When should the child decide to spend time with a parent?

(23 Posts)
maritiredofthis Mon 17-Oct-16 18:46:08

My lovely partner is the most caring man I know, he works hard and travels a lot for work, however he always makes sure, no matter which country he is, he will always come home to spend the weekend with his son.

His son is a very mild child, with a bit of a weight issue (before you judge on the comment, read this until the end) but who is usually happy and doesn't complain much (so I thought). He spends every other weekend with us, my dp is a bit Disney with his son, but makes sure he does his homework, goes to bed on time and also studies for tests when he is with us. Besides that it's all about playing games, going out to a nice restaurant, traveling or visiting nan and grand dad.

Me... I am the younger second wife, a confessed workaholic who doesn't want to have children of her own, but goes above and beyond for her family and puts her dss first. I am not the mummy type, but I will make sure that our house feels like home. My dss says I am his best friend.

Now with all of that in mind here is my issue.

Last year we had some lovely holiday abroad, it was the second consecutive year that we took dss skying, he seemed to be having a blast as we also took my young sister who is 19 and they bonded very well. But the week after we came back, we've asked him if he would like to do that again and he said no as he would want to spend Xmas and New years with his mother. The deal with her was: She has Xmas we have New Years. My dh got a bit hurt by it but accepted his then 13yo decision.

He continued to come every other weekend and we continued to have our little family routine, he always looking happy here. Over a month ago dh flew from NY to London just to be able to watch his son's martial arts test and spend the weekend with him. When he arrived at the test dexw asked to talk to him. She has a live in partner and was presenting a bruise on her lip, which she said was nothing, just that she got low blood sugar and fainted at home - non the less weird. However she said that dss doens't want to spend time with dh, that dss gets really anxious whenever he has to spend weekends with us, to the point that if she didn't know dh well enough she would think he was abusing the child. She said some weird things, that didn't make 100% sense and asked dh not to put pressure on dss to come spend weekends.

Dh got devastated, he keeps trying softly to speak to his son, who hardly replies to his texts, the child started behaving differently with dh, accusing him of many things dexw used to fight with dh about when they were married. And now the child said that he will contact his father whenever he wants to meet, although he said he is not cutting ties just yet.

We've noticed that in the past year or so dss gained quite some weight and we are afraid that the situation at home (we don't know much about his relationship with his step-father or between his mom and her dp) is making his stressed and resulting in over eating. But he never said a word about his home situation so we are left blind again.

I personally don't agree with dh on being soft and allowing a 14yo decide if he wants or not to spend time with dad, as I think he is too young to make this kind of decisions and that it will deeply affect how his future relationships develop etc.. I believe the 3 of them should get counselling. My pov is not well accepted in this case.

I can't deal with seeing dh so sad and heart broken and I can't find a way to help. I don't know if I should contact dss, I am not much of someone who is constantly in touch when he is not with us. I want to help, but sometimes all you can do is sit down and wait.

I miss having dss around as I love him to bits and it breaks my heart so badly to see all of this happening. As a daughter of divorced parents it hurts even more. Can anybody share their thoughts with me and give me ideas on how could I help? I know 14yo don't want to spend time with their parents, but this case is a bit more than that. Isn't 14 to young to make this sort of decisions?

Thank you guys and sorry for the length of my post.

notrocketscience Tue 18-Oct-16 20:35:06

I think the Courts decide that 14 is probably old enough to decide so on balance I would say the boy's wishes do count above those of his father.

You say your DSS calls you his best friend so in that case I think you could contact him, ideally meet up with him somewhere neutral and see if he will confide in you. He may not and may resent the interference.

He may be coming to the age where he is questioning why his parents split up and beginning to see it from a more adult perspective rather than a young child. What I mean by this is his mother may be sharing more with him now he is older.

You don't say if you are the ow but you do sound as if you are closer in age to the son than the father. Maybe this is a problem for him if his mother is having a hard time and he sees the two of you having a comfortable life, lots of holidays, good income.

I don't know, I can only speculate. You sound kind and sincere in your affection for the boy so I wish you well and hope you do try to use the good relationship you appear to have with him to good effect.

All the best to you.

OdinsLoveChild Tue 18-Oct-16 20:46:25

I don't think 14 is too young to decide whether they want to see their parents. Courts will in some cases consider a child's choice at age 10 if they show maturity and a genuine understanding of the issues being discussed.

My DSS decided age 12 at high school that he would rather see his friends at the weekend than his dad. We resorted to taking him out for evening meals during the week instead. He's now in his 20's and says he was really pleased we respected his choice as his friends in a similar situation were forced to visit their parents when they didn't want to.

