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Ask Dr. Mike: Politics, Pregnancy and Divorce

The doctor takes on this month’s string of questions and offers of advice.

Harnessing Political Headwinds in the Family

Dr. Mike,
I really enjoyed your interview with CNN reporter, Moni Basu, last week. I think your views on President Obama and Congress were very balanced and respectful. I am writing because I could use your help. My husband and I voted for Mitt Romney, and while I have moved on to accept Mr. Obama as my president, my husband remains bitter. He refers to Mr. Obama as “Captain Clueless,” “Obamanation,” “The Socialist,” etc. I am concerned since our 10-year-old son is now repeating some of those derogatory nicknames, and, to my embarrassment, in public. I’ve told my husband that he needs to curtail his negative, political statements around the kids, but he is adamant in his position that our current president is not good for his country, and it’s “good” for the kids to believe that. Help.

R in Loudoun County

R,
Thank you for the kind words on my interview. Based on what you have written, I do not think you can challenge your husband directly on his behavior since he is so passionate about what he believes in. Instead, I think you could tell him that, while he may feel he is right in his position, his statements are upsetting to you. Let him know that there is nothing wrong with his having certain political views; however, he is a father to a young boy who is very impressionable. At age 10, children begin to identify strongly with their same-sex parents, and they internalize the messages they hear – positive or negative. Not surprisingly, your son is now repeating what he is hearing from his father because, in large part, he likely looks up to, respects and wants to be like his father. Rather than resort to name calling and insults regarding Mr. Obama or democrats for that matter, why not ask your husband to express his thoughts on the topic more constructively with his boy. A good starting point could be for your husband to teach his son about the two major political parties? Age appropriately, he could discuss the main points of the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, or he could take a trip down to DC with his son to teach him about our nation’s political history by visiting the monuments. Your husband could even discuss why he voted for Mitt Romney and his concerns for our current president.

Smoking and Mothers-to-be

Dr. Mike,
I was shocked to find my husband’s friend’s wife, who is 7 months pregnant, smoking cigarettes on our deck at a party we recently hosted at our home. She actually smoked several cigarettes throughout the course of the evening, and it was very upsetting to me. How can someone be so irresponsible and reckless? While my husband agrees with, me he is loyal to his friendship, and he told me that I had “to get over it” because she is the wife of his friend, and I am occasionally be expected to do things as a couple with them. I refuse to continue to spend time with someone that I have absolutely no respect for, which is where I am with this as woman and mother. We, of course, are in a huge fight. What are your thoughts?

T in Loudoun County

T,
Smoking while pregnant, with what we know about the effects of smoking on prenatal development, I agree, is simply unacceptable. Nicotine addiction, however, is one of the most difficult addictions to overcome. Beyond the poor choice to smoke while pregnant, I think you are also bothered as much as you are by this person’s behavior because she is doing it openly in public with no hesitation or explanation. Not knowing anything more about your husband’s friend’s wife’s background or decision to continue to smoke, I think you should temper your strong position. It also does not seem that your husband is asking you to become best friends with his friend’s wife, so I think you need to adopt a more tolerant approach to the situation. I think you should ask your husband to give you some time and to not plan anything social with these friends for a while given your upset. Why not plan a visit with them after the baby is born. Maybe this woman, who has offended you so much with her smoking, will surprise you later and turn out to be a good mom in other ways.

Working Out Custody Following Breakup

Dr. Mike,
My husband and I are getting divorced, and we have not yet spoken to our children. We’ve begun the legal separation process and have started to discuss how we both want things to work out for us as a family, including the topic of a visitation schedule. My attorney suggested what he called “the 2-2-5-5 approach” for our visitation schedule, which he said is quite common. I looked into it online though, and it seems like way too much back and forth for our boys. My friend used you as their custody evaluator awhile back, and she was pleased with your recommendations for custody and visitation. I thought maybe you could give me some advice here. Our boys are 12 and 14.

U in Loudoun County

U,
There really is not a one-size-fits-all approach to visitation or custody, but I can give you some general considerations. First, your attorney is correct that the 2-2-5-5 approach is a common visitation schedule for divorced couples with children. For the 2-2-5-5 schedule, one parent would have the children for two days, the other parent would then have the children for the next two days, then the first parent would have the children for 5 days, and then the second parent would have the children for the next five days, and that pattern would continue forward. The schedule can work very well with younger children. Your children are older, and, as you wrote, the suggested 2-2-5-5 schedule may be too much back and forth for them. Again, every family is unique, and several factors need to be considered in making sure the visitation schedule you eventually put in place fits your children’s needs and your needs as parents and as a divorced family. I recommend that you and your husband meet with a mental health professional trained in your area of need.

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