This way you don't have to mention her or him and they will get the message.
Absolutely talk to your kids in an age-appropriate way. All of those things should be said regardless of whether or not she has a BF or not. I had an IC and a children's play therapy resource help me frame these discussions.
My goal was not to assert myself here or have my own feelings known/understood - it was to help them navigate through this quagmire.
I agree with you about the secrets. My girls are little (5.5 and 3) so don't know how to keep secrets just yet which is a blessing. When they first started mentioning OWumpteen I would bristle and try to fake my way through it. They pick up on that stuff and started asking me leading questions "Are you cranky that I played with Wharura?". I worked really hard to stop the bristling and these days it hardly registers.
What they know is that I don't like OWUmpteen and I don't have to spend time with her but its OK for them to like her if they want to. They know that I am their mum and he is their dad and that will never change. They know that I love them and will always be there for them - no matter what.
I've learned a few things in this hellish road.
Surrender. I was a twisted ball of agony for the first few months that that whore was around my precious girls. Hearing her name come out of my babies mouths almost sent me over the edge. The thing is I can't change it - I can't protect them from their fathers fucked up relationships. What I can do is help them navigate through this. I cannot do this is my own feelings around the situation get in the way.
Talking to him is a complete waste of time. Don't expect in S/D what you didn't get in your M. Talking to her will just fuel the fire and will leave you more angry/upset than you are now. If they were normal, reasonable people they wouldn't be dragging their kids into their fucked up love lives. All you'll do by talking to her is make her feel important and point out which buttons to press when she wants to torture you. Don't talk to her. She is well beyond talking to. Co-parenting is a myth in my world - parallel parenting and re-parenting is where I am at.
Care Factor Zero. I don't worry about whether or not what I say or do will get back to him. A part of the surrender is surrendering to the fact that he's just pissed off and to him its all my fault. He doesn't matter anymore - what he thinks of me matter less than he might imagine. I do worry because he punishes the girls for things they tell him I've said. They are learning to not share their feelings with him which makes me sad but is his burden to bear, not mine. They share with me because I put their feelings above my own - I hear them out even when it killed me inside. I'm reaping the rewards of that now - they feel safe with me.
She is but one in a long line of many. My girls have many iterations of 'the one' to come. This relationship will not last (he is 41 to her 25) so she is not a permanent fixture. I do hope she is around for the next few years because "Better the whore you know", IYKWIM?
They will bond with this one and the next and the next only to have them disappear. My guilt over this is unwarranted - all of this is him. Doesn't make me feel better about the fucked-upness he is modelling for them but I have had to surrender to that.
We cannot control their fuckery but we can control how much it impacts our lives and to some extent the lives of our children.
Take deep breaths friend. As I said I was a twisted ball of agony for those first few months but it does pass. I still don't like it but it doesn't burn me like it used to.
He knows this because from the beginning of this shitstorm I told my kids that I was here for anything they ended to ask me- tell me- show me. No matter what. And that I would not get upset with them for needing to share. Even if they think it will hurt my feelings, they could still tell me.
And then I proved it wih my actions. Over and over, staying calm and non-reactive when they share things with me, even when I was screaming inside they got calm Mom on the outside. I saved my screaming for a friend who understands.
It sure doesn't feel good to know my kids are in pain because of their dad, the man I picked to be their father and thought I could trust. But here we are.
And the worst part is that all of my kids have learned they cannot do the same with their father. He has really shown them who they can count on- and it's not him. This is coming from my kids, so I'm glad I've done something right!
Just keep the dialogue open so they feel safe telling you things. They will form their own opinions about who they trust with their fears and worries.
In the end, all you can really do is model your values, standards and expectations for your children through how you live your life. Children will see that (and those of your ex) and come to know which is the better way to live.
I have staked everything on the (studied) belief that one strong parent that treats his or her children respectfully and helps them to be happy, healthy, productive people will see them through to a good place. It may take until they are in their later 20s until you know. But that is what I am doing and the early results are very encouraging.
Peace & strength.
Her: WW/57 Me: BS/63 24yrs M
3 great kids, now 22, 20, 17 b,b,g
D-Day 8/14/08, D 1/13/11