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Tough love on ACOA teens?

Old 10-10-2016, 03:53 PM
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Tough love on ACOA teens?

Hello everyone! Quick update on me: I am doing well, personally. Got offered a job as a financial advisor after a 5 step interview process which was grueling. It will be commissions based and I will have to bust my rear to pass all my licensing exams all over again, but they do train me, give support and supplies for testing, and I get paid to study instead of having to work full time AND study.

My bf and I are doing great. He's my rock. Not the most sensitive of men, and not the most verbally expressive but I'm learning to understand his love languages better and I'm comfortable with him and feel safe with him. Over the weekend he told me this...." You don't make my life easier, you make my life BETTER." To him, that's saying a LOT, lol. We make a great team and his kids love up on me still and we're all doing well together. His girls love my son and they all engage each other. It's actually better than I thought it would be after 5 months of living together.

As for my son.....well, that's a different story. He keeps telling me, "I'm all he has, mom (when referring to his alcoholic father)" and he spends a lot of time over his dad's now during the day after school because I think he's avoiding me and the fact that my bf and I will ask him to do stuff or to help out around the house, etc. We ask that the kids participate in the household chores but I let my kid get away with NOT doing so much as he grew up that I think I did him a terrible disservice. I just always felt that I did things better and didn't have the patience to instruct him along with the fact that he has disabilities that made it difficult for me to work with him at times.

My son has anxiety issues, tourette's syndrome, and a cognitive memory problem that he was diagnosed with when he was 12. He literally struggles with easy tasks and he doesn't have very good logic function. He has trouble thinking for himself and some of that is because I did a lot of his thinking for him (please don't flame me....I was just trying to survive my alcoholic marriage and mental health issues that my ex developed which worsened as he got older) and part of it is because he truly can't seem to think things through. And, I often have trouble deciphering if he truly isn't capable or if he is capable but using his disabilities as an excuse in his own mind.

Currently, I take my support checks and deposit them into an account for my son (he's going to be 18 and is a senior in high school). My son uses that money for gas, for food, or small misc expenses. He doesn't buy clothes or video games. He does spend money on food like it's going out of style because he says he doesn't like what my bf and I cook and that we don't make enough caloric intake for him. I tell him he can cook for himself when he gets home but he says it's 8 PM and he would rather pick up food on the way home from tennis practice or he'll eat at his dad's.

The bf wants to start charging him rent when he graduates in may. He believes I've enabled my son and given him a very easy life. Which I have. I was constantly making up for his awful environment with his messed up alcoholic father and I was trying to make his life better but I admit I did too much for him.

Now, I feel I'm stuck in a quandary. My XAH enables this all and doesn't want to push our son to get a job. He pays for my son's car and the insurance. He won't communicate with me. Literally refuses to answer my emails or texts. I feel like I'm single parenting and that my XAH is just providing my son with a bachelor pad to crash at when my son feels like I'm pressuring him too much. My house is a family home, everyone does their part and we expect him to contribute his energy and eventually financially. My XAH doesn't ask for anything....he's too busy managing his disease and his excuses and his pity parties.

I know my son needs tough love but I also wonder if I push too hard, will he run away and let my XAH enable him or not get him set up right for adulthood? I'm mad at myself and at my XAH and even at my son at times. I even get mad at the bf, too, because his honesty and outside observation makes me look bad as a parent. He's gentle with his delivery and we've talked about this a LOT, but he still thinks tough love and me pushing more and expecting more is necessary. I'm just afraid my son will turn to drugs, his dad, excuses, laziness, etc if I keep hounding him.....ARGH!
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Old 10-10-2016, 04:16 PM
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If your son is still going to be in school, I wouldn't charge him rent. You don't need the money to make ends meet, and if he were living away from home you'd be paying for his housing.

I WOULD insist that he do chores, though, the same as his semi-step-siblings. As far as his choosing to hang out at Dad's because it's comfier, well, not much you can do about that. I would want to be careful of appearing to drive a wedge between them.

The young man who's the son of the couple involved in the most horrific abuse case I ever prosecuted is concerned about taking care of his dad when he gets out of prison in a few years. I'm hoping dad expires before that happens (dad is about my age, and I have no idea how healthy he is), but beyond telling him that it's not his job, I don't know what else can be done to discourage it. Painful as it is, you can't control his life forever.

Hugs,
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Old 10-10-2016, 04:32 PM
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Yeah, we aren't charging him rent until he's out of school. If he does go to community college, he'll be going across town and we will have to find him housing so he's not driving 50 miles a day.

