Ex broke the news to the kids that he's leaving the country - now what?
Not a step parent or divorce issue, but my family (and my of kid's friends) have suddenly had a parent who has had to start traveling all the time to make ends meet. It has not been easy, because the kids feel the loss of dad, even after as many months as we have been doing this (Since August last year) they still get upset when he leaves after being home for the weekend.
One thing that my help is getting them into counseling, as it gives them an outlet to express their feelings and they will be guided in how they can express those feelings and deal with them. and the counselor will work with you on bettering your coping with the issues he presents to the kids.
As far as advice, this is all I've got:
I think this is the kind of situation where:
* Loving parents often feel like telling their kids the prettiest, most comforting things possible,
* This is a major, mind-boggling, life-changing thing they need to process; find some way to understand it, and eventually be able to move on from it; so it could be very confusing for them - for a long time - if you tell them they should believe things that don't ring true...that aren't true. Kids are capable of twisting their brains into very convoluted shapes, trying to convince themselves that something a parent has told them is right, and not their own logic and intuition; because they feel more secure if they can believe you are wiser than they are.
Of course I don't mean indoctrinate them to be angry with their father. But steel yourself to validate the difficult things they may say, that in your heart you know are true, instead of trying to comfort them out of thinking those things. (I find this very hard, personally.)
Their dad's choice IS selfish.
You ARE angry with him, for making it.
It's NOT the kind of choice most parents make and you expect that when THEY'RE parents, they will never choose to move so far away from THEIR children, for ANY reason.
They are the best kids in the world and do not deserve to have this happen in their lives.
You know that, in his heart, he loves them (in fact, you think that's why he broke the news in the crummy way he did - he couldn't stand to spend a lot of time watching them cry); but this is NOT a loving thing to DO.
He is confused about what's right and what's most important and it's perfectly understandable that your kids feel devastated, but ALSO confused and disappointed in him.
It's hard to be disappointed in a parent.
Let the comfort be that:
YOU are NOT confused - you never will be - and they can count on you to always be there for them, even if their Dad makes poor choices;
They have you and each other and everything else about their life will stay the same;
You and their Dad will try to find some way for them to spend time with him, without going to dangerous D.R., which YOU do not want them to do; and
Many other children have had to deal with major separation from a parent - for whatever reason - and have gotten through it and been OK. As upset as they are now, they will be OK, too and will not always feel this sad.
I think that comfort is much better than, "Daddy really loves you and he's just doing this to try to make a better life for you," which is the kind of b.s. HE probably told them. People say that kind of stuff because it sounds nice, without realizing a kid's going to convolute that into, "It's my fault." or - worse still - "This is the kind of parenting I guess I'll grow up and do some day. I may not understand it now, but evidently it's the right thing to do."
suddenly had a parent who has had to start traveling all the time to make ends meet. It has not been easy, because the kids feel the loss of dad, even after as many months as we have been doing this (Since August last year) they still get upset when he leaves after being home for the weekend.
Just to clarify (after my last, harsh post), I do not think that every parent who has to be away from their kids temporarily is rotten and selfish.
My Dad had to spend my entire 4th grade year living in another country, because he was in the military and assigned somewhere it wasn't safe to take his family. I was devastated! But it's a whole different ball game, in a kid's head, when they know their Dad is just as upset about being away from them as they are and that it wasn't his preference and he's working hard to get the permission (or, in your case, earn enough money) to be home all the time, again. When it's a common hardship, it can actually make you closer. I will always vividly remember when my Dad's flight out of the country was overbooked and he excitedly volunteered to give up his seat and take a different one, the next day, to get a few more hours with us (emotional messes that we were!) But the OP's kids have a Dad who is basically running to catch the first flight out. Whole different thing!
Thanks guys. What concerns me is that I really don't know WHAT he told them. And judging from his track record, he does like to tell stories. I did leave him because he's a pathological liar and I couldn't cope with it anymore, among other things. My son told me that daddy is leaving because we fight. Uh...we've been split up for 2 years, and barely speak aside from when we have to. Yes, there have been a handful of over-the-phone or email fights about kid-related things when he fails at being a provider (he still has not paid a dollar of child support), but the kids are oblivious to that as ex loves to call me and upset me at work, not at home where it'd be more appropriate. So according to DS, his father is leaving because daddy and mommy fight. Uh...thanks for attempting to blame ME for the move.... wtf is that about?
My daughter knows her father well enough to know that he's a giant flake. In fact, the reason I even have primary custody is because he told us all last September that he'd be moving 5 hours away for work for a couple of years. That never ended up happening, but he never pursued going back to 50/50 custody, either. So DD knows that the likelihood that her father will even BE in the D.R. by next summer is slim. I think that's why she's taking the news so well.
DS feels totally abandoned, though. He's the more emotional of the two, and is really struggling with it. He's petrified that he might lose both parents, now that he's realizing that it's so easy for his father to just up and leave like this. I had a heart-to-heart with him and told him that I would never do this to him. That if we ever move, it won't be far away because it's important for him to be around his family and his friends. And that if we move, he'd be coming with us, and would be part of the decision in the first place. We had been discussing moving about 15 minutes away to a bigger home within the next year, but have put those plans on hold for now because I don't want them to have anymore disruption in their lives until this whole thing blows over. It'd mean switching their school, and they don't need that right now.
Oh, and a lovely update. My partner was discussing the situation at work with a friend, and a woman overheard and piped up "Hey, I KNOW those people." I guess we share a mutual friend, and they had been at a dinner party earlier in the year. Ex apparently is very pleased with himself, very full of himself, and talks up his job like he's a millionaire (he's practically unemployed and works for peanuts for his daddy, who is the exact same person he is). He came across as a complete ass, according to the woman. Showed up to a dressy dinner party in ripped and stained jeans, and made out with his girlfriend most of the night. We are not high-school kids. They are all in their 30s to 40s and were kind of revolted by the situation. Him and his girlfriend went on and on about their upcoming move to the D.R., their lovely little daughter (girlfriend's child who calls ex "daddy", which totally screws with my kids), and made ZERO mention of ex's bio kids. As far as his circle of friends is concerned, they do not exist. This broke my heart to hear. =(
Oh gosh. He sounds like a world-class narcissist. I'm so sorry.
The crappy thing is, the kids would have eventually come to the same realization that their dad is disappointing, selfish, self-absorbed and unreliable. He may have fooled them for a bit longer that he was the world's best dad, but they would have realized the truth eventually. This just speeds up the process. As much as you want to, they can't be shielded from that reality forever.
It sucks and it's going to be really hard on them. Just keep on doing what you're doing -- keep on being a good mom to them and giving them all the love and stability you can. Therapy may not be out of line, and it may be worth talking to them about his issues. Do you think he's got full-blown narcissistic personality disorder? Depending on how old they are, there may be some honest and difficult conversations to be had.