CozyAutumn Tue 18-Oct-16 20:47:31

I always thought it was younger than 14. More like 12.

CannotEvenDeal Tue 18-Oct-16 21:15:26

To the best of my knowledge children have a voice in court from the age of 10...

I wish you all the best though and sincerely hope that your situation improves. As a doting sm to a teenage dss who has been a huge part of my life for more than ten years, this would destroy me sad

maritiredofthis Tue 18-Oct-16 21:16:38

Thank you guys!

@notrocketscience Thank you for your advice. I am afraid he would resent me interfering indeed. But it breaks my heart not to see him, it breaks my heart to see his dad so sad. We are indeed closer in age as I am 33 and because of the job I have I am always around younger-trendy people so I end up learning what kids like.

I understand his mom may be sharing more things about the divorce, but my fear is that she is not telling the truth as although it doesn't say on the divorce papers, she left dh for her ex dp. I only came into the story over 1 year later. Also, mummy has a very comfortable life, she is not struggling financially.

When I was a kid my dad made sure I didn't drift from him (my parents are divorced) and he offered to have lunch/dinner or go do some fun activity instead of spending the weekend. I thank God everyday that he pushed to be close to me (my 15yo self wouldn't agree to that, though) because he became my best friend. I wish my dss could be as blessed as I was. We've offered dss those options, no good.

IMO 14 is too young to decide those things, I wish dm would help us out, but she is happy not to.

Argh! Sorry for the venting, I just wish so badly to see my family happy again.

maritiredofthis Tue 18-Oct-16 21:16:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

maritiredofthis Tue 18-Oct-16 21:16:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

maritiredofthis Tue 18-Oct-16 21:20:47

Sorry for the repetitive post, my laptop went nuts on me blush

CozyAutumn Tue 18-Oct-16 21:48:00

I remember when my parents split and I was 11. I wanted to live with my mum but the best thing for me was that I lived with my dad in my home, near my new school and near all my friends. Near everything I knew. My mum was going to take me with her to a new town where she was going to move in with her new man the next day. I didn't know him or anything about him or where he lived. I don't know what happened- whether she realised it wasn't the best thing for me or because my dad stopped her, but if the courts had listened to my word only and I went with my mum then I do firmly believe that it would have absolutely terrible for me. I loved my mum and I was incredibly close to her ("mother daughter" relationship blah blah), and that's why I wanted to go with her, but at that point I had absolutely no idea how much my life would have changed if I had gone with her. So the courts would have been doing me a major disservice.

So I dunno, maybe even 12 is too young to decide who they want to live with. Perhaps 14/15 really is the right age.

Bananasinpyjamas1 Wed 19-Oct-16 00:30:53

I think that this is a really hard one. I do think that children are often too young to effectively cut off a parent, which is what dropping weekends would do. I don't think your DSS understands the long term effects of this. However it is good for a kid to have more of a say. I just think both parents should always encourage a good relationship with the other. Even if it is by insisting on some regular contact.

It is difficult to know what is behind your DSS on this one. Is is the Mum? Is it that he is just wanting to be more settled in one home for a while? Is it that he is having some awkwardness with his Dad? My parents split up and I found visits with my Dad quite hard work. I could have done with someone, my Mum or a SM 'getting' what the difficulty was, and trying to make my Dad a bit less bossy. Are the weekends relaxed enough for your DSS?

Sometimes teenagers do make bad decisions though, my DSD moved back in with her Mum and hardly sees us now. I don't think that was a good move on her part really. And she's now 19 years old, so we wouldn't have stopped her. But she needed to keep up a relationship with DP and with me really, she needed to learn how to not run away from a situation. I hope that you can find out more about your DSS OP, what is driving this?

swingofthings Wed 19-Oct-16 08:22:10

The problem I think you and your OH are facing is not understanding the reasons for DSS wanting to take a step back and therefore not knowing what to do about it. You are clearly a lovely SM, so it can't be that he doesn't like you. His dad is showing great dedication, so can't be that he feels unloved. I understand that you have therefore concluded that it must be something to do with his mum. I would suggest not to go there as it is unlikely to be the case and going down that route, knowing it is one you can't control won't help.

My boy is 13, turning 14 and like most mums of teenage boys, finding that understanding him is much more complex than I would have thought (and harder than it was with my DD). I think it is because he is finding it harder to open up about his feelings. Instead, he just accepts them and withdraw. I am managing to get him to open up, but it does take quite a bit of hard work to do so!

