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I have a 16 yr old son and 19 yr old daughter. I have been going through a divorce for the past year and it's almost over. My daughter is a freshman in college and seems to have handled it well. My son on the other hand blames me for everything. My ex has manipulated my son into believing this divorce is my fault entirely (NOT) and now my son has a lot of anger towards me and my family, and even his sister. She has tried to talk to him, they used to be very close, but he wants nothing to do with it. He is extremely smart, but the last year his grades have gone down and he doesn't seem to care about school. He is also very athletic(baseball,had knee surgery over 1 yr ago) and has now gotten back into playing. I moved into my own place 1 month ago and my son refuses to move his things in (we have joint custody) and I only live 1 mile away. He comes to visit occasionally but has told me he will not live with me. The custody arrangement at this point is not very strict (on the advise of lawyers and the judge who did the mediation) since my son is having such a hard time. I was mostly a stay at home mom, worked part time (have an MBA) and now have gone back to work full time. I'm afraid my son will be a 'loose cannon' since his dad does not discipline or enforce any rules and pretty much lets him do what he wants (like watch TV all the time). Otherwise he is a great kid, never been in any trouble. However with this lack of authority and his anger towards me I'm afraid I may lose him and he will want nothing to do with me. I have him scheduled to see a therapist in a few weeks. This was a huge problem since his dad doesn't think he needs to talk to anyone. His dad is also a huge pathological liar, brought up during the divorce as well. Any comments/suggestions would be helpful. I just don't know what to do with him at this point. I always make myself available and always try to get him to do things with me, but he usually says no.


Mike Mastracci Replied: Depending on how you look at it, the good and bad news is that you really don't have questions that are best answered by a lawyer. At age 16 with anger issues toward you, lawyers and courts are the last thing you should think about absent extenuation circumstances. Stay on the counseling therapist path with him if you can. A good one, experienced with teens can do wonders. With a difficult, disingenuous ex, it is harder. I would need to know more about that situation to comment more on father's role in counseling. Best of luck, mike
Posted On 2010-12-04 14:56:27
Ellen Gibran-Hesse Replied: I went through a divorce when my sons were 10 and 13 so I do understand how difficult these transitions are. I can't recommend enough how important it is for him to see a therapist. My youngest was angry also but he did live with me. He resisted therapy at first but came to love his therapist. It is hard to be a teen and be at the mercy of situations you can't control. It is regrettable that his father is creating this tug of war but a therapist will help your son see the situation more clearly. It might help for you to see the therapist if only to find out how best to approach your son. You seem to be hanging onto your old role as mother to a young son and it is important that you get support for the transition. Let your son know that the therapist is bound by a code of confidentiality for you both. By your seeing the therapist, he can better help your son's perspective and perhaps clarify for you what you might do to create a closer relationship. At this point, don't force the custody. Focus on creating a friendship based on shared interests. Your son is well on the road to adulthood so rules are less important at this point.He has already learned discipline by sports, work, and the rules he grew up with. This is a difficult transition for him. He has lost the family he wanted and is in a form of grieving. Your daughter is already out into the real world so it doesn't help to compare the two. Anger for this sort of loss is very normal. Both of my sons had their grades go down for a year. Don't worry about these things. With time, a good therapist, and your focus on creating a relationship that is just about the two of you, things will heal. I am recommending a book by a Dr. Phil Show advisor, Dr. Frank Lawlis. It is Mending the Broken Bond: The 90-Day Answer to Repairing Your Relationship with Your Child.There is a chapter in there on dealing with teens. I think it can give you some valuable insight and reassure you that things can change for the better. Just don't forget to take care of yourself in this difficult time. Please.
Posted On 2010-10-07 21:51:20
Beverly Willett Replied: First, I want to say that I do understand exactly what you are going through. I went through a long divorce and have two children, one just about to enter puberty when her father left; I also know and have spoken with many people experiencing similar problems. It may be hard to accept what I'm going to say, but my beliefs have come from extensive hard-won experience and research. There's not much right now that you probably can do, but accept the situation as it is, continue to be there for your son, continue to set boundaries -- teenagers need them and some parent must set them, and hope that one day things will get better. Pure and simply divorce itself often forces kids off the trajectory they were once on. Some parents feel guilty and try and become their children's "friends" by being lax, when what they really need to do is be a parent and co-parent with their ex. But it sounds like that's impossible in your situation. Divorce forces children to begin living in two separate worlds -- two separate "homes" with different rules, different values and different ways of operating. Elizabeth Marquardt talks about this eloquently, though heartbreakingly, in her well-researched book "Between Two Worlds" which I recommend you read. Not to be gloomy, but don't be too sure that your daughter is handling it well either. Marquardt's book will tell you that children of divorce often don't tell you what you don't want to hear. Divorce itself often leads to "good kids" getting into trouble, and even if they don't, there are often emotional issues such as depression. Therapy would probably be helpful though it often depends on the therapist. Is there anyway your soon-to-be ex might go to counseling with you for the sake of trying to co-parent? If he thinks mostly about himself, maybe you can sell it in such a way that it will benefit him -- i.e. your ex. Finally, at the risk of upsetting you -- which I don't want to do because you sound like you really care deeply about your children -- I'm going to go out on a limb and say one last thing. You say your divorce is "almost over." Is there any possibility, however slim, of reconcilation? You don't mention the circumstances so I don't know if abuse or adultery or some other egregious situation is involved, which would be understandable. If not, is there any way to halt the presses and possibly revoke the not yet irrevocable? I believe that divorce has become too easy in our society and that the "happy talk" of divorce is just that. I recently wrote a piece for the Daily Beast about no-fault divorce that has been widely read, and also appeared on Fox Radio about my views. You can find links to both on my website, I would never minimize anyone's pain, but I do throw this out for thought because I believe that the suffering children experience from divorce is in large part, though perhaps not always, inevitable. My very best wishes to you.
Posted On 2010-09-30 13:37:59
Rosalind Sedacca Replied: This is certainly a challenge for you with no simple answers. I believe his seeing a therapist is an excellent idea. Hopefully it will be a good personality fit for him -- because that's very important.

Be persistent about doing things with him, inviting him to spend time with you, etc. Try to open conversations while in the car together to hear his perspective on things. It's important for you to acknowledge his views, even if you disagree. Let him know you understand how he feels and why he may feel that way. Then you can share how you perceive the situation, using "I" messages.

Never badmouth his Dad. Share your concerns about his grades and future. See if you can open up dialogues. This is a slow process. If you can't make progress, talk to the therapist about your challenges to see if they can help.

Don't give up. This is a life-long process and you will always be his Mom. In fact, remind him of that fact and about your love often.
Posted On 2010-09-28 16:54:56
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