Teenage dsc- we need to change things but what? Activities, attitude or contact?(41 Posts)
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
That's a very good point Flicktheswitch - in a bio family people don't try and emulate The Waltons!!
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
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 !
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.
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?
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