Monday, November 19, 2012

Step son threatened suicide

Dear Kay,

I have two stepchildren, ages 12 and 6. The 12 year old boy has been wanting to live with his dad for the last five years but the mother does not want to let him for her own personal reasons. I can completely understand her feelings, seeing as she and my husband had buried a third child at the age of 20 days due to SIDS.

The 12 year old has just recently gone back to his moms after spending the summer with his dad and I and his little brother, only to start having behavioral issues again. He has been telling everybody that he wants to live here, and we're willing to take him, but his mom won't agree to it. We know that both children there are well loved and well taken care of, but now the 12 year old is saying that he may as well kill himself if she won't let him live with his dad. My concern is him.

We have been in contact with him everyday since we heard about this and have been trying to figure this out, but the mom is refusing to let him move because she can't handle the thought of him being so far away (she moved them 10 hours away 5 years ago). How do we ensure that he is safe and not going to act on the threat? And how do we help her to let go and put his best interests in front of her own? She's been looking after him since she was 16 and I can't imagine the things she's had to endure with all of the major life obstacles she's survived. But how do we fix this without her feeling attacked and the 12 year old feeling ignored yet again?

Dear Jennifer:

You may not like my answer. I think both you and your husband are part of the problem. How does he know that you would be willing to let him live with you?This issue should have only been discussed between the adults first and then a united front presented to him. If the custodial parents said NO, then NO it is until he is of an age where he is allowed to choose for himself.

I don't believe your question of how to help the mother let go and put his best interests in front of her own is either supportive or encouraging it sounds like sabotage.Giving in to a teenager who threatens suicide only means you would have your hands full once he was living with you. To give a 12 year old this much control over the adults who are suppose to be responsible for him is irresponsible.

Is he showing signs of depression? Does he not eat, take care of himself or otherwise exhibit symptoms of a mental health crisis? I suspect not. What I suspect is he has found your buttons to push. Again not good. You need to realize this 12 year old is about to become a teenager and if the three of you do not unite I am predicting you will all have your hands very full!

The next time he threatens suicide tell him he will need to go to the hospital to see a therapist in the psych ward. DO NOT LET HIM be in control of this situation.As for the mother if you are determined he would be better off with you then you need to ask her if she would be willing to go into family counseling to discuss this point. If she is great and if not you take the risk of alienating her. Never a good idea.

You have your work cut out for you because you are his step-mother. However, try not to make it a game of things are better here. Are you sure he doesn't want to live with his father because the rules are more lax or his mom is having to be stricter with him? Kids often want to live with the other parent because they think life will be greener on the other side of the fence only to discover everyone has rules to live by. Are you sure you and his dad are not letting them slide by rather than keeping things structured? I don't know I am just asking as this is very typical in child visitations.

Start reading up on teenagers so this doesn't get away from you.

Best Wishes!

M Kay Keller


  1. Kay, This is an awesome post, with a lot of great insights about mixed-family dynamics, and parenting!

  2. Thank you Bryan. Happy Holidays!