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How do you deal with teen DSS not wanting contact weekends anymore?

(27 Posts)
missmargot Wed 25-Nov-15 20:22:48

Poor DH is really upset tonight. DS doesn't want to come this weekend as he is going out with his friends on Saturday night and has a sports tournament on Sunday. DH is a realist and knows that now he is almost 16 he will want to do this more and is supportive of it, but is hurt that DSS doesn't want to come at all when he could come Friday after school as usual and be dropped home Saturday afternoon (he only lives 10 minutes drive away).

I'll try to keep the background brief but don't want to drip feed either. DH has fought long and hard to keep up contact with DSS ever since he separated from his ex 11 years ago. This involved 5 years of court hearings, CAFCASS and Social Services reports before a contact order was given 6 years ago. DSS's Mum has issues with anger, drinking and choosing inappropriate partners which SS and CAFCASS were very critical of but not enough for him to live with us full time.

We were granted EOW, one overnight mid week and half the school holidays.

The court order has never been stuck to with weekends and holidays constantly being cancelled at the last minute so we've been in and out of mediation but since he turned 14 we were advised that it's DSS's view that counts and pursuing legally will have little to no success. He has a great relationship with DH and wants to see him but doesn't want to upset his mother, who has a history of very poor behaviour when he does (locking him out of the house, throwing his clothes out in bin liners for saying he wanted to see his father as one example). She has two adult children, DSS's half siblings, who are both NC with their mother due to her behaviour so DSS feels that he is all she has and she makes him very aware of that.

DSS said to DH tonight that once he was 16 he could do what he wanted with regards to contact, but not in a 'great, I will get to see more of you Dad' way but in a way that implied 'so you'll be lucky to see me at all'.

DH doesn't want to limit his son's social life or make him feel obliged to visit EOW, but he is genuinely scared that he won't see him at all. Poor DSS is under a lot of pressure from his mother that DH doesn't want to add to but we love him and want to see him. DH and I also have a toddler DS who DSS loves and we want them to have a strong relationship.

Any advice for how to deal with a situation like this?

riverboat1 Wed 25-Nov-15 20:29:16

It sounds really tough.

How far away do you live from DSS?

Honestly, we are hoping to be able to move closer to DSS by the time he is 14/15 because already now he is 10 the 40m car journey between us and him/his mum is proving to be trickier and trickier the weekends he has multiple birthday parties, sports things, sleepovers etc...

missmargot Wed 25-Nov-15 20:32:31

We moved 6 years ago for just that reason. We live in a small village 5 miles/10 minutes drive from DSS's town, so close enough without being too close. There's no public transport but we have never minded giving lifts to wherever he needs to be. He likes to walk to school with his friends so we drop him early to his house on school days so he still can so we try to make things as easy for him as we can.

Borninthe60s Wed 25-Nov-15 20:36:01

The only thing is suggest you see him the following weekend or an extra couple of mid week nights. Failing that in my experience he will vote with his feet once he's 16. Good luck.

RandomMess Wed 25-Nov-15 20:39:13

I would encourage him to have a drop/pop in arrangement - he may find it easier to see you if he can do it without his Mum knowing about it. This will be easier as he gets older as he Mum won't know where he is much of the time IYSWIM

Just keep reiterating that you both love him and he is always welcome to come and stay or live short or long term.

missmargot Wed 25-Nov-15 20:44:02

Born I think you've hit the nail on the head when you say about him voting with his feet when he gets to 16. Everyone has always told us that he will do this and come to live with us, even our CAFCASS officer said it to DH off the record, but now it feels as if he is going to vote with his feet the other way.

Random that is good advice and will be even easier for him once he can start driving lessons in 14 months as he won't need us to come and pick him up. DH and I both travel a lot with work and manage our schedules around him as much as we can but we worry that we might not be here at short notice and that could be hurtful for him, but at the same time he knows how our jobs work and I hope is old enough to understand.

From a selfish perspective I feel really sad thinking that my DS might grow up not knowing his brother.

Naoko Wed 25-Nov-15 21:19:38

I don't have a teenager and I have never dealt with a situation like this so please ignore me if this is a really stupid suggestion. Could your DH go and watch the tournament and buy his DS a fancy coffee and a slice of cake after in a 'I saw that thing you did in the game, it was awesome, good job' gesture? Try and make contact more organic and moving towards the way they might interact as adults, rather than 'contact weekends'?

missmargot Wed 25-Nov-15 21:32:27

That's a good idea, as long as his mother isn't going to be there as unfortunately she wouldn't behave well. I'll suggest it to DH and see whether he can suss out whether she's going to be there or not.

PrettyBrightFireflies Wed 25-Nov-15 23:15:05

DSS said to DH tonight that once he was 16 he could do what he wanted with regards to contact, but not in a 'great, I will get to see more of you Dad' way but in a way that implied 'so you'll be lucky to see me at all'.

If his mum is bagging and binning his belongings in response to him seeing your DH, then this is to be expected, really.

Despite being 16, Your DSS will still feel obligation towards his mum, and be strongly motivated by his desire to secure her approval.

