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Husband's teenage son coming to live with us...

(18 Posts)
Crystall5by5 Sat 24-Jan-15 10:01:06

Hi all, newbie here, please be gentle smile

My husband has been in touch with his ex wife, as they've had some concerns about his 15 yr old son. He's always been quite quiet and withdrawn, but recently his school have said he would benefit from seeing a psychotherapist, as he has extremely low self esteem, and it's starting to have an effect at school. Husband is very concerned, and mostly lives in a shroud of guilt, as his son and ex live in (are from) Portugal, so he doesn't see him too often. Exwife has yesterday said she blames herself for how son feels, as she has a lot of emotional and mental problems (takes a wide variety of meds for a number of conditions, we've just found out), and tends to move home/area whenever she feels like it, uprooting the whole family, which has a detrimental effect on her children (she has 2 more by a different man).
My husband has said he would like his son to come and live with us, on a trial basis over the summer, so he can bond with his son, and also because he feels we would be able to give him more stability. Looking likely this is what is going to happen, as it's becoming increasingly obvious ex wife is struggling to cope, financially and emotionally.
We had a long talk last night, and I have no problem whatsoever with his son coming here to stay. My concern is that I have no children of my own (yet!) and really have no clue how to 'parent' a teenager, who 1. has never been to UK, 2. we'd have to get through the language barrier (his English is better than my Portuguese!) and 3. although he is 15, apparently he is emotionally more like 12yr old.
Apologies if this post sounds a bit selfish on my part, but I really want to do my best for him, so wondering if anyone else has been in a similar situation, or if there's any books etc out there that anyone could recommend? I know there isn't a 'how to parent a teenager' manual lol but if anyone has any pearls of wisdom out there, that would be fab - thanks for reading smile

Jinglebells99 Sat 24-Jan-15 10:09:37

My initial concern would be this would be a difficult point educationally to move to a new country. Will he have done the equivalent of Gcse's when he comes in the summer. Sixth forms and colleges are taking applications now for next September. If he is currently in year 10 then Gcse courses will have already started.

Jackieharris Sat 24-Jan-15 10:17:00

How will moving him to another country he doesn't know help with instability? confused

Is a better solution for dp to help out more financially?

Could he go over there and help out with some practical things to make their lives there easier?

Northernsoul58 Sat 24-Jan-15 15:44:53

Try not to treat him as a 'problem' which is arriving - sounds like his Mum has the problems not him - but as a normal young person with all their foibles. You say he's naturally quiet (perhaps a home boy), but you could prepare for him coming by finding out what he's interested in - sport, gaming, cinema, etc. and researching what is available in your area that he could get involved in. Maybe you and his Dad may need to do a lot of accompanying on various trips out until he finds a place he is comfortable and can start to make friends. Perhaps a summer language course if you can afford it. That way he'll be mixing with people his own age rather than just staying at home.
As for not knowing how to parent a teen. I don't think any of us do. Just treat him as you would anyone you're getting to know for the first time. It's a two way process - take it slowly and be gentle and kind. Make sure you and your DH communicate clearly so you both know what your boundaries are for respectful behaviour and help around the house etc.

piggychops Sat 24-Jan-15 15:54:08

I think that his educational transition is probably the least of his worries if things are bad, and giving money to his mother isn't going to enable her to cope any better.
Don't expect too much to start with, he is likely to be struggling with his own emotions. Try to lead by example, a calm atmosphere and the way you and you DH interact with each other are important.

AcrossthePond55 Sat 24-Jan-15 16:39:46

Just be kind, as you would to anyone. Be open and talk to him. Have some structure and simple house rules (chores, curfews, video game rules, etc), but be a bit flexible as you get to know him better. Don't hit him with them as he walks in the door, just talk to him about what was expected at his mum's and explain any differences. Listen to him if he wants to do something differently and decide if he's being reasonable. Likewise, if you feel it may be a permanent move, don't treat him as a 'guest' at first and then suddenly say 'Oh you're staying? Well, here are the rules'.

You and DH need to discuss ahead of time what your house rules will be so that you are both on the same page. Nothing is worse for a child (of any age) than parents who can't agree on what is expected. Do you know any people with teens? Talk to them.