I know he isn't as keen to go to his dad as he used to, and I believe this is because he is 'bored'. By 'bored', I think he means that he is taken away from his comforting surroundings, ie. his bedroom, his friends, his habits, all things that seem to mean a lot to him at the moment. What it is is that here, he feels at home and can be himself, whereas when he goes to his dad, he has to be the boy his dad expects (not in a strict way, but in a different way) and that puts him off.

I don't think you can force a 14 yo to have regular contact, however, I think it is totally reasonable to 'force' a discussion. My advice would be for his dad to arrange a day that would involve doing what HE wants to do, just the two of them and then get him to open up.

The best time I have with my son is when I take him to watch his football team play, just him and I (even though football is really not my thing!). All of a sudden, my quiet, withdrawn boy opens up and start to talk normally, show a hint of a smile on his face, his eyes have a glint to them. It is on the way back that he normally will open up best about anything on his mind.

maritiredofthis Wed 19-Oct-16 20:06:40

swingofthings I think you are more then right, what is driving us insane is the not knowing. When you don't know you start overthinking and end up having no idea on how to solve the issue. It's frustrating.

So I've decided to instate myself as Switzerland, that is how I am dealing with this issue. I am a neutral territory for both parties and may be a link for them to connect. I am not interfering and only doing what I would do in our normal circumstances. (Am I totally pulling a Pollyanna here? hmm )

I am so glad I am not a mother... being a SM is already too much hustle, kudos to the mums, I admire you sisters! wine

MycatsaPirate Fri 21-Oct-16 09:26:56

We are a in a similar position. DSD used to come to use EOW and had a very good relationship with her dad. Two years ago her mum moved away taking DSD with her, only an hours drive but hellish on Friday's in rush hour traffic, often taking twice as long. DP still made the drive down to collect her and took her back on Sunday.

Then we started getting excuses about no contact. It would be that DSD had a party or an activity or something. Fine, we would see her next time. But the weeks stretched into months. We had her here in September last year for a week and then just after Christmas for four days. That last visit was awful as DSD kicked off, wanting to spend nights over at her friend's house. When dp said no (as he had barely seen her in months) a small riot broke out with her refusing to come back to our house.

And she hasn't. She won't speak to him on the phone. She won't come over. She won't give us a reason. EX won't talk to him. Her step dad is vague and won't actually say anything. Dp asked what DSD was doing for Xmas this year and he said that 'I don't know but she'll be spending it with us'.

There has been no effort by his ex or her partner to ensure dp's relationship with his DD continues. It's really hard. DSD is 13.

Somerville Fri 21-Oct-16 10:26:13

This sounds really hard.

Your DH needs to continue to stay in touch. Sending 'saw this and thought of you' type postcards and letters and perhaps even little gifts, as well as texts. Not blaming and getting angry as then it could make it too hard for his son to back down when he realises he regrets the desicion.

Most of my divorced friends' teenagers go freely between their two parents homes. A strict EOW (or whatever) arrangement is generally much less attractive to teens - they want to have more freedom, and therefore a more free contact schedule. So I wonder if the fact that his dad travels so much and the fact that he can't just nip round after school or switch to meeting up a few evenings a week or whatever like his friends can with their dads is upsetting him? I might be projecting though as one of my 14YO DD's friends is very upset by this issue with her dad at the moment - her step mum won't have her in the house without 48 hours notice, poor lass.

If he hasn't already, your DH could read 'how to talk so teens will listen and listen so teens will talk.'

(If your concerns about possible domestic violence towards DSS mother (??) are genuine and not just a reaction to her upsetting comment then your DH needs to think very, very carefully. If I were in that situation of fearing that my child was living in an unsafe and unhappy, abusive environment then I wouldn't continue in a job where I had to travel. I would report my concerns to social services and his school, start legal proceedings, and drop everything to be there, ready to provide a full time home for him if the concerns are correct.)

splendide Fri 21-Oct-16 11:16:45

I was going to say the same as Somerville. I don't quite understand whether you think there is violence going on.

maritiredofthis Sun 23-Oct-16 09:49:29

splendide and Somerville We were afraid that there was some violence going on, but dh send ex w an e-mail asking if everything was ok with her and asking if she needed any help. She said it's all good and that she and her dp just split up. So if there was a problem there we hope now it's sorted.

DH is keeping in touch with dss, sending texts, inviting to lunch, coffee... when and if he gets a reply is usually a no thank you to the offer. I've tried to persuade dh to invite dss to do an activity he likes as Swingofthings suggested but dh doesn't want to do that as he wants to talk to his son and the activity wont "force" them to talk. He doesn't get my point when I say: It's best to have a way in and then get to where you want then have no contact at all. Dp is a bit stubborn and may take him a bit of time to do what I've (you've) suggested.

