Question Hi. I have twin 15 year old boys that I have joint custody of with and their mom has primary residence. I only get one overnight a week with them based on my rotating work schedule and no other visitation. Due to their extensive sport activities, some weeks they aren't accessible even for that overnight. I work the evening shift so the only time I can see them is that one day off or during the day when school is out. I've always had a very close relationship with my boys but lately their social and athletic life is their priority instead of visitation with me. I am remarried and have another child with my wife. Their little brother adores his older brothers and we are all very hurt when they don't want to spend time with us. I call them almost daily and we do fun activities when we're together. My question is should I force them to follow the visitation schedule against their will or should I let them call the shots? Unfortunately, their mom is overjoyed that they are drifting further away from me and seems to encourage it. She has even threatened to take me back to court if I take them on vacation during their sporting events. I'm afraid that if I give them too much freedom to choose when they visit they will think I don't care whether or not I see them!
Answer Hi JT - I advise against forcing them to visit, for they will resent you if you do. One challenge you face is acknowledging they are inevitably growing up and away. Another challenge you (and your wife) face is apparently you and your ex have "unfinished business" and have trouble problem-solving (compromising) parental disputes. I'd be surprised if your boys weren't well aware of your love for them.
I suspect there are other issues may affect your older boys attitudes about visitation, like feeling caught in the middle of a confusing loyalty between their parents and perhaps issues with their stepmom.
Overall, I encourage all your family adults to get educated on stepfamily dynamics and challenges:
I can answer questions about remarriage preparation, stepparenting, stepchild discipline, child visitation, grieving, stepfamily norms and myths, mission statements, stepparent job (role)descriptions, communication skills, loyalty and values conflicts, stepfamily identity problems, common pitfalls, ex mate and relative problems, stepfamily merger and adjustment tasks, name confusions, choosing an effective counselor, resolving money disputes, co-parenting support groups, and the family effects of court (legal) battles. I can`t answer questions about medicine, family law, legal stepchild adoption, or financial planning.
I have studied and worked with stepfamilies clinically since 1979, and I have been a "step everything" personally. I was invited to be on the board of the Stepfamily Association of America (SAA) by it's founders, Drs. John and Emily Visher; and later was re-invited by president Margory Engle, PhD. For more detail, see this.