If he is having difficulties, you may want to see if you can become acquainted with services for him in your area, in case they're needed. Check out the schools in your area sooner rather than later so that if it's decided he stays things aren't rushed to get him a place.

chocoluvva Sat 24-Jan-15 22:56:21

Hmmm. I'm not sure about having lots of house rules. We only really have five - no swearing, damp towels go on the radiators, laundry is only washed if it's in the laundry basket, mobile phones may not be answered at dinnertime and DS must stay in touch when he's out.

However, my DS (15) doesn't have a tv in his room - don't want him in his room all the time. And we have parental controls on the computers.

Haffdonga Sat 24-Jan-15 23:29:45

There's a very big difference between him coming to live with you permanently and just coming for the summer as a trial.

If initially he's just coming for a summer visit to 'bond' with his dad I'd just focus on trying to make things as pleasant as possible for him and treat it like a bit of a holiday (book some special trips together, structure his time with some fun activities and let them have some father-son time together. Just get to know each other and how life is in the UK. I wouldn't sweat the small stuff like a messy bedroom or too much screen time as what's important is that he feels he's welcome.

If it's decided that he's coming permanently the culture shock for you all will be enormous. Poor kid is not only coming from what sounds like a dysfunctional home to a couple of virtual strangers, he's also changing countries, food, friends, language, what's on TV, how to flush the loo - everything. You and your dh will be coping with a traumatised, unhappy dc who is missing and worried about his mum and siblings and is probably going to lash out at you both through difficult behaviour. I'd keep the ground rules very simple and clear and make sure you and your dh agree with what these are and how they will be enforced. (It's all very well deciding, for example, that he has to switch off his phone at family meals. What will you and dh do next if he refuses to switch off or doesn't come to eat with you?)

I know a family who had a very similar situation. The boy was 12 and came to live with his dad and dad's girlfriend in the uk. The girlfriend was really excited about him coming and wanted to be a kind of mum to him. But after about 6 months in she admitted to me that she was finding it incredibly difficult and she even felt she hated the boy. He was a good normal kid, learnt English very quickly and settled well at school. He didn't do anything terrible but everything about him annoyed her - the way he ate, the way he talked. Everything.

I don't think the girlfriend was a bad person but I do think she had been quite naive about how lovely and easy it would be to bring this kid into her home. The main problem though was that she and her dp couldn't agree about how to deal with him. She wanted to be strict and discipline the boy. Her dp wanted to let everything go and provide no discipline at all. Probably either approach would have been fine but their relationship couldn't survive the friction and eventually the dad left to be a single parent of his son. I often wonder how things turned out for him.

chocoluvva Sun 25-Jan-15 10:44:53

what will you and dh do next if he refuses.....

Very good advice Haff (FWIW). We don't really have sanctions as such. (not that I'm claiming to be a model parent - but the choco household is reasonably calm and happy so we must be doing something right) I suppose the way to avoid confrontation is to not issue ultimatums and tell the DC that you dislike specific behaviour, eg having a phone beeping at the dinner table rather than state he isn't allowed... IYSWIM)

Probably best to go with the flow as much as possible as far as making long-term plans go.

chocoluvva Sun 25-Jan-15 10:45:50

(FWIW) - I mean IMO FWIW
Sorry to be clumsy.

Crystall5by5 Sun 25-Jan-15 19:36:39

Thanks everyone for your advice smile

Husband has spoken to him this morning, and he will be coming over in a couple of months' time when he has a break from school, to see how he feels about moving permanently. He's posted quite a few things on facebook concerning his general mood, so dh spoke to him about it, turns out things have been quite volatile at home with his mums' moodswings etc, and seems he's been 'caring' for her, rather than the other way around, so we are hoping this time away will be a break for them both - he has said he's really looking forward to it smile
We know it won't be easy (far from it) but we really want to make things as easy for him as we can.

azA99 Sun 25-Jan-15 20:08:02

Don't, don't, don't, judge the mum.

You haven't lived her life, you haven't walked in her shoes, and you only know the story as told by your partner. If her son is angry with her or feels he has been mistreated, it will be safer and kinder for him if you listen to him and how he feels, support him, and still remain compassionate about his mum.

Even if mums get things wrong, the most dysfunctional thing in the world is for a boy to grow up thinking that vulnerable people get judged and not supported. This leads to misogyny and worse.