I wouldn't ask him to work if he was a full time student. My bf is saying that if the boy doesn't go to school, then he needs to work and contribute financially so that he learns what it feels like to start taking responsibility for himself.
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Old 10-10-2016, 04:34 PM
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Liz...Does your son have any dream or goal for his future?
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Old 10-10-2016, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by lizatola View Post
My bf is saying that if the boy doesn't go to school, then he needs to work and contribute financially so that he learns what it feels like to start taking responsibility for himself.
Well, yeah, I think he definitely needs to be working if he's not in school. I think I might ease into the "paying rent" thing, by first making him responsible for personal expenses like clothes, car insurance, those discretionary meals, etc. Once he's over 18 and not working, I assume there will be no more child support?

The thing is, I think in most families there is something of a transition from being cared for by one's parents and being completely self-sufficient. Maybe sit down with him and discuss what seems to you both to be a reasonable transition plan.
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Old 10-10-2016, 06:34 PM
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Originally Posted by dandylion View Post
Liz...Does your son have any dream or goal for his future?
Yes, he wants to study business at the community college and possibly become a realtor in the future. He wants to move away to the Pacific NW and he wants to continue to play tennis. He also said he would like to teach tennis in the near future and work with younger kids.

He is currently doing part homeschool, part special needs schooling where he takes chemistry, math, and english. He's helping his HS tennis coach with some freshman twice a week after school hours so he heads to the high school for an hour to help coach and work these kids out and then he drives 45 minutes to his own tennis practice where he trains for 2.5 hours. He trains about 12 hours a week currently.

He is very helpful around here but he needs to be told what to do. He doesn't 'see' what needs to be done, you know? I have to make a list every AM and tell him to clean the kitty litter, do the dishes, etc. But, he has a compliant personality and he will get it done.

He's not very efficient and tends to space out. Some of that is his ADHD and some of it is his perfectionism that kicks in. He's very fearful of people and of being judged so that's what's holding him back from getting a job. He has a therapist and has been honest with me about these challenges.
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Old 10-10-2016, 06:39 PM
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Hi, lizatola, and welcome. I smiled when I read your post about how your son has to be told what to do, that he needs a list of specific tasks. That sounds like almost every 18 year old I have ever met! Hang in there. Peace.
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Old 10-10-2016, 06:43 PM
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ummmmmmm, why does "new" guy get to call the shots on how you should raise/treat your son??
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Old 10-10-2016, 08:24 PM
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Originally Posted by lizatola View Post
He is very helpful around here but he needs to be told what to do. He doesn't 'see' what needs to be done, you know? I have to make a list every AM and tell him to clean the kitty litter, do the dishes, etc. But, he has a compliant personality and he will get it done.
A year or so ago, I started to get frustrated by my tween / teen step kids who would whine every time I asked them to do something in the house. We created a points system where they got points for helping out - during the school year, they each needed 50 points per week, which could be done and checked off at any point during the week. We negotiated points based on how distasteful a job was, but basically for an average job, one minute = one point.

If they got more than 50 points, extra points could be collected for treats - 50 points extra = $5. Which they actually seldom did!

I had to hound for over a year, but over time they self-selected the household jobs they preferred and now mostly do those without my prompting - or at least at my first request and without complaint or attitude.

I was very matter of fact about reminding them about the tasks in the beginning: when they would complain, I would just state, "We are a household of six, and your dad and I both work. We all need to work together to take care of our home."

The checklist worked particularly well for my stepson who is on the spectrum and has ADHD. He's the one who still needs prompting. I suspect that if I kept up on the checklist I would need to do less of that.

Might help if you could establish how much you expect him to help around the house and then create an easy way to monitor it.
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Old 10-11-2016, 04:53 AM
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Liza, as a fellow mom of two teen ACOA boys, I feel you! I shared the same tendencies to spoil and pamper my kids due to the awfulness. I also had a relationship soon after my divorce and learned a lot from it's impact on me and my kids. I want to challenge you a bit, so I'm pulling some of your words...

Originally Posted by lizatola View Post
I let my kid get away with NOT doing so much as he grew up that I think I did him a terrible disservice. I just always felt that I did things better and didn't have the patience to instruct him along with the fact that he has disabilities that made it difficult for me to work with him at times.