Really complicated situation, I am trying my best to keep being Switzerland and keep neutral here but I am starting to resent dss and ex w, which is no good. sad So thank you girls for listening and trying to help as I have no friends that I can talk that will relate to this situation.

Findingpeace Sun 23-Oct-16 09:53:50

Yes what sat uncomfortably with me in your op is that you appear to be wondering if there is domestic abuse in your dss' mum's relationship.
I work in this field and what we often see is children withdrawing when there is abuse at home. He may be worried about what is happening at home when he is at his dad's for the weekend and feels he needs to be at home to 'protect' his DM. If there were DA happening his DM and her DP also won't be encouraging your dss to visit as there would be an increased risk of him disclosing it to you and his DF.
However, you don't have any proof of this and it may be as others say and he just wants to see his friends at weekends. The best thing you and his DF can do is keep the lines of communication open, let him know you're there for him even if you don't see him and when ever he wants to talk you'll listen.
I'd also monitor his school attendance. If he doesn't want to leave DM alone he may also be missing some school. Who else has access to him? Grandparents? What do they say?

Findingpeace Sun 23-Oct-16 09:55:17

Sorry cross post!

maritiredofthis Sun 23-Oct-16 10:12:27

Findingpeace I agree with you, I was a child that lived domestic violence and all sorts of bad so I know how we usually react. That was one of the reasons I was so afraid as he shows some signs. We hope ex w is telling the truth when she says there is nothing bad going on and that she and her dp broke up. With no proof there is nothing we can do. We are keeping an eye on his school attendance and also grades. So far not much change on those, which makes us a bit calmer.

My dp's brother managed to get dss to go out with him to a concert last week, he just pointed out that dss was much less chatty then usual so my brother in law couldn't dig any info.

I will invite dss to go bowling next weekend and see if he says yes as he likes bowling. I just feel that I am rewarding bad behaviour

I will keep you posted but any other ideas - stories are welcomed.

OdinsLoveChild Sun 23-Oct-16 11:36:45

Why do you feel you are rewarding bad behaviour? If he has a genuine fear of leaving his mother alone and vulnerable he is not behaving badly. hmm If he is just like any other 14 year old and wants to spread his wings and not spend every weekend out with his dad but becoming more independent then that also is not bad behaviour. Please don't think you are rewarding bad behaviour, you are not, you are providing a fun opportunity to bond as a family.

On another note my DH has suggested that maybe as a 14 year old young man he might be finding himself attracted to you as a younger partner of his Dad. The best way for him to control his thoughts is to not see you. Had you considered that also as a possibility of reduced visits?

I still don't believe in insisting a 14 year old see absent parents. They're genuinely old enough to be allowed a choice in what they do. In school they will be making huge decisions on GCSEs which will affect the rest of their lives. If they are old enough to make those decisions then they are old enough to express their desire to visit or not visit a parent.

It's hard but the best thing you can do is continue to invite him over and keep sending gifts and cards at appropriate times. You also have to accept sometimes they need their own time to do their own things and that you may not feature in those choices they want to make.

maritiredofthis Sun 23-Oct-16 11:58:55

OdinsLoveChild I think I didn't sound like I wanted on my comment so let me try and make sense. What I meant is, I don't want him to feel that now that he is not seeing daddy he is getting all of this attention and being fussed about and than create a pattern of him knowing if he cuts daddy off he gets a treat as daddy and I will do whatever to have him around. Do you know what I mean? Sorry it's a bit difficult to explain my train of thought.

This forum made think of a few angles that I haven't (Gosh I've never thought about what your husband said for example).

Agrh it's all so confusing! confused

I am reading the book Somerville suggested about communicating with teens, lets hope it also helps.

IMO the only thing we can do is what you all said: Keep the door open, keep inviting him over, trying to find activities he may fancy and just accept his decision. and stock the house with wine so I survive wink

BlueBlueSkies Sun 23-Oct-16 20:24:05

We had this with DSS about a year ago, at the same age. He lived with us, but started spending more time with his DM. She lives near and Dh has always let DSS be where he wants to be, which for 10 years was with us. It happened slowly till we realised that he was only here one day a week.

There was a request for more child support, which was refused, for very complicated and valid reasons. Then fairly quickly DSS started coming back here. Now he is only with her one day a week.

Dh was upset at first, DSS even refused to go on holiday with him. Now we know he was being manipulated for her to get more child support.

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