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by Abigail Van Buren

Happily Unmarried Woman Can't Take Mom's Nagging

DEAR ABBY: I'm a single mother of three kids, ages 10, 8 and 7. Their father and I have been divorced for two years. He moved 300 miles away and sees the kids mainly in the summer and on holidays. He has remarried, and she has children as well.

My problem is my kids feel he treats her children better than he treats them. I try hard not to badmouth him, but from what they tell me it's a one-way street. He has told our kids that he loves them more than I do, and that he wishes he didn't have to pay child support. It hurts me to see them hurt.

What can I do? We don't have a good relationship. He refuses to listen to anything I say. I don't want the kids to hate their father, but unless he changes, they will. They have already asked me if they can talk to the judge to get their visits made fewer and shorter. -- PROTECTIVE MOM IN VIRGINIA

DEAR PROTECTIVE MOM: You cannot control the behavior of another adult, much as you might wish to. Your children are intelligent and they have already gotten the picture. Unfortunately, they are still too young to be able to convince a judge to shorten their visits or spend time with their dad less often. But as they enter their early teens they will be. Help them to be patient and ride it out in the meantime, because they have no other option.