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Dr. Bonnie
Dr. Bonnie, Psychologist and RN
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2189
Experience:  35 years experience counseling children and families
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Help with co parenting in a divorce situation. My 11 year

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Help with co parenting in a divorce situation. My 11 year old son does not want to go or do anything with me on the weekends. All he wants to do is have friends over, watch t.v and/or play on the computer. Last weekend we had a big blow up because I insisted we go out to a movie. I told him we were going wether he wanted or not and I began leaving the house. He rushed out to the car, sat in the driver seat and took the car keys from me. We fought half way to the movie turned around and finally went back. I do not understand why we can't agree to do things together. Much of the time he is defiant with me when I ask him to do simple things...Sometime when Brian and I are at it. He is having a temper tantrum and I am doing my best to stand my ground he calls his dad and his dad comes and picks him up. All I want is for him to tell Brian to listen and obey me. I have asked his dad if we can find a councelor to be a go between so we can co-parent parent more effectively. He says he does not want to because he does not ever have any problems with him. It is my problem. I need the counceling
Hello and thank you for consulting Just Answer,

I am so sorry that you are in this difficult situation. I hope I can give you a reasonable answer that you can share with his father. You can print this answer by going to the share box at bottom of your question.

Brian has become over-empowered by being "rescued" by Dad when things do not go his way. He has been taught that if he gets into a confrontation with you he can get out of chores and outings by calling Dad. Therefore, he actually may provoke you on purpose to have reason to get rescued ("Mom's being mean again").

Two things need to happen here:
1. The times with each parent should be firm with no exceptions for parent/child altercations. An 11 year old child should never be put in a position to change these arrangements. Even though Dad thinks he is doing something good for the child, it is actually teaching him to avoid conflict instead of working it out. It is not good for child in long run. Brian needs to see mom and dad as strong co-parenting team who will make the decisions. He needs to feel that the adults..the parents...are in control.

2. Be realistic about expectations of an 11 year old boy. The interests he has are normal and age appropriate. His acting out behaviors may be his expression of uncomfortable feelings about the divorce or about having to adjust to two households. You may get the brunt of his anger. But he needs boundaries, rules and structure. For you to take back your authority as parent and for him to have a place to express his uncomfortable emotions, you and he should attend therapy together. The goals would be to define the boundaries and expectations, to find out what things he would agree to do with you and to find out what it would take for him to agree to special mother-son time. These things would be examined with the facilitation of the therapist. Once these things are defined, therapist may agree to talk to father about his roll in meeting these goals instead of enabling son to escape rather than solve problems.

I hope this is helpful but please feel free to ask if you need clarification.

Warm regards,
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

The problem Is that the papers state that both parents must agree on "non medical" care. His dad will not allow me to take him for counceling.

Hi Again Tammela,

Ohhh...that presents a problem.

Well, please share this answer with him and maybe he will consider it. I don't think he should have any problem with the goals of counseling for you and Brian.
1. To improve your relationship; finding ways to enjoy each other;
2. Define the rule and boundaries at your house;

I hope he would reconsider his stance on therapy.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Is it common for divorced couples to need a third party to negotiate daily issues of child rearing. It makes sense to me, but he will not even hear me out. I am having a very difficult time making a go of this single parenting situation. Sometimes I feel like giving his father full custody, but my gut will not let me do it...not to mention the cost of child support on my end would be impossible. I feel frustrated in my relationship with my son. I feel like a failure and his father continues to tell me that I am. I feel like crying all the time. When we were together I felt like I had someone to support me. Know I have no one and I feel totally incapable. Help!

Hi again,

Yes this is very common. Even though a good co-parenting relationship is the best predictor of good child outcome, often one parent will not agree to co parenting therapy. But it is available through the Collaborative Divorce programs. If you call a Collaborative Divorce attorney, they have lists of therapist who work on co-parenting.

Hang in sounds like he is trying to shake your self-confidence and is hoping that you give up. But Brian needs both parents and especially his matter what they try to make you feel. There is nothing worse for a child's mental health than to be abandoned by a parent (especially mother). If you give up, he will feel your love of him is conditional (i.e., You will only love him if he is good). So please, hang in there. You are not the failure they would like you to think you are. Look at all of your strengths and successes and keep your strength.
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