Letting Go of SD - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 09-03-2013, 06:07 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi Folks--I'm going crazy here and need some advice. My SD is almost 16. I have been in her life for 5 years. She lives with us Friday through Monday morning. Her mom is the primary custodian and has her Monday through Thursday. She is very protective of her time as she has flat-out told sd that she would never be able to stay with us because she needs the child support (and yes he pays on time every month and always has). Mom refuses to pay for any of sd's expenses. They are supposed to split school costs, insurance etc., but she never has. We feel that because of her age going to court for any of these problems would be futile. Also, we live in Louisiana...

 

 I hate to use this term because I know it is loaded and controversial, but I don't know what else to call it. I think sd is in the final stages of "parental alienation". It is constantly my husband against her and her mother. My husband is unable to discipline her regarding even doing the simplest thing (doing her homework comes to mind) because she complains to her mom who then derides him for being "emotionally abusive" or just plain "abusive". She will come over and seemingly have a great time with us--then suddenly revert back to the crazy-making things her mother has taught her. I feel like her mother more than likely has histrionic personality disorder (she doesn't speak to her mother who also sounds like she has something of the sort) making her impossible to reason with. The latest blow up is because at the last minute she refused to go with us on an already planned trip during dh's parenting time. This would be a normal teenaged issue. Enter mom who said the trip wasn't important and it would be mean to force her to go etc. So now, she is at her moms and refuses to talk to my husband because of this. Trying to parent with someone who undermines everything you do as a parent is impossible.

 

The last bad blow up she didn't talk to dh for a week because sd and dh about potentially changing the schedule for her to stay with us some nights during the week (we live closer to her school). And no he wasn't trying to sneak around her mother about the schedule --he was just feeling her out to see if it was something he should pursue to make life easier for her during the school week since she stays as late as 6:30 some nights. Her mom got wind of it and raged out, therefore making my sd rage out for a week.

 

She has withheld visitation because she is angry with dh at least 6-7 times since I have been with him, and many more in the past. In the past, he never had money to pursue anything in the courts as he was paying close to half his salary to her in cs when they first split (he had no lawyer and her dad is a multi-millionaire so you can imagine...). It is only recently that we would be able to afford a lawyer and now I feel like it's too late. 

 

We are both sick of the drama, and although it sounds horrible even saying it I would be so relieved if she stayed with her mother full-time. I feel like the damage is done. She has been used as a pawn in this horrible game for so long--it would almost be a relief for her not to be in the middle anymore. We have tried to get her into therapy. The problem is that mom will cancel appointments, and because she is the legal guardian she has control and she wants to know everything that is said in therapy etc. I just can't have the craziness in my house anymore. She is actually a good kid, but her mother is making her into a monster. It is so stressful. My dh and I are on the same page about it, but it is so straining. Has anyone had to deal with this?

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#2 of 5 Old 09-08-2013, 07:12 PM
 
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This sounds really hard!!

 

To some extent at age 16 she is participating willingly in the drama. It sounds as though she makes out the best if she keeps everyone arguing. Not blaming her, it is just a pattern that has developed. I think I'd move toward practicing more of  Love and Logic natural consequences type parenting, where she has to begin taking more responsibility for her choices and rely less on the grown up drama to make things happen for her. Let me know if you've never heard of this approach and I'll link you to a good book. 


 
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#3 of 5 Old 10-10-2013, 06:23 PM
 
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Sorry - I just read your post.  Hopefully, you're still checking for responses.

 

I'm intimately familiar with the personality-disordered mother and parental alienation aspects of what you described.  It's easier for me and my husband, because he's had sole custody of his son for several years and thus has a lot more control.  For example, DSS simply wouldn't have the option not to go on a vacation with us and his mom would have no opportunity to weigh in on it.  But DSS is still influenced by his mom.  And as he has become a teenager, it seems like he shares many of her personality/character traits, which can be really hard to accept. 

 

I don't think PA is genuinely controversial.  Everyone knows it happens.  The controversy is really over semantics:  If the alienator or the alienated child are officially diagnosed with a "disorder", must insurance cover treatment?  Could either of them be excluded from certain jobs, or kicked out of the military?  Must the APA go to the trouble of updating their diagnostic manual?  Perhaps it'd be safer and easier to just say the alienator is "acting out due to bitterness, anger and insecurity over her divorce" and the alienated child is "coping poorly with the stress between the parents".

