I am blessed with many acquaintances who have been married for over 15, 20 or 30 years who only have children with each other and who work as a team to raise their teenagers TOGETHER. When the teen begins testing and challenging EITHER PARENT, the parents unite together and support EACH OTHER and get that teenager in check. Unfortunately, that is often not the case with children of divorced parents.
As always, there is a DISCLAIMER here. Not every child of divorce acts this way or is given power by one of their parents to dominate and control their raising. There are plenty of situations (like my personal divorce was) where the parents maintain communication and continue to raise and discipline the children as a team. But then there are the horror stories such as ….
The teen years. We live in Texas and have been told by numerous attorneys that at the age of 12 the teens will be able to have a voice on which parent they reside with. The attorneys said that as long as either home is stable and can provide the basic needs, the judge will likely side with what the child decides. Post divorce, MANY parents begin to tell the children “you can come live with me when you’re 12… you can always move in with me … you’re always welcome in my home anytime”. Ok. That’s your right as a parent to say. But there are many many many occasions where the non-custodial parent will also groom the children, be a disneyland parent, let the child rule and reign in their home. For example (a case I know), the teen was skipping class, not doing homework and his mom took his phone away. Then for his weekend visit with dad, the dad refused to enforce the grounding saying the event didn’t happen on his time, it may not even had happened had the child lived with him, and he wasn’t going to enforce the discipline during his weekend. After all, he only gets the teen every other weekend and doesn’t want to spend his 4 days enforcing misconduct. Then dad proceeded to take teen boy to a football game, dinner, etc. along with how much he loves and misses him and “don’t forget you’re welcome to move in with me”. Now that is only ONE of the good TEN stories I know personally from the law firm I worked at and with the small group I host. Fast forward a few weeks and custodial mom corrects teen boy again and now the teen boy spouts off “I’m going to live with Dad, I don’t have to listen to you anyway”. Dad gets a lawyer. Dad sues mom. Dad wins case. Teen boy is now rude, disrespectful, demands “his way or the highway”, and is fully aware that he is in control and in charge of his own life and HE will let his parents know how it will be OR he will move. Child support plays a huge factor here. Money is a very big motivator for many. If Dad was paying $1,500/month to mom in support but now that teen boy lives with him, he’s often willing to let teen boy slide by with unacceptable behavior and character because the teen only has a few years left of school anyway and it’s saving dad a ton of time, stress and money dealing with this ex. (P.S. this works both ways including dads who have custody and the mom is playing disney land mom making promises to the kids and trying repeatedly to get the kids back along with a fat check from dad).
Again, this is ONE of MANY situations I’ve seen. Right now another girl in my small group is dealing with this because of the new stepmom who wants this perfect fairytale life as the custodial stepmom to “her girls”. Now, these are teen girls and she hasn’t even been married to the kids dad for a year, yet she’s blowing up her social media on mothers day so thankful that “these girls who made her a mom” are in her life. No princess. You are NOT a mom now. You are married to their dad. You are a stepmom. A bonus mom. An influencer, but you need to sit down and be respectful. Oh and yes, now this teen girl is being very heavily influenced to “come live with dad”. I’m certain of it. Shopping trips. Promises. Special dinners. Not because the child is special (mom and dad have been divorced for 4-5 years and Dad wasn’t doing that. He only began doing it when stepmom stepped in and decided to push HARD to be mom.). And, of course, teens are impressionable and would love to be with the parent that worships them and places them on a throne at the front and center of the family as opposed to being a united teammate with their ex spouse to be sure the child doesn’t grow up manipulating them.
If I had one dollar for every story that I’ve heard where the teen begins this “my way or the highway” attitude with the parents AND they are encouraged by one of their parents to be that way, I would be a wealthy woman. And it’s sad. If half of traditional marriages end in divorce and seventy five percent of those kids have this “my way or I’m moving out” control over their homes and custodial parent, that is a very large group of teenagers being molded into disrespectful, manipulative, narcissistic young adults who believe the world should revolve around them… OR ELSE.
I do believe this teen issue is an unintended consequence of divorce. I do not think many parents divorce believing that their teen is going to maintain control, refuse to respect and honor the rules, and dominate their lives or relationships. But it does happen. Time and time again. To the absolute best of parents.
If your teen has done this to you, I am sorry. I’ve seen it. With one of my own teens. With one of Hubs’ teens. With multiple teens in my small group. It’s hard. On a positive note though, it DOES STOP EVENTUALLY. Now that all of mine are grown adults and live independently from both parents, that game has ended. For others it is just beginning. I hope and pray you find your peace, people, and support (and always a good cute dog haha). It sucks. But you will survive it. We will all survive it. Maybe with many battle scars, but we will come out on the other side eventually one day.
Coffee cheers your way and, as always, hugs to you. You are a whole person and you matter despite your blended family hell days.