Teenage dsc- we need to change things but what? Activities, attitude or contact?

(41 Posts)
Grizzlycarebear Sun 16-Jun-13 18:05:14

Things are becoming unhappy in our household- for everyone- and need some ideas from those who have been where we are or who can see some sort of solution.

DP has 15yo (DSD) and 14yo (DSS). We also have 6yo and 4yo. DSC with us every other weekend. We live in a commutable distance from them and their mum and sometimes see DSC for an evening in the week if they can.

DSC don't socialise with any friends while with us ( has been offered and suggested many times). They are both v sporty and attend various clubs for this and have made lots of friends but seem to want to keep them separate.
When they are with us, they don't occupy themselves. Don't use bedrooms to chill out in, watch tv, read, etc despite having their own space.

'Family' type outings are seen as boring and more stressful than they are worth. So the only outings which appeal to DSC tend to be those that are

Grizzlycarebear Sun 16-Jun-13 18:12:24

Sorry posted too soon.

Activities that appeal tend to cost a lot (cinema etc) and we can't afford this week in week out.

We love DSC dearly but we feel change is needed. Are their any activities one of us could do with the DSC while the other parent is with the little ones? just to break things up a bit? Activities that are cheaper? Alternatively should we be looking at altering contact pattern?

I know in many respects they are being typical teenagers but without the outlet of friends while with us. So house is turning into a pressure cooker...

allnewtaketwo Sun 16-Jun-13 18:27:23

Oh god we have this, only eldest is now 17 and no end in sight. It's been the same since he was 6. Pressure cooker is a good description, as I literally feel I have steam coming out of my ears by a Sunday evening. Unlike yours though, my DSSs don't seem to have friends at all.

No suggestions, sorry, but sympathies!

JohnnyUtah Sun 16-Jun-13 18:31:45

Do you have an Xbox? grin

Grizzlycarebear Sun 16-Jun-13 18:38:11

It is so hard- and quite sad actually as no one happy including DSC I would think. The first day is okayish but after that they are restless. They look at clocks/watches and visibly cheer up on the journey back to mums. On a typical weekend with ther mum they would be in and out, seeing mates etc. we've encouraged this but they are not interested. They organise all social stuff for their alternate weekends.

Grizzlycarebear Sun 16-Jun-13 18:38:52

Yes we do have an Xbox. Is a family one in the lounge.

Grizzlycarebear Sun 16-Jun-13 18:40:12

Xbox comes in handy for when it all gets too much smile but think we need something more...

Petal02 Sun 16-Jun-13 18:44:21

I'd consider changing the contact pattern, it doesn't mean you need to see less of them, but a strict EOW arrangement for older teenagers doesn't seem to be working for you.

Your 'pressure cooker' comment is spot-on; until we finally managed to persuade DSS (who had just turned 18 at this point), to cease the access rota, it put everyone under a lot of pressure, and we've found that "little and often" rather than protracted fortnightly residentials is working better for everyone. We just couldn't occupy him from Thurs-Sun EOW.

Grizzlycarebear Sun 16-Jun-13 18:56:31

Changing contact was one thought I had considered. Like you say, not seeing them less but spaced out differently. I had wondered about making weekends shorter but suggesting that we see them for an extra evening in the week. I would also add though that if their mum needed us to have them for a whole weekend for whatever reason that would be fair enough or if we wanted them for whole weekend here or there that would also be fine. DP and I have not seriously discussed this so don't know how this would go down with their mum.

Grizzlycarebear Sun 16-Jun-13 19:03:50

Also I can see an issue with my contact idea, as DSC are so busy in the week. I also think that bringing idea up with their mum might be hard for DP as he would maybe feel like we are not coping with the weekends and not want to admit it.

Petal02 Sun 16-Jun-13 19:06:37

It's certainly worth considering Grizzly. I'd like to think that their mum would be amenable to sensible changes now they're getting a bit older. When I was that age, being "away from home" EOW would not have been much fun.

I think sometimes both children and parents view "access" time as sacrosanct and would never consider anything like seeing friends etc during those visits, making things intense and unnatural, leading to your pressure cooker situation.

Grizzlycarebear Sun 16-Jun-13 19:44:10

It's their mums reaction that I can't gauge in my mind yet. I genuinely feel that if we suggested a change, the DSC would be pleased. But will their mum be upset at missing losing her 'whole weekend' off IFYSWIM. When the DSC were little I would never have suggested this, but now they are older and more self-sufficient I wonder if it would be so much of a problem. They are regularly home alone in the day, and as I mentioned, if she wanted to go away we could easily accommodate this.

Grizzlycarebear Sun 16-Jun-13 19:48:20

Petal I think it's partly the DSC viewing contact time as separate to their friends but also out of a sense of loyalty to mum. She has met a lot of their friends early on and is also friendly with the parents. Sometimes when they socialise its also families socialising together. We have honestly tried over the years but they seemed happier keeping contact separate.