 

Denying visitation out of spite; denigrating the importance of special time or events with Dad; stressing out the child by getting hysterical in her presence, over issues related to Dad; trying to have total control over the child's counselling or blocking her attendance can, indeed, all be actions of a parental alienator.  And it is deeply, uniquely frustrating to not only suffer an ex's efforts at alienation, but to know that the child either doesn't realize it's going on, or is complicit.  If, say, a neighbor or grandparent were attacking your husband and trying to drive a wedge between him and his daughter, you'd have no problem bluntly telling the daughter what was happening and expecting her to side with her family and feel upset with whomever was trying to hurt all of you.  It's - as you say - crazy-making, when the attacker is the child's own mother and you have to support their relationship, or else you're as bad as she (the mother) is.  Who could ever fully wrap their head around something so impossible?  It's like living in an MC Escher drawing!

 

Unfortunately, you can't give up on your SD.  At her age, many girls are intolerably emotional, moody, irrational, insecure and inconsistent.  She may be predisposed toward a mood disorder - either genetically, or by growing up with her mother's example - neither of which are her fault.  Paradoxically, the more difficult she makes it to feel close to her, the more she probably needs to know you guys love her.  If your husband LETS her terminate his visitation, it would make whatever's going on in her head worse.  She may be screaming that she doesn't want to see him.  Yet, as soon as he says, "Fine.  Don't.  It's just not worth the fight," she will believe "My father doesn't love me or care about seeing me!  He has abandoned me!"  It's not fair, but this is how an emotional 16-y-o girl's mind works.

 

Of course, you can't destroy yourself trying to please or get along with her, if she's being impossible.  You need a balance between some emotional detachment (accepting that she's difficult to trust or feel close to, right now, and there's even a chance that she won't snap out of it in her twenties like most girls do, but will grow up to be like her mother) and continuing to do the "right" things for her:  insisting on spending time with her and being loving toward her.  Plenty of teens' parents have a similar struggle, even without an alienating ex-spouse.

 

Especially since she's a girl (they're usually more willing than teenage boys to spend time talking in-depth about feelings and relationships), you and your husband should seize opportunities when she's rational, to talk frankly.  Minimize detailed criticisms of her mother.  But at 16 I think it's OK to say, for example, "Last weekend, it seemed like we were all having a great time together.  Were you faking that?  It sure didn't seem like you were.  But after your mother called and was upset, you suddenly acted like you hated us - even though nothing bad had happened between the three of us.  What was going through your mind, then?  

 

"It's understandable, if your mom's anger upsets you and you don't know how to handle it.  It's fairly common for kids in that situation to side with their moms and get angry, too.  The reason a lot of kids do that is because they don't want Mom to act toward them, in the scary way she's acting toward their Dad.  They want to make sure they're treated as Mom's ally, not her enemy.  Or they feel that Mom losing control of her emotions means she's sad and alone and needs to be protected, so they take her side, even if Dad hasn't really done anything wrong.  Kids in this situation may feel suddenly furious and hateful toward their dads, but without a clear or logical reason why.  Do you think that's true, of you?

 

"It's not fair, that you have to deal with this crap between your parents.  But everyone is handed some sort of crap to deal with, in this life, and - fair or not - as we become adults, we become responsible for how we handle our crap.  Your dad loves you; spent years fighting to stay involved in your life even when your mom made that hard; and he'll keep doing it until you're an adult, even if you act like you hate him.  That's how important you are, to us.  

 

"But in a few short years, you'll have total control.  We won't be able to force you to spend time with us, or make you be nice to us. so we can enjoy being together.  If you throw away your relationship with your dad, you'll be robbing yourself of something valuable.  And you'll break the heart of a man who has adored you since the day you were born, which would be cruel.  You know, when you act like you hate us, you're not the only one who's upset.  It really hurts us, too - just as much as it would hurt you, if your best friend suddenly turned on you and said hateful things.  

