stepson thrown out of mother's house, advice please!(6 Posts)
This is my first time posting on this site, and this might be a bit long, but I'm just looking for some support and to figure out if we are doing things right... In January, my partner and I were with his son (age 12) at his grandparents for the weekend, when my partner got a text from his son's mother on the Saturday night to say that she could no longer have him staying with her and we would have to take him in. He was in trouble at school on the Friday and I think that was maybe the breaking point for her. We live 3 hours from her and I think she was feeling isolated.
On the Sunday we went to her house to pick up a bag for him, we suggested and she agreed that maybe we take him for a week or two to let the situation calm down and give him a taste of life with us and then he could make a decision as to what he wanted to do. Well, we arrived at the house and she had packed his whole bedroom up and everything that he owned was sitting in the hallway. His reaction was heartbreaking, he instantly shut down and went very white as soon as he saw this. It looked very much like she intended this to be a permanent solution, and to him it looked like he was being thrown out of the house.
Over the following days we got him settled in our house and tried to establish a routine as close to 'real life' as we could. He made the decision after one week that he wanted to stay with us and he phoned his mum to talk to her about it. She did nothing but shout at him on the phone (I could hear her from the other side of the room) and slander myself and his dad. She said that she felt that we had poisoned him against her and that it was down to us that this had happened to her (no apparent concern for her son's welfare at all). We at this point were trying to encourage him to talk to her in an effort to save their relationship. She met up with my partner and step son a few weeks later to take him out for some lunch and spend time with him, but returned an hour later because she was too hungover to do anything with him. At the midterm break she asked if he could go and stay with her from Friday and she would take him back on Tuesday, this was absolutely fine with us, because we felt that he should have a relationship with his mother and maybe they could heal by spending fun time together (not doing the homework thing and bedtimes and all that stuff). We got a phonecall from her on the Saturday night saying that he wanted to come back and was being horrible to her and his half sister (who is 18). She said that he needs to change his attitude and among other things explain to her why his half sister has to now go to counselling because he abandoned her, like her father did and her step-father did (my partner did nothing of the sort, and was always there for her after they split up). She also said to my stepson that he was not welcome in her house if he did not take accountability for leaving them. You can imagine how furious we both were. Anyway, on the Sunday she took him back to our house with a load more of his stuff and he hasn't seen her since. She refuses to come to us to spend time with him, partly because she can't afford to (but does smoke 20 a day and goes out every other night now that she doesn't need a babysitter) and partly because he and we are not happy about him having to take responsibility for her throwing him out of her house and saying he isn't welcome.
As you can imagine, he is feeling extremely rejected by his mother and we are so worried about him. He claims that he is doing fine, but occasionally he seems very withdrawn. He has also started to worry about his weight (he is by no means fat, and is really fit and healthy, but his mum made a comment about it last time she spoke to him, something about its good that he is back doing rugby because he can finally get rid of his belly). We are just really unsure about how to go about supporting him through this, and we believe that he is holding feelings in. We don't want to bring up his mum too much because any time he even thinks about her his behaviour changes and he is clearly getting upset by the whole situation. Any advice from anyone who has been in a similar situation is greatly appreciated!!
What's happened regarding school? Does he go to one near you now? That would indicate a commitment (by both you and him) that he's living permanently with you.
Yes he has been in school here since February, and has settled really well. We are just at a loss what to do about his relationship (or lack thereof) with his mother.
I would talk to his school and see if they have an emotional support team (often called ELSA) who he could access. He might feel happier having a neutral person to talk to about what's going on in his head.
All you can do is reassure him that he is loved and wanted by you. You cannot fix his relationship with his mum but you can ensure he feels secure with you and I'd concentrate on doing that right now.
I feel for you as I have been in exactly this situation with my DH and his youngest son.
His mum threw him out aged 13 and he came to live with us. She then "punished" him over the following years for "abandoning" her. This was 7 years ago. Unfortunately that relationship will never heal - she is still "furious" at him - and at us.
I suggest that - like us - you focus on making him feel welcome and settled. Don't worry about the ex too much at this stage. The school was quite helpful to start with (luckily we live quite close and so he was able to stay on at the same school). The saddest thing in the situation for us is that the relationship between him and his older brother has been soured by the mother continually bad-mouthing the younger son and us. She is very manipulative and tried to stop the older boy (now young man) spending any time with us since his brother left. They are both young men but she continues to make trouble at every opportunity.
Fast forward 7 years though and my stepson is thriving - after a period of about a year when he was clearly struggling with emotions, he really settled down, became much happier and is now doing extremely well - thoroughly enjoying university life and has become a well-rounded positive and thoughtful human being.
Sadly his mother is still stuck in the rut of being angry and controlling and has never been able to move on. She never will and we just accept that now. He sees her about once a week when he is at home. He actually says that it was probably the best thing she ever did for him as he was so incredibly unhappy whilst living with her. I am sorry I do not have any answers for you but keep your stepson's welfare at the centre of your thoughts and you will not go far wrong.
What a horrible situation for you all.
I can't improve on the great advice you've already had but I do think he's old enough for the 'its not you, it's me' talk. I think we are very focused on protecting our children from the nastiness that can occur in relationship breakdown, we try very hard to be positive about a parent who may not be behaving positively and I think the disconnect between what a child is seeing and experiencing for themselves and what we are saying can be difficult for them.
I don't mean we go for full disclosure 'yep we think she's a right arsehole' style chat but I think letting him talk and giving yourself permission to acknowledge it honestly and not try to spin it into something, anything, more acceptable can be very healing. Take control of the realisation that adults, even our parents, are flawed and can do things that are really hurtful. It's difficult to frame the message that she still loves him and always will but she isn't able to express that properly and look after his feelings because she isn't able to see past her own but that doesn't make it alright to hurt him, but I do think it's a really helpful thing because ime as the child not doing that was almost like enabling gaslighting - I knew my dad was a bad person, that was what destroyed my relationship with him, everyone telling me he loved me and was a great dad just made me feel sick about it all and like I was the problem.
Sometimes it can be as simple as not contradicting his view of his mum, not agreeing or disagreeing just neutral. Then when he's in a place where he can really hear you add in a bit of nuance and explanation. It's so hard to understand that something so big that has so fundamentally affected you and hurts so bloody much actually isn't about you but if you can explain that age appropriately (which was essentially my first round of therapy) it can ease a lot of feeling of responsibility and confusion that can have a real effect on self esteem.
His long term relationship with his mother can wait. It's probably best short term to let her stay away if he'll be subject to such vitriol while he is so vulnerable, then when he's in a good place tackle her. Pushing it now while she is still looking to lash out may turn a fracture into a permanent break.
Poor little boy, I hope you can get through it mostly unscathed.
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