How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Dr. Michael Your Own Question
Dr. Michael
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience:  Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
Type Your Mental Health Question Here...
Dr. Michael is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

I am going through a divorce and my 7 year old son is having

This answer was rated:

I am going through a divorce and my 7 year old son is having an authority issue with not listening or getting ready. It only happens when I am at work and my parents have to get him ready, he is the only one that does it as his 2 older brothers dont do this. He sometime will also smile and laugh when I am home and try to disipline him but not all of the time. I will tell him he will not be able to play his games or go to his baseball game he will just say he dont care. He wont go to day camp when there is no school, he just says no throws a fit and they will not let him stay. I have to work and it is causing me issues. We will ask him to do something and he says no. Or he dont care. We live with Myself, parents, brother and his son, my 4 boys and my boyfriend of the past year. They all get along with the boyfriend and accept him. The boyfriend does not disipline them as he knows he is not comfortable with that. I dont know if the issues we are having is because of the living situation or just the age he is. The other boys act up but will still get ready for school or anything else. They all have issues with helping around the house and give a hard time but not as bad as he is acting. What should I do?
Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

Your post shows that you realize that the other kids are not being affected by the divorce but this particular child most definitely is. You describe a kid whose behavior suggests he is experiencing mild-moderate clinical depression. The boyfriend must stay out of the discipline, as he is doing. A major problem is: WHERE is this boy's primary male role model or father figure. Where is his dad? What is his relationship with his grandfather like? I ask this because when a child is depressed, they need an extra measure of ongoing regular attention, one on one, with an adult parent figure. In this case, someone needs to take this boy 'under his wing' and do things with him one on one---like a father would. You as his mother, need to take a few more minutes everyday to be with him, one on one as well. You have introduced a great deal of upheaval and insecurity into the lives of this kid---or maybe their father did (I have no idea, of course).

I don't mean to be unkind or critical, but what is your boyfriend doing living with you and your parents? Is he going to school or? What is your future? Would he be in a position within say, 6 months to fully care for the family financially, 100%, if necessary (i.e., you'd move out, into a home of your own and be financially independent of your parents). IF NOT, if he isn't the quality of guy who can pull this off, I seriously question why you are diverting attention from your kids, your job/career, and the possibility of meeting someone who can 'step up' and fill this role. This last paragraph is really a side note to my primary response above. I don't know you at all of course and do not wish to be critical, but as an objective observer who doesn't know you, I do wish to challenge your thinking and judgment about this relationship. What do you think. Reassure me that the boyfriend is a solid, strong, capable provider, or very soon, will be and wants to be.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
The boys father is a reaccuring drug addict. He has sobered up for a few months but then relapses. he is again in a reahb for the 10th time and it is for long term. I have always cared for them financially and emotionally. I have been married for 7 years with their father and together for 11 years. It was not healthy for the boys and it was time to move on. I want to give the best for my children. I have no doubt that their father loves them but it has played a toll on them because they are aware of the issue. The grandfather is much in the lives of the boys, he helps at all times when possible as well as coaching his baseball team. The boyfirend has much stepped in and finaclly cares for the boys. He is a business owner and is fully capable of stepping in and caring for the boys like they are his own. He spends time one on one with all of them and does things thatthey enjoy to try and build a relationship with each of them. Joseph is the 7 year old and he does ask where he is when he is not there. Dustin the boyfirend does not displine but will talk to them so that they understand when they are doing wrong he just does not disipline because I do not feel comfortable. Dustin is looking to buy a house for us as a family within the next year. It is a goal to find the perfect home for all of us. The one thing that is stopping anything further from the full relationship is that the divoce is not final. With him in a rehab it is taking a little longer. I try to do anything I can for the biys because I know this is extremely hard on them if they show it or not. i am always giving in to things they ask for because I think it might help them. I know that it is stability that they have not had and I think that is what Joseph is looking for.I think that he is just afraid of not having something that he has to call his own because of the so many changes with their father. He has lots of love and support and we encourage that everyday. I just dont know what is pressing him to act out when he does. He has lots of love as all of them do but the house is full and I dont know if that plays a part in it. The boyfirend is someone who I am 100% confident that I would like him to be a role model. No doubt in my mind, he is a good man and is helping the enitre family financially including parents and kids. He wants to marry and have to compkete family he is just waiting for the divorce to be final so it is possible. He is in full position to be capable of caring for the boys and wants to. He takes them on as they are his own but respecting that the father will still be in the picture.
There is a good 'bet' that your son may have a slight biological predisposition toward suffering from emotion regulation problems. I say this because his biological father obviously has such problems and as a consequence, chose to turn to drugs to cope. This isn't the full picture, but it is a reasonable hypothesis. I have to say I'm quite impressed with the progress you've made to extract yourself from this very dysfunctional relationship with the biological father. Your life would seem to look promising, much more stable in the future, etc. Your kids need stability and 'sameness' more than anything. Your son does seem to have available good male role models. It will take time for the enduring stability to gradually influence your son for the better. What CAN happen right now are small additional measures of engagement with these male figures in his life. The adjustment would be to PLAN in advance, specific things each one would do with him so he can ANTICIPATE these activities e.g., going fishing, hiking, practicing one on one sport skills, building a model together, rebuilding and repainting a bike----whatever it is. It is unpredictability and uncertainty that largely causes anxiety and depression in kids so keeping everything scheduled and as I said, having the men in his life lay out specific plans to do specific things on specific day, and for your son to know this in advance, will help. You can do the same thing with a few one-on-one activities with him as well. So this would be the main theme you need to focus on---how to help him feel confident that each week, one or more good things will be happening with individuals who care about him and these can be anticipated and fully predicted.

I hope this is helpful to you. Let me know if you actually lay out some plans for say, one month, and you find that it doesn't help. It should help of course. Let me know if i have overlooked any aspect of your question. Please click on the green Accept button at the bottom of the screen. Thanks.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Just one thing can living in the home with so many authority figures be say a negative impact on him as well. Will one way help him faster than another? Living with my whole family or having our own home with the boys? That is all.
Yes, it should be clear than ONE PERSON corrects his behavior and does any disciplining; this really should be you and perhaps grand father. The boyfriend should continue to stay out of any such issues altogether---you have been very wise in making this decision already. It may pay to have a talk with all of the authority figures and try to clarify what each should and should not do. Again, it should fall on you. It would be best for the male authority figures to primarily be wise, fun, and supportive figures he increasingly wants to 'be like'. If one serves primarily as the disciplinarian, this would not be a good thing! Best for a bio mom or dad to do this; and it really is best to keep bio dad out of the picture until he really gets his act together and has been clean and sober for at least 6 months. Otherwise, being in/out of the kids' lives and showing inconsistent behavior will do them more harm than good.

I hope this is helpful to you. Please click on the green Accept button at the bottom of the screen. Thanks.
Dr. Michael and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you

Related Mental Health Questions