Background recap; Split up when children were 3 & 5, they are now 14 and 15. For the first 7 yrs all good with the children having them 3 nights per week. Always thought the day would come when as they grew they'd want to spend more time in one place. What I didn't expect is my then 12 yr old daughter to use one big argument that was born out of her misbehaving and me going OTT because of it, leading to her within another yr no longer staying with me at all. A year on from that my son tells me he no longer wishes to stay at mine either. This after I had moved back to within walking distance of my ex so they could have friends close by.
I've spent many hrs, days, weeks, months thinking what did I do that was so bad they didn't want to stay with me anymore. People always said I was a great Dad. It felt like the one thing I was good at and placed on this earth to do. The reason behind my son's decision was said to be because of his anxiety and his need to be close to my ex.
This anxiety has been diagnosed by a consultant, as separation anxiety. Has lead to refusal to go to school and frequently unable to function without my ex present. Become socially withdrawn which has included not seeing me.
I want to help my son get back into school full time to regain his confidence and self esteem. I feel to do that he needs to break away from this neediness to be close to my ex. The problem may well have begun years ago with the different ways in which we parent. I'm seen as the stricter parent.
One instance highlighted this was where my daughter misbehaved while on holiday a few yrs ago. As soon as she could she was on her phone to my ex moaning about it and my ex was overheard saying what has dad done this time. At no point checking with me for the truth and at no point asking my daughter what she did wrong to earn a rebuke. This seems to have been an ongoing theme that I was often unaware of and one that I thought couldn't be true. When my daughter would talk ill of my ex or her new partner I would defend them playing devils advocate but it seems that may have been a one way street with the consequence of my part being undermined to the point she no longer wanted to see me and most of time hates me (except when she wants something). This may well have impacted and begun my son's descent into anxiety with the subliminal messaging he was getting that I'm not to be trusted and only my ex can help him.
This is not a healthy position for him to be so reliant on one person.
The visit to the consultant occurred in 2019. I was only made aware of it a couple of months ago. It took four goes at asking for a copy of the letter to be sent just the first page of the letter. I don't understand that at all. How can we work together to support our children and they don't even bother to let me know they are taking him to see a consultant and then don't let me know the contents of the outcome in full beyond whatever the consultant recommended didn't work.
I met with the school to find out what they knew of the situation as I was worried by what I was told of an argument between the school and step parent. The school following that discussion arranged for meet with all of us present to try and move forward with my sons return to full time education. I hope and pray it helps, as I said in the meeting my concerns were that the school and them need to be on the same page (never mind me and them). I have no idea if it is going to make any difference.
On many an occasion I have asked to be kept informed of how my children are doing given their poor mental states. The response on the occasions I get one and am not ignored is "I don't have time to send a message about them daily", or even weekly it seems. I seem to be pushed further and further away from my children and can do nothing about it.
I've tried the "how would you feel if the boot was on the other foot" and again it makes no difference.
If I message anything asking a probing question about a situation or I've found some research insight that i think may help, this is again usually ignored.
Its like only they know what is best for our children and only what they says goes (I'm not asked my opinion). These behaviours have become so entrenched I fear it will never change. I have offered counselling options to both my children but neither wants to go. I offer to take them out directly and often get no response. I tell my ex to say tell them I'm going to take them to do such a thing, that never happens, she always asks them. If they don't feel like, they say no and that's the end of it. Never mind it may actually be good for their mental health to spend time away from them and god forbid time with their dad.
It seems my involvement is wanted, isn't helpful, makes matters worse. on the odd occasions I do see my son I want to help him and talk to him, try to get him to open up. That isn't what he wants. It can be fun but don't go there, I'm his dad but helping seems only allowed when they call on me.
Its beyond frustrating and my own mental health is wracked with worry about them and that doesn't include all the other issues going on in my life.
I think it is very hard to deal with teenagers with mental health issues at the best of times. I cannot imagine the past year or so has helped.
This really is something for the professionals. Constant checking up and needing daily bulletins is not helpful for anyone. At the best of times teenagers can be reclusive and moody - and it can be impossible to gauge how they are from one moment to the next!!
My view would be that time spent with you should be an opportunity to relax and have fun. It should not feel like a therapy session. It is fine to agree a few ground rules between you but not for you to be imposing them. Time spent together should be a chance for you to get to know the young adults they are becoming and for them to get to know you. It may have to be built up in small steps with them deciding when to meet, what to do and for how long. If they enjoy it they'll come back and over time may feel ready to seek support from you.
You may want to explore support for yourself to help you with this parenting challenge.
When your children are suffering badly you want to know how they are doing. I don't ask the children for this I ask my ex. When they are really not doing well I'd like to know but it seems too much to ask.
Funny how when things go badly wrong my ex is happy to call on me to back them up.
Time spent with my son is about having fun as I avoid discussing the issues for the reasons you mentioned HEN.