Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
I am having a tough time especially as none of this is my fault; it was thrust upon me by my asshole ex husband. Things seemed to be fine until one day my now ex left me for a much younger woman. He felt he was living a lie and is now free to be who he really is. Now of course my three kids who were previously good students, one even all honors, are being truant from school hanging with shitty crowed and smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. I am having a tough time managing work and bringing them to truancy court, counseling appointments. I don’t want my relationship to my kids to only be one of punishment, consequences, and yelling at them. Their dad is unreliable and has no real grasp of how shitty things have become for us or maybe he just doesn’t care?
Dear Losing it,
Sorry to hear how hard things have become for you. Divorce sucks. Kids get all confused, their natural pain in the ass thoughts and behaviors can exaggerate and there are too many fucked up other kids around that can magnify negativity and negative behaviors. I hope you have a good family councilor that can help.
Beware of guilt; it will undermine your any attempt to create a team and to express how their behaviors affect your life. Untimely it all boils down to people learning to ask themselves do they want to be an asshole or not and identifying what are asshole behaviors. Marijuana/alcohol is the other thing that undermines any attempt on not being an asshole as one can be an asshole by omission.
You need to have a hard line when it comes to marijuana and alcohol. If they are using the court needs to put them in substance abuse programs. We all know alcohol’s risks but marijuana screws up the brains ability to process information especially in the teenage brain and you can’t communicate with someone who just isn’t there.
I believe people need to see the big picture before they can focus on the details. Reality isn’t based on how anyone feels, people have to get over that fallacy, reality is based solely on ones behaviors they choose/choices they make in life and how those choices affect others and themselves.
Your kids behaviors are being shitty to you and ultimately they need to see that but at this time it isn’t relevant whether they like you or not. If a ship is sinking you plug the hole with whatever you can and it isn’t relevant how anyone feels about it. You need a lawyer and you need to know your legal rights are and what responsibilities your ex has to be legally doing for you and the kids. He isn’t “free” no more than anyone else that lives in a system.
I would suggest having your lawyer draw up a list of responsibilities you need your ex husband to do to help financially and with all these appointments and such including family therapy with him in attendance too. Have your lawyer present the plan to the court to reinforce. Then if he doesn’t follow it there will be legal and visitation consequences.
If the ex is using alcohol or marijuana himself that needs to be included in the plan and reinforced with DCYF if need be.
The same with the kids, your lawyer needs to draw up a list of their responsibilities and have that presented to the court to reinforce with consequences of not following, i.e. group home or drug treatment programs ect.
If you can’t afford a lawyer either free legal counsel or work with the social worker to have a plan you can present to the judge. But in reality if you don’t have a lawyer things don’t always go well especially if he does have one. It is the way our system is built.
The Granny Dr. says:
Wow, Losing It, you really have a load of crap to deal with. But I think Dr. Brilliant’s advice on the substance abuse program may have exactly the opposite effect you hope for. Here’s what the latest research shows:
Increasingly, substance-abuse experts are finding that teen drug treatment may indeed be doing more harm than good. Many programs throw casual dabblers together with hard-core addicts and foster continuous group interaction. It tends to strengthen dysfunctional behavior by concentrating it, researchers say. “Just putting kids in group therapy actually promotes greater drug use,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
The exposure can be especially dangerous for impressionable youngsters. “I’ve known kids who have gone into inpatient treatment and met other users. After treatment, they meet up with them and explore new drugs and become more seriously involved in drug use,” says Tom Dishion, director of research at the Child and Family Center at the University of Oregon, who has documented such peer influence in scientific studies.
In academic terms, the problem is known as deviancy training, or the negative impact of friends on teen behavior — what parents would simply call a bad influence. In one 2000 study, in which researchers measured how much time teens spent together and how much they encouraged their peers’ misbehavior, Dishion found that social exposure to delinquent peers at age 14 accounted for 53% of adolescents’ life problems five years later — including criminal convictions, sexual promiscuity, relationship issues and drug use.
In another study looking specifically at the impact of group interventions, teenagers who had been identified as being at high risk for drug use and delinquency at ages 11 through 14 were more likely to smoke cigarettes and have disciplinary problems at school three years later if they had been enrolled in a teen focus group about drugs, compared with those who underwent private counseling sessions with their immediate families. “Any condition that promotes kids talking about or endorsing drug use [with one another] would increase the likelihood that the treatment would have a negative effect,”
I agree that you should get a lawyer to protect yourself and the kids against the crap the ex may try to pull, or evade.
But right now, the kids are cynical and rebellious, and attempting to regulate them via “the system” will make them rebel even more.
Their problem, at base, is not alcohol or pot. Their problem is that they had their home ripped out from under them, and dad has declared everything they trusted to be a lie.
If you acts desperate and stressed and starts issuing orders, she will alienate them further.
If you change your behavior too much, they will believe your love was a lie.
I suggest that, rather than treating the kids like problems and forcing them into the punishment of rehab,
you understand something- when kids are in shock or devastated, they act out.
What they need to know most is that Mom’s love is NOT a lie.
You needs to tell them that you understands that whether they know it or not, they are really fucked up over this, and your most fervent prayer is that they will not hurt themselves in blind, blanked out pain before they come out of it. You can’t stop them from being jackasses by hauling out the club.
But you can tell them that although you can’t control what they do outside the home,
while they are in her house, they will show you respect, because you deserves it, and you will treat them with respect, in hopes that in turn, they will act like humans who deserve it.
If they act like nasty little shits, you can tell them to go live with their father, who will undoubtedly recoil with horror. Too freakin’ bad. His life was a lie? Well, the kids ain’t a lie. They are right there.
Let’s see how he deals with that truth.
In the meantime, mom, you need a support group, or the assholes in your family will have you believing you are the one who is fucked up.
You need to do something to make yourself feel good too, instead of bashing your head against the problems. Too bad you can’t ship the kids out on a merchant marine boat where life is very real. Can you? It’s a thought. I wish you luck.
Dr. Brilliant comments:
I guess the reality is you really have no control and you have to be willing to say if you are going to treat me like shit and not care for yourselves, good bye, go to dad and let him deal with the shit storm he actually caused.
Ultimately kids have to take responsibility for themselves and their behaviors and let others be the idiots they are. The, “all people are assholes including myself, and try my best in life not to be an asshole,” theory helped me survive my tweenhood. Transactional Analysis /TA is the best working system to learn and teach me vs. them and what I am that I have found to date. There are books on it on Amazon. I’m OK You’re OK. and, Scripts People Live: Transactional Analysis of Life Scripts is another one. But there is a great synopsis believe it or not put out by our government, the one we used to have. Before bucket filling was the official system used in schools, TA was used. TA is a lot better.
The Granny Dr. Responds:
The problem with situations like this is that there is nothing she can DO that will just get a result. The kids are going to retreat to their own support circles and maybe even pretend to cooperate, while doing whatever the hell they want.
All rules are out because everything is a lie, why bother?
That’s why her only choice is to cultivate her own strength and try not to let the asshole husband’s totally selfish choices embitter her or turn her into a controlling shrew with the kids.
The one lesson I’ve learned with my own son is that children of all ages have their own issues for their own reasons and they sometimes protect themselves by shutting out the very people who could help them.
There is nothing one can do but remain consistent and steady, not becoming angry at slights.
Sometimes all you can do is set an example with your own life and wait until others are ready to see. It’s much harder than taking action, but in the end, only relentless, consistent love can win if you want to preserve the family.