Here is a brief summary of our background:
My husband and I have been together for about ten years, married seven years. We are expecting our first child together in the spring. My husband had my ss with his high school girlfriend when they were very young and they separated before my ss was born. My ss is now eleven.
Two years ago, BM decided it would be best for ss to come live with my husband and me (we strongly agreed). BM lives nearly two hours away from us and originally planned to move to our town so that we could all work together to raise ss.
A year passed and instead of moving to our town, last year ss went to bm’s for a weekend visit and never returned. BM wrote a horrible facebook message to my husband and me about how she was keeping ss and changing his school and that ss hated living with us.
We were completely shocked and blindsided. The court papers were never changed to reflect ss was primarily living with us, which resulted in a long, drawn out court battle. A judge awarded us temporary custody and ruled that the matter determining where ss would primarily reside needed to be finalized before the start of the next school year. We hired a guardian ad litem who investigated our case and ruled in favor of my husband and me keeping ss.
All the while the court battle ensued, my ss was being severely alienated from my husband and me, repeating unspeakable things his mother had lied to him about us. He is very aligned with her and it was discovered through my ss therapist and the guardian ad litem that ss would exaggerate any negative activity in our home to his mom in order to fit in with her.
My ss has a deep seeded fear of being abandoned by his mom if he does not remain loyal to her, which includes choosing her over us.
Once the guardian ad litem made her decision, BM agreed to the pre trial agreement and she and my husband sat down with ss and explained that he would be living with us. The fight seemed to be over. SS began the new school year and has been adjusting quite well. Aside from some normal behavioral problems, things have been very pleasant with ss.
However, BM avoided signing the pre trail agreement and although she continued to claim that she was going to sign it, she never showed up for the court appearance before the judge to sign the order and never returned her lawyer’s calls for three months.
We have just learned that BM is now saying she is NOT signing the papers and wants to take the matter to trial, claiming that ss is “miserable” at our house and is having “major issues” with me(!).
SS and I get along great! I have no idea where this accusation is coming from? I actually asked ss if everything was okay between him and me and he said “yes, we had no problems at all.” I assured him that if he did have any sort of issue with me that he could come to me about it.
It is very obvious that while ss visits his mom, he delights her with horrific accounts of our home (although untrue) and she uses those lies as fuel for her relentless anger toward my husband and me.
I am wondering what we can do to about this problem. SS carries on fine in our home, despite disliking some of our rules but then exaggerates how things are in our home to appease his mom without realize how far she is going to take things. We are confident that the judge will give the final ruling in our favor, no judge in their right mind would overturn a previous judge’s ruling and the findings of a guardian ad litem and make ss change schools in the middle of the year over such foolish accusations by his mom.
I don’t know what she is trying to accomplish but as long as she encourages my ss to join in her fight against us, I have no idea how he is ever going to get comfortable living his life here.
I’m seeking help in how to handle the alienation my stepson is undergoing.
Do we talk to him and point out that his mom is encouraging him to view us negatively or do we just pretend nothing is happening?
If we do discuss the issue with him, how do we do it without alienating him ourselves?
It seems like a lose, lose situation for my stepson no matter the route we take. Still, there must be something that can be done here in our home. If the courts won’t help and we are unable to talk anything over with the bio mom (which is certainly the case), how can we help my stepson to see the situation from a different perspective, rather than just through the eyes of an angry, revengeful mom?
Thanks for writing in.
What you are describing should be a crime! As you know Parent Alienation Syndrome, now the official name of this atrocious activity is getting more and more attention, however that is not going to stop it, not yet anyway.
I haven’’t read all the books about this situation, so I hope you will read up and seek the advice of sister Stepmoms (We call ourselves SMOMS- like Mom’s but with a SM-sound, one-syllable). There are many who have deal with this, as have I, and I bet you will get lots of ideas to consider.
Let me offer a few things with the caveat that I want you to sift and sort through all I say to pick out what works for you. Kids and Stepkids (our term for stepkids) are all at very different emotional places and YOU are the best judge of what may work for you.
The first thing that comes to mind is to get clear on what you are trying to accomplish. Since your son has been dragged into “The Loyalty Wars” by his bio-mom, this is going to make everything going on in your world and his so much more “charged.” (I know I don’t have to tell you that, just wanting you to know I “get” that.)
Here are a few ideas:
Do whatever you can to “model” trustworthy, honest behavior with him. I’ve noticed that many Fathers feel an “urge” to protect their kids from their own moms. Now, I’m not suggesting you share anything age-inappropriate with him, but I am suggesting that if she cancels something or doesn’t do something or tells “fibs” about something, that you can tell your ss without having to add the judgments about her actions. This can be challenging AND it also makes things easier for you all. (See my Smommentary about the Loyalty Wars” for much more about this topic.) See what appeals to your situation.
Do whatever you can to process your inevitable rage about her manipulations and actions privately, so that whenever you are talking with your ss, he will be able to hear what you are saying and not become defensive of her, based on your anger. The more you can be calm, grounded and look him in the eye, straight-forward, the more he is likely to believe you.
It is such an infuriating thing, when the bio-mom, for whatever reason, tortures her child for her own neediness. As I’m writing, I’m thinking back on all the fun times and experiences we didn’t get to have with my ss, because he said “NO”, so his Mom would see how loyal he was being, or because she thought what we were doing was stupid. We watched him pick fights with us, usually right before he would go back to her house, just to make it easier for him to leave and give himself lots of “goodies” to share with his mom.
One of the hardest was when he was 11 or 12 he told us he wasn’t going to do any more Christmas things with us because he was supposed to do them only with his Mom. Since we shared custody and she lived ½ mile away and we saw him many times a week, this was a crushing blow to us because we’d made so many things fun rituals for the 3 of us. It was not coincidental that he decided this, but it was out of our control and we were left with the heartache for the last 8-9 years.
Each time he refused or came over when we were in the middle of things, he acted as if he was earning “warrior points” by refusing to have fun with us, knowing e was going to have a path to his bio-mom’s attention. It was sad for us, it was sad for him (and he doesn’t even realize it…yet).
So, back to you.
Is it too early to teach him about “The Four Agreements?”
Is it too early to share your feelings, without judging her, so that he will understand that you are not OK with it but that you are “out of control” of what she does?
When he comes to you, can you get him some therapy so he will have a neutral party, totally on his side and able to help him become conscious of the tug of war going on in his heart and teach him some coping skills?
Can you get him a punching bag, so he will have a healthy outlet for the enraging situation he has been put in? Giving stepkids a healthy way to express anger, where he is free to be angry without feeling guilty, is an important gift and life skill.
It’s wonderful that you have a good foundational relationship with your ss. All the therapists we talked to over the years, say that will pay off down the road. Let’s hope so. However, that doesn’t change the damage and pain you all are feeling as you are going through it.
This doesn’t feel all that helpful, but I didn’t want you to feel ignored with everything else going on in your lives. You and your ss have been put in a painful situation, here’s hoping that your ss will be able to process his pain and anger and “feel” the love you all have for him so he can feel safe and loved with you and your DH.
The pain and damage his bio-mom is causing him is going to take work and healing. Giving him the freedom to be able to talk to you all about how his is feeling “stuck between a rock and a hard place” is probably the best thing you can do from day to day. Being totally compassionate, acknowledging of his feelings, without any commentary about his mom, even when we expresses it, is something you CAN DO.
He’s a lucky boy to have you two in his life.
I wish you lots of luck in your transition and his healing.
Please do post on the BB so the others with more experience on this can offer their ideas.