Petal02 Sun 16-Jun-13 19:51:44

The ex was very resistant to any changes, she wanted to maintain her DSS-free alternate weekends. DSS wasn't keen either, but the 'old' arrangement just wasn't working, and we wanted life to 'evolve' as he got older. What works when a child is 7/8/9 doesn't necessarily work forever.

purpleroses Sun 16-Jun-13 19:52:00

Cooking a meal/cake/etc?
Movie night in (with popcorn, etc)? Much cheaper than the cinema
Board games?
Tennis in the park?

My ex owns a canoe which he takes my two DCs out in quite a lot when they're at his - pretty cheap after the initial outlay, and goes down well with outdoorsy children/teens.

Do you know any other families with similar aged teens you could join up with for an outing somewhere?

Or just tell them that the family budget for this weekend will be X, and once it's gone, let them get board for a while - they will eventually find ways to entertain themselves.

theredhen Sun 16-Jun-13 19:57:22

I also have a house full of teenagers who just don't / won't go out.

We live NEARER to their friends than at mums but they still sit in ALL weekend looking bored.

I think it's just the way they are though and even my own ds would happily sit in front of the PC all day if I didn't encourage him to see friends and do other things.

Teens are notoriously difficult to get interested in anything. Except grunting and being miserable wink

Petal02 Sun 16-Jun-13 19:58:44

Grizzly, purpleroses make some good suggestions. Just one question: is your DH the sort of Dad who feels obliged to offer wall-to-wall expensive entertainment on acces weekends, just to ensure the child want to keep visiting?

purpleroses Sun 16-Jun-13 20:03:26

bored not board of course blush

Petal02 Sun 16-Jun-13 20:10:12

But the downside to providing an entertainment schedule, is that 'normal' things can't happen on access weekends, whereas I feel it's important for real life to continue regardless of who's in the household. DH was so busy trying to provide a Butlins-style itinerary, that everyday things like gardening, decorating etc had to be deferred until non-access weekends, and that wasn't good for anyone either.

Grizzlycarebear Sun 16-Jun-13 20:48:46

Some fab ideas- thank you. And useful whether or not we make any changes to contact. No DP doesn't feel obligated to provide a constant stream of entertainment. He has resolutely tried to maintain a balanced time at weekends which was fine when DSC were younger. Now, rather than it being about treating them, it's more about breaking up the days- giving DSC a break from the little ones and the littl ones a break from DSC !

babyhmummy01 Sun 16-Jun-13 21:40:19

At their ages have you considered sitting down and talking to them and asking them what they want rather than trying to make decisions for them?

Maybe they might have some ideas about what contact they want with their dad...might ease the sit with his ex if it comes from them rather than you.

Grizzlycarebear Sun 16-Jun-13 22:00:29

Thank you- yes that's a very valid point. If any changes were to be suggested to contact it would definitely be DP that suggested it rather than me and only if he were in agreement of course.

Speaking to the DSCS first is a tricky one- I can see how it would be beneficial but worried their mum might see it as coercion ie 'we think this, and the DSC want it too so it ought to happen'. Obviously we wouldn't mean it like that but may be perceived that way? I feel maybe their mum would prefer it if we mentioned it to her first. But that's just our situation.

34DD Mon 17-Jun-13 15:39:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Grizzlycarebear Mon 17-Jun-13 16:13:56

Thanks 34DD! Breakfast idea is great. That type of contact seems to work best for DSC- we have sometimes had shortened contact weekends for other reasons (just one-offs) and everyone seems much happier. But I think it is easier for me to be objective and say the weekends don't appear to be working as they are. DP, while having said he is unhappy and stressed at how the weekends go, I think will find it hard to actually explain this to the DC or their mum without feeling as though he is admitting defeat iyswim. But he does of course want their happiness.

34DD Mon 17-Jun-13 16:48:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

JohnnyUtah Mon 17-Jun-13 16:56:18

You're probably right to speak to the mum about it first. Could you put it to the DC that they have "outgrown the current arrangements?" Teens always like to be thought of as adults. They obviously love their dad (and you?) otherwise they'd be voting with their feet.

purpleroses Mon 17-Jun-13 16:56:51

I think it does change a lot as they hit their teens. My DCs live with me mainly, and in the past I would have resisted it quite strongly if my ex had wanted to reduce contact - especially if I suspected his DW had initiated. But now I'm much more relaxed about it really. That's partly because they're becoming more independent so I don't need to be in to look after them all the time, so I don't need my ex to do his share in the way I did when they were small.

They also become much more able to have their own views on things in a way I listen to. My DS did have a phase when he was small of saying he didn't want to go to his dad's - and I ignored his wishes because I knew it was important for him to have a strong relationship with his dad. These days, he has that relationship and it's secure. It's not dependent on spending x nights per week with him in the same way as it was in the past.