Your job isn't to support her, of course, and it's entirely possible that she has made terrible mistakes - people do - but refrain from saying anything bad or judgemental about her, and this will help him feel safer. Encourage your partner to do the same and this is the most useful type of parenting. Be there for the son without taking sides, and he will benefit massively from the different adults in his life - the test is if they can behave as adults.

One of the most harmful things to happen to my daughters was when the adults in their lives behaved like children and spoke disparagingly of one another. This is our test of adult behaviour - not to ever do this. It's very, very hard. When we slip up, we can apologise and say it's not useful and that we wish we hadn't. And go back to trying to be adults again! That's how teenagers will learn from us.

AcrossthePond55 Mon 26-Jan-15 17:29:36

I agree with PP above who says not to judge or criticize the mother. Let the son speak if he wants to, but try to remain as impartial as possible. After all, she is his mother, good or bad.

As far as my post regarding house rules, I certainly don't mean that he needs to be treated like a military recruit. Just that he seems to be coming from a place of disruption and no stability. I think it would be good for him to have some structure, as in not having to wonder what is going to happen next or wondering if he is doing the right thing or making the right decisions. Certainly he should have peace and flexibility and especially to be listened to, but I think him knowing what to expect or what is expected of him (in a minor way) may be reassuring to him. It may make him feel as if he is being cared for and protected. As a mother who has raised two sons, stability and basic rules were very important.

MarianneSolong Mon 26-Jan-15 17:36:46

I think it's a lot to take on.

And it's not really about 'house rules' - though these are important.

It's about giving a confused young person yet another environment - one in which the hope, at present, is that a son will 'bond' with a father who doesn't appear to have had a big part in his life.

And if this 'trial' doesn't work, what will

In the meantime you are effectively going to be a stepmother - a notoriously difficult role.

I think doing this will really test your relationship with your partner and also test your partner's relationship with your son.

You will probably discover sides to your own character that you never knew existed.

Don't get me wrong. I think good intentions are great. But the arrival of an unknown teenager with a troubled emotional history sounds a bit like the arrival of an unexploded bomb to me.

I think it's going to need a very great deal more than rules about not leaving damp towels on the bath room floor.

OllyBJolly Mon 26-Jan-15 18:28:48

You are not being selfish at all - you sound tremendously big hearted to even think about this. It is a lot to take on - step parenting when there are no other issues is tough enough (just read some of the threads on here!). I'm not a step-parent - I don't think I've got the wherewithal. Looking after my own kids was tough enough!

AcrossthePond and azA99 make some very good points. You and your OH need to be very prepared for the impact on your relationship.

Need more people like you in the world

CalicoBlue Mon 26-Jan-15 21:10:09

As a mother and step mother of teens, there is a big difference in the way you parent them. It is very hard to parent a stepchild, especially if you have just met them and they have their own mother.

I would not worry too much about you parenting, agree with his father how things are going to run, basic house rules. Be friendly and welcoming and give him and his father space to bond and get to know each other.

I think it is very important to make sure there is still time for the two of you, that you still get to go out together, have friends round, do your hobbies etc.

MarianneSolong Mon 26-Jan-15 21:44:19

Something that often comes up in the step-parenting threads is that fathers who may feel guilty about not having been there fulltime for their children may find the guilt makes it hard to put down appropriate boundaries. They want to do all the positive stuff, and none of the tricky negative things.

I've had a teenage stepchild move in fulltime because her own mother was undergoing upheavals. I think it was difficult because this was a 'choice' which had been forced on my stepchild. It wasn't a raeal choice at all, and there was an underlying resentment.

So even if objectively staying with you and your partner might be 'for the best', it's likely that the boy will have very mixed feelings.

Also if the mother feels guilty about being too ill to look after her son, then as soon as she feels better she'll want him back. And whatever the difficulties and upheavals in her life, it sounds as if the mother has been the child's security - the way of her life that he knows - so he may well want to go back.

It sounds like a really difficult situation - one in which good will and good intentions will only go so far. Perhaps the best thing is to ask all sorts of awkward questions before anything is decided.

AmantesSuntAmentes Mon 26-Jan-15 22:29:14

I would not worry too much about you parenting, agree with his father how things are going to run, basic house rules. Be friendly and welcoming and give him and his father space to bond and get to know each other.

Very wise words. I'd imagine he may not need another parent but a friend. As a friend, you can still create mutual respect and in time, boundaries where necessary but for now, aim to be a reassuring, supportive and positive figure, in his pretty turbulent life smile

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