I am currently fighting the custody of my 15 year old son. He is temporarily living with his father. A few weeks ago I made the mistake of giving my son to my abusive ex husband. My son was very disrespectful to me and he constantly felt sorry for his father. His father was poisoning him against me. I thought that if my son lived with his father it would help my ex-husband to hate me less and my son would stop feeling sorry for his father and improve our relationship. Now my ex-husband won’t let me see him and my son don’t want to talk to me. I can understand how parents that are alienated from their children suffer. The pain that I am going trough is unbelievable. I recently told my therapist that I didn’t know what was worse, the death of a child or knowing that he is alive and doesn’t want to talk to you or see you.
I need help. I desperately want to save my son, but I don’t know how to talk to him or what to say to him.
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Let me assure you that you are not the first divorced Mom with a teenage son who becomes disrespectful and sends the same son to his father. However, this strategy works best when the divorced parents have a mutually respectful relationship with one another. This does not appear to be the case in this situation.
It is also common for divorced parents to behave in ways that are somewhat, if not downright, manipulative. I do not want to anger you but it does seem as though your strategy to send your son to live with his father was manipulative. Let me explain why.
You stated that your hope was that by sending your son to his father, your ex husband would hate you less and, I assume, not "bad mouth you" to your son. That is manipulative because there is a basically dishonest communication underlying what you did. In other words, you were not sending you son to his father because a Dad might have better control over a teenage son. Instead, you were hoping to change you ex husbands behavior towards you. Now, your son is angry with you.
I do not know, but I wonder if your son blames the divorce on you. That is more common than you may think. Even though you ex husband was abusive to you, it is natural that he would defend his father with whom he identifies as a man. Also, if your ex husband was not allowed to see his father, that would also explain his anger towards you.
Also, you are convinced that when your son and his father did meet, your ex poisoned your son against you. I do not know how you know that and I do not know what you may have said to your son about it when it came up. I do know that this issue was one that you could not win and should have stayed away from.
What to do now?
First, it is really time for you and your ex husband to start communicating with one another in ways that are direct and honest. It is important for the two of you to do this for the sake of your son. That means that the two of you must agree to say nothing negative about the other in front of your son. No matter what you think, no matter what you feel, no matter what you disagree with in regard to your ex, the two of you must stop using saying bad things to your son about his father. The way to open this up with your ex is to tell him that you want to improve things between the two of you for the sake of the boy. You must do this without making accusations and without blaming.
Second, in my opinion, you need to talk to your son on the phone and apologize to him about any times you may have criticized his father. Tell your son that you love him and that you want him to stay with his father as much as he wishes and that you hope he will stay with you as well. You should work this out with your ex.
Third, you son is now fifteen years old and has a mind of his own. As painful as it may feel, you must acknowledge his new status in life. That status is that of a teenager in which he is no longer a child but not quite a full adult.
You see, the plain fact is that your son needs both of you. That is why you and your ex must stop the tug of war and the propaganda war.
Please understand something: Your ex cannot force your son to stay with him. At the moment they want to be together. Unlike your previous attitudes and behaviors, now you must respectfully allow your son to make his own decisions. In addition, you must allow yourself to show some respect towards his father in his ability to parent his son. In my opinion, it is only in this way that you can have any hope of repairing your relationship with your son.