It's a bit of an either or though isn't it? Either they come regularly and for significant periods of time, and you try and make it normal life for them. Or you accept that their main life is based in their mum's home, and let them reduce visiting and focus it more around doing things together rather than being under your roof for the sake of it. Worth talking to them to see what they want - making it clear that you're OK with either way.

Grizzlycarebear Mon 17-Jun-13 16:58:34

Thanks. Do you think it should be mentioned to them first? I am still in two minds about that as not sure if their mum would take it badly that (if dsc agree and are up for it) it was being presented to her as a done deal...

purpleroses Mon 17-Jun-13 17:02:18

I would have a general chat with your DSC about what they want - but don't make any promises until you've spoken to their mum.

Grizzlycarebear Mon 17-Jun-13 17:05:13

Thanks- sounds like a plan!

Petal02 Mon 17-Jun-13 17:25:14

Since we've changed to a flexible visiting arrangement, life has generally been easier. DH and DSS tend to get more 'quality time' together, rather than DSS spending time at our house, often in DH's absence, simply because that's what the (out-dated) rota dictated.

allnewtaketwo Mon 17-Jun-13 17:32:53

I think you should go for it. The strong positive in your favour is that they have good normal social lives most of the time. So at their age, seeing dad should and can fit around that rather than the other way round.

I wish I was in your position tbh because my DSS have no social lives or friends they do anything with ever. So there's no alternative to sitting at ours bored EOW

Flicktheswitch Mon 17-Jun-13 17:42:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Petal02 Mon 17-Jun-13 18:25:49

That's a very good point Flicktheswitch - in a bio family people don't try and emulate The Waltons!!

allnewtaketwo Mon 17-Jun-13 18:40:15

Unfortunately my DSS(17) always elects to come too, even when the activity is something like soft play. DSS2(14) will often choose to do his own thing instead though. Things are much easier when it's only DSS2 here for that reason. It's more like a normal family, some time all together, some 1 on 1 just for DSS2, and some time him just choosing to stay home while we do something with DS(4).

catsmother Mon 17-Jun-13 19:03:44

I just typed a big post but deleted it as it was getting too personal - and too identifying. However, very much agree with the pressure cooker analogy re: teenagers .... I'm sure that most of them do prefer to be doing their own thing and don't want to be hanging out with their parents for very long. How you deal with this issue though when distance necessitates stays of at least 2 nights - and completely precludes the much more natural IMO ad hoc "popping round" for an evening meal or Sunday brunch I don't know. Also agree that in families with kids of varying ages it's completely normal to split up and do different age-appropriate things at times - but again, how do you deal when you have a DP who takes offence at not being "one big happy family" - even if it is for just a few hours ? Invariably, the activities which most suit all ages tend to be the expensive ones ...... I feel my stepkids don't especially want to be here for all the reasons described already by others, so, in effect, it often feels they have to be "tempted" to come over at all, and that in turn, is unnatural too IMO.

Grizzlycarebear Mon 17-Jun-13 19:11:49

Thanks all. Jonny- yes we all get on well, have always had a good relationship with the DSC. it is only over the last few months that the everything has for a bit more strained- and that's between everyone really.

Purpleroses you make a good point about deciding which way we want to be with the DSC and I think at the moment DP would certainly say he would prefer slightly less contact and it be better quality. I don't think it is likely they will have a 'normal' life in the time they are with us in that I can't see the friends situation changing.

Allnewtaketwo that sounds really hard for you all. Do your DSC talk about their lack of friends and social life? I know how long the weekend can seem- really sympathise.

Petal and flicktheswitch- you've said it better than I can...to me, normal teenage life is not the waltons. At the very least they would sometimes (a lot of the time ?!) be in their rooms but they don't nor have ever done that.

Petal02 Mon 17-Jun-13 19:12:07

Excellent post Catsmother.

Petal02 Mon 17-Jun-13 19:19:42

The problem I had, and I think Allnew suffers with this, is that DSS and DH (and the ex) were totally obsessed with rota compliance, to ensure that DH 'did his duty' each week, down to the last minute, and no one was interested in the quality of the access time, just so long as exact compliance was achieved.

Grizzlycarebear Mon 17-Jun-13 19:24:05

Catsmother- yes, would be so much harder if distance were greater- at least we have more of a chance of changing things. And in the past, DP would have been keen to hang on to the one big happy family scenario but can see the problems now.

allnewtaketwo Mon 17-Jun-13 20:26:04

Grizzly - no, the thing is that because their mother is very controlling, at her house they spend 24/7 with her. Boring shopping trips, going to her friends house, soft play with the younger ones literally all day every day. So not socialising and instead following a parent around is the norm for them. DSS1(17) in particular is simply cannot understand why DH asks him to think of something to do himself. It's utterly alien to him. He has said he hates being alone. Yet because of his lifestyle he has no friends, so if he is to be 'not alone' this inevitably means being with a parent every waking hour. DH has actually come to find it very stifling also. I can't see our rota changing for at least another years whe DSS2 leaves school at the earliest, by which time DSS1 would be 22 hmm

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