“My husband has turned our daughter against me.”
Dear Annie,My husband I are in the middle of a divorce. It breaks my heart that our 15 yr old daughter has aligned herself with her dad who really is a Disneyland Dad. He has often inappropriately complained to her about the divorce, about me, about financial woes, and she is to a point where she quotes him verbatim. She was an angry child to begin with -- coupled with being a teen and now a child of divorce. She has no summer plans and her father has effectively kept me out of the loop. I don't know what goes on at their house. I am the last to know. This is how he punishes me -- and my daughter does the same. Yes, she is seeing a therapist and so am I. My soon to be ex-husband is not.
My question -- how can I help get this teen into a summer program? I hate to see her sitting all summer and doing nothing.
Out of the Loop
Dear Out of the Loop,
I'm sure it's very frustrating not to know what's going on during the time your daughter is with her father. I'm very glad to hear that your daughter has a counselor to talk to during this time. And it's also good that you have someone you trust to help you get your life back in balance. Perhaps with the coping skills you're learning you will be able to reach some decisions with your ex about the best ways in which you two can co-parent your daughter.
As for her summer break... It sounds like you believe that too much unstructured time won't be a healthy thing for her. Instead of creating a battleground over it, how about having a calm and respectful conversation about "summer plans"? Explore some options ahead of time. Depending on your daughter's interests these might include anything from volunteering at a veterinarian's office to getting a job through a Parks and Rec Department Day camp for young children to getting an unpaid "internship" with a chapter of an environmental organization.
If you have the financial resources, there are also some wonderful group travel programs for teens that include community service. Do some research before you have the discussion with your daughter. Ask her (calmly) what she envisions for the remainder of her summer break. LISTEN to what she has to say. Tell her how you feel about balancing unstructured time (which she needs after the demands of school) with structured time. Why is that an important thing to you? Share with her any memorable summer experiences you had at her age. The idea is to work with her so that you are dictating less and acting more as a consultant. Always keeping her needs and interests in mind while you guide her in healthy directions.
So, explore some options on your own first, then bring your "cards" to the table and talk to her.
Sound like a plan?