His mum is making it clear that her positive relationship with your DSS is conditional, while at the same time, your DH is making it clear that he will always be there for his DS, regardless. Choosing to appease his mum is the best way to keep both parents in his life - even if his relationship with his dad suffers in the short term, he knows dad will be there in the future - whereas if he upsets his mum, he feels that she may abandon him.

It may take many more years before your DSS is willing to antagonise his mum, and risk losing her approval, in order to maintain a relationship with his Dad. He may withdraw from your family in order to protect himself, until he develops the confidence and skills to stand up to his mum.

There is a lot of information elsewhere on MN about the Fear, Obligation, Guilt (FOG) cycle and how adult DCs respond to their abusive parents. It may help you to read some of those posts in order to understand what your DSS is experiencing, and will continue to experience into adulthood.

missmargot Thu 26-Nov-15 07:16:12

Thanks you, that's an incredibly insightful post and it is appreciated. I will do some reading as what you say makes perfect sense.

purpledasies Thu 26-Nov-15 12:01:21

Does your DH text and communicate with DSS in other ways? That may be a way to keep up a relationship without actual contact and upsetting his mum being involved.

Bananasinpyjamas1 Thu 26-Nov-15 19:29:00

Sorry I'm late to the post. We've had this too, with the teenage/adult DSCs not visiting at weekends anymore. One of the things I've tried to encourage my DP to do is to tell his kids that he wants to see them. He, like your DP might see that as pressure but if he doesn't, then the DSS in your case may take the 'easier path' and not upset his mum and be with his friends, without really realising how much he too will miss out by not seeing his Dad.

I would also, like other posters have done, if I was your DP - get involved with activities with his son, travel to him if necessary, keep up with him on skype or phone/both, whatever he can, and arrange weekends away too with him if possible. Anything rather than let it drift into distance.

Another thing though, your DSS may be like my DSCs who all think it is part of them 'growing up' - not having to go around to a parents house. They see it partly as not having to be 'parented'. One of my DSCs in particular doesn't care whether it is our house or her mums, she just wants to live somewhere where she doesn't 'have' to go anywhere else. And I have to say that this irks me a lot, as she's either ignored her mother, or now is ignoring DP. She hasn't grown up enough to realise that as she grows she is also responsible for keeping up a good relationship with her parent - at that age I think some kids become completely blinkered in their own lives.

BlueBlueSea Sat 28-Nov-15 13:56:22

I had this with my DS. He stopped going to his fathers for contact when he was 15. We only live 10 mins walking distance away from his father, so there was no issue with travel.

It started gradually with him not going for mid week contact and then stopping the weekends too. His father was hurt, but he did not make a fuss about it. He would arrange for them to do a sporting activity together and go out to a show or something.

I think it had something to do with having to share bunk beds with his younger sister at his fathers.

I think his father could have made more of an effort, at one stage DS did not stay at his fathers house for 6 months. Now DS is 18 and sees his father weekly, they go to the pub or the gym. Though the other day DS told me he was fed up living with me, I nag too much, and was going to live with his father, I was not to expect to see him for a few months. I smiled and waved. He was home when I got back from work the next day.

I suggest that your DH puts no pressure on his son for contact, but tries to find things they can do together and let him know that he is always there for him.

ProfGrammaticus Sat 28-Nov-15 14:02:53

I am separated from my husband and our boys are 16 and 14. I would say it is inevitable that a teenager would put his own social life above seeing his father regularly and you wouldn't want it to be any other way. All teenagers see less of their parents, that's how it is.

Your DH needs to put no pressure on at all, make it clear he is available, make no comment if DS doesn't come. That way he is "there for him" and the relationship can be strong when DS is the man he is becoming. It's not about time, it's about emotional availability. Parents have to suck this up - all parents, not just separated ones.

swingofthings Sat 28-Nov-15 17:49:57

I wouldn't focus on the mother as believing that his behaviour is all down to his mum might be one of the reason why he doesn't care so much to come more often. If it was his normal week-end and he decided to not come at all instead of only coming one day, I would doubt that is the result of wanting to please his mum as he wouldn't have been there anyway.

I don't want to sound critical but he does sound a bit like a spoilt child who has everyone bowing in front of him and maybe he just only wants to do what suits him without thinking much of everyone else?

Ultimately, it is normal that he should start spending more time with his friends than -both- his parents and your OH has to accept that. If he stops coming but occasionally, then he will need to bring it up with him as to why that is.

PrettyBrightFireflies Sat 28-Nov-15 21:19:35

swing have you read the OP? It says that the DC has been locked out of his mums house house, and had his belongings dumped in black bags by his mum, both as a consequence of seeing his Dad. His mum has problems with alcohol and has anger problems.

He's hardly had the experiences of a 'normal teen' and it's very unlikely that his relationship with his parents is completely unaffected by his mums behaviour/abuse.

swingofthings Sun 29-Nov-15 10:20:46

have you read the OP? It says that the DC has been locked out of his mums house house, and had his belongings dumped in black bags by his mum, both as a consequence of seeing his Dad. His mum has problems with alcohol and has anger problems.

Indeed -although there might be more to the story of being locked anyway -, but it you can't draw the conclusion that OP's SS decision not to come is therefore inevitably the result of his mum's behaviour.