 

"As you become an adult, you need to learn how to understand your own feelings - which ones are reasonable to act on, and which ones aren't.  How can we help you do that?  Counselling?  Last time, there were a lot of appointments that your mom canceled or didn't bring you to.  How could we handle that, this time?"  (Does she drive?  If her appts were always right after school, could you guys drive her?)  "How can the three of us handle it, if your mom feels upset about us finding a new counselor for you; or if she wants to know everything you tell the counselor and you're not comfortable with that?"

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#4 of 5 Old 10-10-2013, 08:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you both for your replies.Things have cooled down for the time being. She is back over here on weekends, although the atmosphere is tense. We are just waiting for the other shoe to drop and her be off to mom's again because of some "infraction" on dh's part. 

SD is seeing a psychologist for now. Hopefully, it will last. She is able to walk to see her after school.

 

I think this is the hardest:

"Of course, you can't destroy yourself trying to please or get along with her, if she's being impossible.  You need a balance between some emotional detachment (accepting that she's difficult to trust or feel close to, right now, and there's even a chance that she won't snap out of it in her twenties like most girls do, but will grow up to be like her mother) and continuing to do the "right" things for her:  insisting on spending time with her and being loving toward her.  Plenty of teens' parents have a similar struggle, even without an alienating ex-spouse."

 

The emotionally "letting go" part is so difficult. I think this is the part that bothers me the most---the fact that DH and I will invest so much and she may end up being like her mother. We both do what we are "supposed" to do it's just that as she gets older the elephant in the room (mom) is getting harder to dodge. When she channels her mother  (literally addressing him in the same tone with the same crazy accusations) I can see my husband clench up---it's so painful. I don't believe she knows that she's doing it, but she must be cognizant of his reaction. I feel a little better than when I first posted. At first, I didn't think I would be able to leave my room if she was here, but I've come around and we have talked some.

 

"Kids in this situation may feel suddenly furious and hateful toward their dads, but without a clear or logical reason why.  Do you think that's true, of you?"

Absolutely. Just last week she unleashed all of these "reasons" why she is mad at her dad. One being a "memory" from age 2 of something he supposedly told her, along with a string of other spottily defined complaints that pretty much explained that she is angry at him because her mother is angry at him. I don't know if we should be sad or glad about this, but after this conversation with her dh and I both were shocked that the accusations weren't as serious as we had imagined. 

 

BTW these are great! I've said some version of the first one, but will have to use the second one as well!:

"It's not fair, that you have to deal with this crap between your parents.  But everyone is handed some sort of crap to deal with, in this life, and - fair or not - as we become adults, we become responsible for how we handle our crap.  Your dad loves you; spent years fighting to stay involved in your life even when your mom made that hard; and he'll keep doing it until you're an adult, even if you act like you hate him.  That's how important you are, to us.  

 

"But in a few short years, you'll have total control.  We won't be able to force you to spend time with us, or make you be nice to us. so we can enjoy being together.  If you throw away your relationship with your dad, you'll be robbing yourself of something valuable.  And you'll break the heart of a man who has adored you since the day you were born, which would be cruel.  You know, when you act like you hate us, you're not the only one who's upset.  It really hurts us, too - just as much as it would hurt you, if your best friend suddenly turned on you and said hateful things.  

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#5 of 5 Old 12-23-2013, 09:15 AM
 
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My DH and I went through almost the same thing.  SS10 has ODD, ADHD, Conduct disorder.  We started psychiatric sessions with him in January.  After 8 long months of battling him and his mom, we had him somewhat straightened out.  She refused to bring him to appointments we made or keep him on the meds he needed. She would laugh while DS10 kicked, screamed, punched, bit in order to not have to come to our house.  She made him think he was going to miss out on something with her if he came with us.  I could go on for days about what she has done. In August we ended up having to stay with our newborn in the hospital for a month.  When we got back home SS was right back where he was on day one.  Violent, angry, disruptive.  We finally got to the point where DH just couldn't fight him and his mother anymore and told him he was not going to make him come back to our house if he didn't want to.  So now he stays with his mother and gets to do anything and everything he wants.  I have gotten hurtful comments from other people about how we are just "giving up on this child" who causes so much chaos for us but we just don't have the time/energy/money to fight anymore.  Letting him go is what works for us at the moment.  Will things change in the future...maybe...but who knows.

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