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Parenting --Teens/My teenage son doesn't want to spend time with me

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Question
I left my wife about 3 months ago and all is not well. I was in the process of filing for divorce but she beat me to it.

I had not seen my son for 24 days but after going to court, as a result of a protection order, the court set visitation from Noon on Saturday to 6:00 pm.  

I picked him up today as scheduled.  I asked him why he hasn't called me in the past 3 weeks, I bought him a phone for that very reason, and he said the phone was dead.  I know he could have used his mother's phone but didn't.  We went bowling and afterwards I wanted to go to my mother's,(my wife has not spoken to my mother in over a year, which is a different issue),to pick up some papers for him to give his mother.  He said he was tired and wanted to go home.  It was 2:00 o'clock.  I was so hurt I took him home and began crying and then got angry, now I'm so depressed I don't know what to do.  I just want to give up and let him call me when he wants to see me but my mother disagrees. When I was at home we were very close.  He always came to me for almost everything.

For many years now my wife and I have been involved in domestic violence, constant arguing/fighting - my wife has hit me on several occasions.  She is a very angry person but so am i when she gets in my face and won't shut-up.  There is so much more which I'm sure you are aware.  

However, I do need some help.  PLEASE ADVISE

Thank you

Answer
Hello Frank,
Children usually get caught in the crossfire in situations like this. I don't know what he has been exposed to in terms of the arguing and fighting between you and his mother, but he obviously knows about it and has perhaps heard versions from both of you. It is almost inevitable that a teenager will take sides as they try to figure out if they should side with their mother or father.
Your son may have heard things from his mother which paint you in a negative light. Or he may have heard or seen you do something to his mother which he has trouble accepting -- or forgiving.
Yes, I understand you may be hurt because he only wanted to spend a short time with you, but he is suffering, too. He's trying to make sense of what's going on in his life and in his family. He may be angry at you; he may be angry at both you and his mother. But not seeing him is not going to make things better. I would suggest that you keep your regular parenting time schedule. And even if he doesn't want to spend six hours with you, make sure you spend some time with him. See what he wants to do and do things together that are interesting to him.
You can let him know that you suspect he is very angry with you and he may blame you for the problems in the family. Let him know that that's okay. Also, let him know that any time he wants to talk about things he can always talk to you. Assure him that you will listen. And you'll try to answer any questions he has as honestly as possible.
If he does ask questions, be honest. But don't give him too much information. And don't say negative things about his mother. Always keep in mind that anything you say to him about the domestic situation has to be something that will help him cope and make sense of things. Being angry or negative toward his mother will not be helpful to him.
Any questions?
James Windell

Parenting --Teens

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James Windell

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I am a parent trainer, psychotherapist, and author specializing in parenting issues.During the past 40 years I`ve worked with parents with discipline problems and challenging children. I give frequent lectures and workshops related to discipline, social skills, and aggressive children. I consult with various agencies and schools where there are child behavior problems. I am listed in the American Psychological Associations` media panel as an expert on parenting and am frequently quoted in leading magazines and newspapers.

Experience

I have worked in a juvenile court as a clinical psychologist and as a psychotherapist in private practice. In the Oakland County (MI) Juvenile Court, I developed an award-winning parent training program for parents of adolescent delinquents. In addition I have done group therapy with adolescent delinquents using a social skills-building model. I have consulted with courts, schools, churches, preschools, and domestic violence shelters in areas of parenting.

I received my BA with a major in Psychology in 1963 from Wayne State University. I got my MA in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University in 1972.

I am a member of the American Psychological Association and the Michigan Psychological Association. I have written pamplets, newspaper articles, and professional journal articles. I have been the Coping With Kids columnist for several newspapers for 26 years, and my columns appear weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been the author or co-author of 16 books. My books include, 8 WEEKS to A WELL-BEHAVED CHILD, CHILDREN WHO SAY NO WHEN YOU WANT THEM TO SAY YES, 6 STEPS TO AN EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT TEENAGER, and THE FATHERSTYLE ADVANTAGE. My most recent parenting book (2012) is THE EVETYTHING CHILD PSYCHOLOGY AND DEVELOPMENT BOOK. I have appeared on over 180 radio and TV shows related to my books and parenting. For more information about me, my books and columns, go to my website at Jimwindell.com

Education/Credentials
I have an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University.

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