Friday, July 30, 2010

My teen wants to live with her father!

Questioner: TC

Subject: My 13 year old daughter wants to live with her irresponsible father!!!

Question: I have a major dilemma…. And I am not sure what I should do. My ex-husband and I have been divorced since my daughter was 6 months old – she is now 13. Throughout the years I have struggled (working two jobs on and off )because for most of her life he has been involved in drugs, or in trouble with the law for stealing to buy drugs(which she knows nothing of) and up until recently he has never paid his child support unless put in jail.
I have however let him spend time with her (during his bad times she was only allowed at his parent's house).

His parents are very religious and very wealthy. He has been up and down over the last 13 years… he recently met a woman who is a widow and married her, I feel for the money. This is his third marriage – he has known this woman for 3 months two of which they have been married. He now has the perfect home, perfect Christian life, yada yada yada. He has “Changed” so many times it really makes me sick and each time EVERYONE (my daughter, his parents and family) believes it – I on the other hand know it won't take this woman long to realize that she has married an abusive liar.

So that is the history now for present. After spending a week with him my daughter calls and says she is moving in with him (60 miles away). They have promised private school, have spent money hand over fist on her and she is currently on her way to the beach with them. I of course am devastated and concerned for her well being. I contacted a law enforcement agency and got a copy of his criminal record from our hometown. I was shocked .. 9 pages, 20+ felonies various things that his parents were able to get “dismissed”. But 4 felonies in which he was charged with and several misdemeanors PLUS an outstanding warrant from 1994 for Felony Breaking and Entering and Larceny. He moved from that town around 96 and I am waiting to get criminal records from the town he currently lives in.

MY DILEMA: - If I make her come home she will hate me – and possibly run away and most definitely make my life almost unbearable. - Do I let her stay and hope that she realizes her mistake and comes home on her own – what about her safety while there he has also promised her all this freedom in which I do not allow? - Do I secretly turn him into the police and HOPE he goes to jail so she has no choice but to come home – they will suspect me but have no proof – will she hate me for putting her father in jail? - Do I secretly mail his new wife a copy of his criminal report (which I am POSSITIVE she has no clue about)? - Are there any other options?

Please give me any suggestions you may have. I am out of ideas and running out of time since school starts next week!!!

Answer: Dear TC,

I am so sorry you must be heartbroken. Well first, what jumped out at me is what you said about her not knowing about the drug charges and other elements of her father's life. This is where many of us go wrong with children.

While it is not acceptable nor is it good for children to have one parent bad mouthing the other parent, often parents go totally in the other direction and protect the child from reality. She should have known what was up and who he really was although it didn't have to be the topic of dinner discussions it just didn't need to be totally hidden from her. However, this is not something which can be undone now.

What you can do is take her to dinner and explain to her how much you love her and how you made a mistake by not telling her sooner as you wanted her to have a good relationship with her father and wanted the best for her.

Explain to her what your concerns are from your heart. Start by telling her you know she is capable of understanding and making a decision which is best for her and if she decides later she wants to change her mind, she can do so. Maybe even suggest she make it a temporary change by staying on holidays and vacations etc..... If she doesn't go for it ask her to just think about it and let her know she is the one who has to make the decision.

You are totally right in that if you force her to come back she may give you problems. You know her better than anyone else and if you truly believe it would start a round of running away or anything of this nature by all means take the approach of just building up the relationship between the two of you. Really put time and energy into spending time with her and LISTENING more than you talk about what is going on with her. The more you LISTEN the more power you have in a relationship. She will naturally draw back to you again.

Part of this is just the normal seperation time between a parent and child. She wants you to see her as an adult who is capable of making good decisions and taking charge of her life. If you can feed her the information the concerns you have in such a way which makes her feel like you are just giving her info to make her decisions she will most likely respond to your information in a positive manner.

Also realize what she is drawn to is the ILLUSION of having a NORMAL family. Most children want to live with the parent who has created this illusion of the normal family. I sounds as if this is the case with your ex and his new wife. However, from the sounds of it, it won't last very long if she is smart and catches on to what is going on. Or if he blows it.

Both of which could be a very valuable lesson for your daughter in her journey in her own life. As for the criminal activity. You are obligated to turn whatever you know over to the authorities by law however do not own responsibility for whatever happens with this information. YOU DIDN'T commit the acts, your ex did and whatever the consequences are they belong soley to him.

It sounds like his life has been full of people who rescue him and he has not had the opportunity to make the connection between choices and taking responsibility for his actions. What a pity. This is why I am such a strong proponent of parents giving their children as many choices as possible when they are young and living at home. It is so much better to support them in making choices and dealing with the consequences of their choices rather than overpowering them and making their choices for them and not providing an opportunity to learn good decision making choices.

Having said this, giving children choices involves giving them choices you can live with, which are positive, beneficial choices for win-win situations. You have your hands full and remember to take care of yourself first, physically, emotionally and spiritually!

Best Wishes,

M Kay Keller

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