Dear Coach Richie: Due to my ex now living with a ex heroin addict who now is apparently on a methadone treatment plan I decided to only allow our 12 year old son to sleep at his mothers 1 night per week. More importantly this is what my son wants too as it’s very stressful for him to be at his mums. There’s also a lot of debt there and she relies on my maintenance payments.
When he stays there for the night all his mum and her boyfriend do is try to make him feel guilty for not wanting to be there. They do not appreciate how he feels and I think they fear that the more he is at mine the less maintenance I have to give my ex. These guilt trips are upsetting my son. How can I try to deal with this?
Coach Richie: The truth is the only way to go. The guilt trips that they are putting your will create a lot of turmoil in his life, especially as he begins his teenage years. He probably feels like he has no control of the situation. Because he really doesn’t. If he doesn’t want to go there than why does he have to? Is it court ordered? Then that should be taken up with the court. If it isn’t and you are saying that he has to spend time with his mom. Unfortunately you are going to end up being the bad guy. Because he is going to find someone that understands him (his friends) that is not good for anyone. That teen tribe will turn your son on you and you will lose him to them. What does that mean? You can probably imagine a pretty dim picture. Lot’s of chaos, anger, violence, trouble with the police, drug use to escape his dreadful world because nobody is listening to what he wants. When he connects with the teen tribe it is entirely different game and the least of your worries will be your ex and the ex addict boyfriend. So what can you do now.
- Tell your ex that your son is very uncomfortable going to her house. Because of the guilt trips. You guys both need to have your son’s best interest at heart. If you don’t his future will be very difficult and challenging.
- If it isn’t court ordered that he go. Then ask him and let him make that decision. That will make him feel like he has some control over his life when the age he is at he feels as though he has none.
- Maybe a cooling off period. Where you explain to your ex how your son feels and let her think about how he feels when they make him feel guilty. What emotions does one feel with guilt. (Sadness, Depression, Anxiety)
- Have your son write a note. Yes, pen and paper and let him explain his feelings to his mum on paper.
- When you speak with your son and he tells you about how he feels. Just listen, acknowledge his feelings, (something like, Hmmm. That must be very hard when your mum says that, your own language here). With serious conversations like this you don’t want to fix, advise or lecture. (like saying your mum loves you and she really doesn’t mean to do that). Just let him talk and acknowledge his feelings and that is it. That will be a world of difference for him to have a parent that is just listening instead of telling.
Hope you can find something here that will help you. It is challenging, however you sound like an amazing dad who loves his son very much. You got this.
RESPONSE #1: There is no court order and I’ve told him on numerous occasions that if he doesn’t want to go to his mum’s all he has to do is tell me and he doesn’t have too. He is suffering emotional abuse and any more I’ll be stopping him going myself.
Coach Richie Reply #1: I understand. You can see how the guilt is already setting in on him that is why he feels as though he needs to go there. His mum is denying and avoiding because she is only hearing his feelings from you. Once she hears it from your son through a conversation or a letter she may get the big picture. However, Until she hears it from him she will just think you are making it up. Oh yes, She probably is very angry at you because your son wants to stay with you. Another reason to disregard anything you say. She probably is really angry with your son for wanting to stay with you and she can’t hide it so it comes out of her as pushing the guilt upon him. She probably doesn’t even realize she is doing it. Anger is tool that is used to hide our true feelings and emotions. What if you tried another conversation with him and framed it in a different way. It seems to be a problem for him and you. So what if you tried to frame it as a little problem and work together on a solution. When he brings up the guilt, what if you made a statement about what could we do to work together to help his mum understand the comments make him feel sad? He may be open on doing some problem solving to come up with a solution. There a bunch of ways to approach it. Unfortunately, it takes some time to experiment and test options. You will eventually find what works and being resourceful is hard when you feel as though you are up against the clock. All the best,
I’ve spoke to his mother but honestly she either denies everything or doesn’t see the damage she is doing. She is a very difficult woman.
I validate all his feelings and I make sure he knows I’m there to support him and he’s safe with me.
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