- the first time I took my younger now stepson to my house just to hang out with him, I thought the weekend went well and as soon as I took him back home to my now-wife he started crying. I had no idea what I had done wrong. A few minutes later I realized he was crying because he was upset that his father left him and didn't show him that kind of attention. Years later, we are close as can be, but there is still a feeling of abandonment.
- my wife had a hard time adjusting to the three of us (me and my two step sons) sometimes just hanging out and she felt like the third wheel. She was happy that we got along but she was so use to it being just the three of them.
- No matter how much they try to talk bad about thier father, I try to tell them just be better and when they grow up, remember how they felt and do better. I never say anything negative.
I remember the first time they spoke to me negatively about their father... deep inside I wanted to agree or comment on it, but I knew that wouldn't be the best thing for them. So I said nothing. And I've continued to say nothing. I like your approach better though; so don't mind if I adopt it. :)
One day I was mentioning this "Bonus Dad" and "wicked step parent" thing to the kids after school teacher, and she said "I don't know what you mean, my step dad was awesome!" That comment really warmed my heart.
Fast forward a couple years now and the kids just call me "dad". It probably helps that their other dad is now a girl, so I'm not really taking anyone's place? Don't know.
That's smart and so important. Children often do that because, rightly or wrongly, they feel that loyalty to the remaining parent requires it of them. But it intensifies the pain of being caught in the middle of the split. You can't fix that, but at least you're not making it worse, and they may see that more clearly when they're grown up.
Funny thing... my ex says unkind things about my partner. Kids pick up on this and it has actually strengthened their relationship with her and has harmed their relationship with their mother. Kids aren't dumb, they know when adults are being unkind and irrational.
If your friend stayed married and responds to being mistreated passively, that isn't enough (for him or the kids).