Two Names for Grandson Will Be Fine

Question: My daughter recently had a child with a man she barely knows. The two of them don’t get along well and he’s sometimes hostile towards her in front of their son. The father has limited visitation which is good. However, he and his family refuse to call my grandson by his given name. I’m worried that this conflict over my grandson’s name will have a negative impact on him. We don’t want him to be confused.

Answer: It’s very disappointing when co-parents cannot get along with each other because it is in the best interests of the child(ren) that they do. All of the literature on divorce supports the idea that it’s the conflict and not the separation that damages children (which means that parents who are still together but fight all the time are doing damage as well). Thus, you’re right to be concerned.

One of the characteristics of high conflict family disputes is that both co-parents tend to try and change the other. This is impossible because the only person in charge of change is you. Consequently, any effort your daughter expends trying to change the father (her co-parent) is wasted, so she might as well stop. He won’t change until he wants to which may be never. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that your daughter can transform the situation merely by changing her behavior. One of the things she can change is to stop being irritated by the father’s refusal to use your grandson’s given name. Lots of people have nicknames. Similarly, lots of people of mixed heritage have names in both languages of the parents. I doubt having two names will confuse your grandson. It will be normal for him that his father has one name for him while his mother has another. This will be especially true if your daughter promotes the idea to your grandson first. By not being upset about what his father is doing and even supporting it, she will help ease the transition for your grandson, regain her sense of control and change the dynamics with her co-parent.

Successful co-parents quickly learn to manage their emotions and behaviors no matter what their other co-parent does. If their co-parent is hostile, then they don’t respond in kind. They can ignore the hostility or respond with humor. They also learn to set boundaries and do what is in the best interests of the child(ren) regardless of whether it’s uncomfortable for them. This is actually quite difficult but it’s a valuable skill to learn. Although this may never happen, it could be that once your daughter learns to be unaffected by her co-parent’s hostility, he may change his behavior. If that happens, then this biggest winner will be your grandson.-

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