Competing with the “Other Home”
As children become adolescents, they naturally become less focused on their parents and more focused on their own needs. This is a very difficult stage for both the teen and parent. Social connections take over the teen’s desire to spend time with the family. The need to fit in with their peers outweighs almost everything else. As a result, cell phones, electronics, Facebook, their push for independence and freedom, all seem to take first place. As a parent, you know that they love you but you don’t feel it very often. When children are young, parents make sacrifices and receive much in return from Valentines, kisses, hugs, and being told “You are the best parent in the world”.
Now things are off-balance and it is not an equitable relationship; parents typically feel used and unappreciated during the adolescence stage. When your little darling becomes a teenager, it is as if your relationship underwent a major change. You are not their number one focus. This can be very hurtful to the parents but they must adapt and modify their expectations. This process is complicated even further when your teen has two homes.
The contrast between homes may become strained especially where there are differences in values, responsibilities, expectations and limits. Competition between homes becomes inevitable for the teen who is seeking the least amount of responsibilities and limits. Instead of competing with the peers, now it feels as if you are competing with the other parent. Seemingly, you are being held hostage by your teen and/or the other parent. When the rules in the other home are more lenient or the child is bribed with possessions, the child is likely going to pick the other home. It is difficult to think of this logically when emotions are running high. Parents are acutely aware of the fleeting days before their teen will be leaving the nest. This creates fear, sadness and anxiety for the parent on top of feeling unappreciated or rejected.
Your teen may claim they want to live with the other parent because their rules are easier. You must continue to parent based upon your values yet this may result in having your child request to change the custodial arrangement! Your other option is to reduce your own expectations and values in hopes of keeping your child content with the current arrangement. You find yourself concerned that your child will not have the supervision or restrictions necessary to have a healthy, safe adolescence. Your parenting values such as chores, money, and responsibilities must now either be a eliminated because the competition is too great or you stand strong with your parenting convictions and get even more resistance from your teen and perhaps push towards the other home. However, if the reason your teen wants to change residence is due to conflict between the two of you, consider requiring about 6 joint sessions with a therapist to address the relationship problems prior to making a decision.
Whether your child seeks to change residences or not, it is very important to maintain your connection with your child during these 4-5 years. Their choice of living arrangements is not even remotely tied to their love for you. That is a given. Its simply a matter of picking the door with the most material goods or freedoms. Although you as an adult may know better, all they hear is “The price is right-come on down! Pick the door!” It is reasonable to expect normal adolescents to be tempted because the life style behind that other door is so appealing.Do not take it as a personal affront to all that you have done.
So ask yourself, “How far will I go to adjust my parenting values and rules in light of the lenient situation in the other home?” and “How do I want to react so I do not harm my relationship with my child if they are serious about this request?” prior to finding yourself in an unthinkable situation. However, the child you raised will return sometime after this difficult stage. Remember it will only be a few years, at most, before this developmental stage changes.
- Don’t take any of this personally.
- Don’t react if the only time your teen claims they want to live with the other parent is when they are angry with you.
- Decide to pick your battles with your teen and let some smaller things go.
- If your child pressures you to let them live with the other parent, do not play victim or induce guilt.
- Decide how far you can go and stick to it.
- Don’t think your child is “choosing” the other parent; they are choosing the other door.
- Don’t assume the other parent is trying to alienate you from your child intentionally.
- Remember not to get angry for your child’s desire to make life easier for him/herself
- The most important thing is to hold onto is a positive relationship with your child no matter what happens.
Remember this stage, like all those that came before, will come to an end soon enough. What once seemed like endless diapers and sleepless nights did eventually come to an end just as promised. So too will this stage.
Widely known for her expertise in the area of divorce and the family, she provides training to educators, family law and mental health professionals, as well as “High-conflict divorce” and “Parenting Coordination”.She has trained parenting coordinators since 1997, and as a result, co-authored the first and only comprehensive model of parenting coordination. Respected in their field, Susan has conducted numerous seminars on the international, national, state and local levels on topics such as parental alienation and visitation refusal, interviewing children, therapeutic and supervised visitation and developmentally appropriate time-sharing plans.
She has been awarded clinical membership in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and is a member of multiple organizations including the Academy of Professional Family Mediators, American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.Mrs. Boyan maintains a private practice in Georgia.
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