Subject: teenage problems with separated parents.
Question: I separated from my ex (not married to him) when my son was 9 months old, married my husband when my son was 6, we now have 2 more children ages 6, 8 and my first son is now 14. We have always had problems of comments made to my son, from his dad and wife that have been derogative about us, we are bad parents, they don´t agree with our methods of parenting, past stories of what I have done to my son's dad that have not been true etc..
My son is now 14 and very confused, he is failing subjects at school and when angry with us he states that he wishes he was living with his dad where he is loved more than he is with us. We try to explain these issues to him but because he is unwilling to work within our requirements he finds it is easier to express his desire to live with his dad, when told OK we will talk to your dad about moving he then says he won´t, and that he wants to live with us. we don´t know how to help him we try to explain when he is calm what our role is as parents and ask him if we are being reasonable in what we ask, my son says he understands and that we are not being unreasonable but we always return to the same arguing when he has not completed homework, or when we have to go and talk to his teachers for yet another issue that has arisen in school.
My son has many good qualities he is a good person but is very angry with me mainly at the moment as he feels we are treating him unfairly and that we do not love him, that we should let him do what he wants or he hates us and he wants to live with his dad again, he shows no respect for us and this shows when he is talking to us. I have tried talking to his dad to help us but this never goes well, I´m blamed constantly for taking HIS never our son away from him and that in order for them to help us they require more contact, which for us never is constructive for helping my son grow or appreciate what is involved with being a parent.
He has a good relationship with his dad and wife but only sees them 6 weeks of the year not in term time, my son tells his dad on the phone that he is doing well at school and his dad never wants to involve himself any further on this matter he has certainly never asked me how he is doing and has no contact with the school. I am lost with this subject I do not wish for my son to live with his dad not at this stage of his schooling but also feel that the only way we can help my son is maybe to withdraw our input become less conflicting for him and let him live with his dad, although my son when not angry says that he will not go and that we cannot make him.
Also in doing this I am worried he will waste the opportunity he has at school to do as well as he can but at present each time he goes to his dads he returns more angry with us and more unwilling to do what is required at school. I feel due to past manipulations of the facts from his dads side that his dad is slowly poisoning my son against us making our only option of feeling we have failed him and that to live with his dad would indeed benefit my son if only to allow him to clear his mind and achieve the necessary under one set of rules(his dads).
The desired outcome for his dad is that my son lives with him seemingly at the expense of my family and has always been, once however, this has been achieved we are not sure how his dad would fair as they do not have children of their own and what they have told my son regarding school work (that for example mates is not that important once you have left school etc) would have to be changed as the reality is not what his dad is expressing to his son.
I believe he is misleading my son to gain his desired outcome, which to our mind is not on, and not what a parent is all about I am a parent to my children not there mate, although I do have a good and friendly attitude towards my children and we do love each and every one of them.
We need advice on this matter as it is affecting my family, we feel, above and beyond the normal adolescent problematic period that we appreciate is normal.
Answer: Dear Anonymous:
Well at this point your choices are more about damage control rather than fixing this problem. Ideally it would have been better to have limited his time with the ex's family and only allowed visitation as required by the visitation guidelines or managed guideline. This only because the family was engaging your son in an interaction designed to alienate your son from you. It is called parental alienation. Anytime relatives or significant people in a child's life play these dangerous and demeaning games the child suffers from confusion and learns not to respect the caregiver...you as well played a role by not stopping this process and protecting a young child from these immature behaviors.
It is okay for people to disagree with how someone raises their child it is not okay however for them to badmouth the parent when they do not agree to the child. Children are not capable of sorting these type of adult issues out and it is emotionally abusive.
At this point however a 14 year old boy needs some professional support in sorting these issues out so that he can better determine who he is and who he wants to be. You need to get him into counseling and do family counseling with him. He is at an age when he is struggling to form his identity and all this confusion has not given him what he needs to figure out his life.
Eventually all children do however it is usually at a great expense and many years of struggling to do so. The most compassionate thing you and your husband can do is get counseling to help him resolve the confusion. Own responsibility for your own role, apologize to him for not having protected him from the gossip and tell him it was never his job to figure out who to be loyal to or who to believe.
You will do much better to go this route than to keep up the blame game. The fact that you wrote to me says volumes about your motives and love for your son. You care and he will see this eventually.
M Kay Keller