old enough to understand that people can be friends but still not want to be married.  In fact, it's often more confusing for kids of divorce whose parents still get along.  At least the kids who know their parents don't get along can't nurse as vivid hopes for a reconciliation, and they understand why the divorce occurred.  Research shows that whether or not co-parents get along doesn't actually impact how kids do after a divorce, unlike what many people previously thought.

So, I would follow your gut and not do this anymore.  Possibly when your kids are older, possibly not.  I really see no reason to do it ever. Having dinner together is a very family-oriented activity.  It would be different if both you and your ex came to see your daughter's school play or something of that nature.  That would be understood as both you and he wanting to see the performance; it would be child centered.  Dinner together is what families do, and you're no longer one family, so this can easily sadden and confuse your kids.

You didn't indicate anything like this, but for other readers who might be in this position, I would like to add that if you find yourself being drawn to hanging out more with your ex, and even may feel attracted to him again, this is completely normal.  Many people have sex with their exes, even if they don't make this public information.  But this would be very bad and horribly confusing for your kids.  If you want to remarry your ex, which people do, then that's a different story.  But any kind of flirtation or affection that the kids could witness or walk in on would be very hurtful and confusing for them.   So keep that in mind.

Thanks for writing in, and till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Thinks Sometimes With Parenting, It Just Feels Like You're Screwed No Matter What.

Dr. Rodman's book on How to Talk to Your Kids About Your Divorce will be published by Adams Media in August. For more of her writing, visit Dr. Rodman at Dr. Psych Mom, on Facebook, and on Twitter@DrPsychMom.