DD is the same age than him and she started asking more and more often to change visits other the week-ends to fit around her social life. However, another reason she has said to me is that she gets more tired during the week with being in Y11 studying for 12 GCSEs and other things she has to do and wants to chill out more during the week-ends and she can do this better at home. She too has a young sibling at her dad who understandably gets very excited when she goes there and demand a lot of her attention. Sometimes she isn't up to it -especially in the mornings- and feel more relaxed at home.

It has nothing to do with me whatsoever, she is free to go to her dad's whenever she wants, it is her choice, but her dad's understand that this and doesn't take it personally.

PrettyBrightFireflies Sun 29-Nov-15 11:40:21

Indeed -although there might be more to the story of being locked anyway -, but it you can't draw the conclusion that OP's SS decision not to come is therefore inevitably the result of his mum's behaviour.

Yes, there might be more to anyones post than is written - where do you choose to place the limitations on your belief?

I do think it is slightly ironic that when an OP describes abusive behaviour by a mum, the potential impact on the DC is downplayed, whereas the slightest transgression by a stepmum is considered to be damaging for life.
Either DCs are resilient enough not to be affected by their mum destroying/removing their clothing in response to the DCs desire to see their other parent, or they are sensitive enough to detect when their stepmum would prefer a night to herself, or wants to sit next to her DP. It can't be both, surely?

swingofthings Sun 29-Nov-15 13:04:47

I do think it is slightly ironic that when an OP describes abusive behaviour by a mum, the potential impact on the DC is downplayed, whereas the slightest transgression by a stepmum is considered to be damaging for life.
I don't know if you speak in general but that is not correct when it comes to my views. Although I do agree that most teenagers will want to try to please their parents as much as possible, I think that ultimately, most of the decision they make is on the basis of what suits them.

The reason why I am no convinced about the mother being the cause of OP's SS wanting to reduce contact is because from my experience is that it is very common behaviour at that age, even when they are no issues (as it is in the case of my children), as much in terms of spending time with their dad than with me. If they rather spend more time at home, it is not to spend more time with me than their dad, just more time in the place they feel more at home.

missmargot Sun 29-Nov-15 20:17:04

This is the exact debate that DH and I have been having. On the one hand DSS's behaviour is not unusual for his age, but on the other hand we can't ignore his mother's influence as what he has been through has had to have had some impact.

Thanks to all the good advice on here DH is keeping a good perspective on it. He went to the sports tournament today and DSS was pleased to see him.

He's due again in two weeks so we will see what happens then. We are due to go away together for New Year and he is adamant he is still coming so that's good news.

swingofthings Thu 03-Dec-15 18:35:55

I thought of this thread today as DD informed me a couple of days ago that she wasn't going to her dad this week-end. When I asked why, she said that she had plans to go out Friday evening with a friend and his parents and Saturday, she is helping another friend with a media project. I asked her if she spoke to her dad about it and she said he was ok with it.

Then today, she said that she also won't be going next Saturday either because she is going to an an activity to celebrate one of her friend's birthday. Again, I asked if her dad was ok with it and she shrugged.

Thankfully, he knows that it has nothing to do with me. It's not like she isn't going because she wants to spend time with me! She is growing up, getting more active and doing more with her friends. In the new year, she will also be starting a job, so again, she is likely to reduce her time spent at her dad, but I will also see a lot less of her.

PrettyBrightFireflies Thu 03-Dec-15 18:41:15

swing has your DD also told her dad that when she turns 16, she can do what she wants in relation to contact?

There are clearly issues for the OPs DSS regarding contact that differ from the typical teenager growing up - he's clearly been giving it some thought - and I think it's quite dismissive to assume that he's no different from any other teen who hasn't been subject to the same parental hostility or demonstrated the same proactive thinking about it.

Bananasinpyjamas1 Thu 03-Dec-15 18:57:47

But I'm not sure what the OPs DP can do about the boys mother. I know that teens need to start building their own social life, meaning less contact time with their Mum or their Dad, but OP if I were your DP I wouldn't hold back in letting his son know that he loves to see him, that he values time with him and build up any other means of communication - whatsapp or such like for the future.

swingofthings Fri 04-Dec-15 19:08:44

swing has your DD also told her dad that when she turns 16, she can do what she wants in relation to contact?
She wouldn't need to, he understands that she now has a life that means she doesn't want to spend all her week-ends with mum and dad. If he was to say that she can't go to things arranged with her friends because he wants her to spend time with him her toddler, I think it would possibly end up with something like this being said.

My point is that whether there are issues relating to the divorce or not, his desire to reduce contact might have nothing to do with it and as banana said, focusing on blaming the mother is certainly not going to make him want to come more often.

missmargot Fri 04-Dec-15 20:07:19

DH did expect DSS to come less often once he's 16 and he's pleased that he is becoming more independent and has a good social life.

He phoned DH earlier unprompted, which is unusual, to say that he is definitely still coming next weekend and looking forward to it. DH was really chuffed and I wonder whether DSS had realised how he sounded on the phone last weekend and this phone call was as a result of it.

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