He has trouble thinking for himself and some of that is because I did a lot of his thinking for him

He does spend money on food like it's going out of style because he says he doesn't like what my bf and I cook and that we don't make enough caloric intake for him. I tell him he can cook for himself when he gets home but he says it's 8 PM and he would rather pick up food on the way home from tennis practice or he'll eat at his dad's.
I totally relate. Been there, done that. Still do in some ways, though I've improved a lot. It's important to remember that this was his known life for years and years--his entire reality.

Originally Posted by lizatola View Post
My house is a family home, everyone does their part and we expect him to contribute his energy and eventually financially.

The bf wants to start charging him rent when he graduates in may. He believes I've enabled my son and given him a very easy life. Which I have.
Whoa!..... What happened?
"My house is a family home"..."we expect him to contribute"... you've launched into this new wonderful life (and I'm happy for you). It's likely amazing and way better than the way you and your son lived before with XAH--but it also sounds like a total 180 from your prior life. You've completely changed the rules for your son, which could be seen as a result of moving in with your bf. It's very likely that, without bf, these changes would have occurred more slowly and naturally as you adjusted together. As it is, you've jumped headfirst into bf's world (maybe the world you've always wanted to live in), but DS had little life preparation for it.

I'd challenge you to unravel how much of these changes you'd be asking for if you still lived alone--and at what pace.

Originally Posted by lizatola View Post
My XAH enables this all and doesn't want to push our son to get a job. He pays for my son's car and the insurance. He won't communicate with me. Literally refuses to answer my emails or texts. I feel like I'm single parenting and that my XAH is just providing my son with a bachelor pad to crash at when my son feels like I'm pressuring him too much.

My XAH doesn't ask for anything....he's too busy managing his disease and his excuses and his pity parties.
Two things I felt when I read this. The first paragraph sounds like XAH is living the way you always did--you were fine enabling DS before. XAH hasn't changed or become "worse"--you changed. And his relative stability in expectations may be of some comfort to DS.

When DS says that dad "only has him"... in some ways that might be refreshing for DS--he may miss being a more integral part of your life before it expanded to include bf and his kids. There's a huge energy shift involved there.

Also... I'm not fond of your XAH at all... but the second paragraph above made me smile a little. XAH could be sitting there saying "Liza is too busy with her new life and her new family to spend the time on what DS really needs." That would outrage you, I'm sure! We don't know why he's doing what he's doing. But it is just THE SAME. He hasn't changed.

It sort of feels like you'd like to fast forward into a world where DS was already raised more like bf's daughters--which I completely understand. But if I'm DS, I may not be comfortable with that at all, and I may struggle with feeling "on the outside" or "not good enough" for your new life. It might be easier to go hang with dad.

While blending into a common family can be good, honoring your initial family unit as having its own differences is important too. And raising DS differently than the expectations for bf's kids may be the right thing to do, since he's starting at a different place. Fair is not equal.

Originally Posted by lizatola View Post
I know my son needs tough love but I also wonder if I push too hard, will he run away and let my XAH enable him or not get him set up right for adulthood? I'm mad at myself and at my XAH and even at my son at times. I even get mad at the bf, too, because his honesty and outside observation makes me look bad as a parent. He's gentle with his delivery and we've talked about this a LOT, but he still thinks tough love and me pushing more and expecting more is necessary. I'm just afraid my son will turn to drugs, his dad, excuses, laziness, etc if I keep hounding him.....ARGH!
In the end I know you know that if DS chooses laziness or drugs, that's his choice and you can't stop him. And for the record, I'm afraid of those things too!

I think the bigger question here is what YOU think is right. I sense that while you know you should've created more independence in DS earlier, you're not ready to jump to the place bf thinks you should be. And that you feel you SHOULD jump there because bf thinks it's right--and because it looks bad that as a mother you haven't gotten there already. Jumping there would keep you from rocking the "new family" boat and setting a bad example for bf's kids--but it may not be what's best for DS in the long run.

How much are you blending into bf's life because "he's a good man who has his act together" vs living how you want to live? What would you do right now if you lived alone with DS?

From the outside in, people can judge pretty easily. But only you know where DS has been and what the history is---and only you can decide the right path to unraveling that and easing him toward independence. I think that path is likely much slower and winding than bf would like--which means that putting the time (and energy) into that will add some stress to your relationship.

But you only get one shot to raise a teen. And you have decades to play with your man.
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Old 10-11-2016, 11:52 AM
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Between the school, tennis, and helping his tennis coach he has a pretty full schedule, especially for a kid with some extra considerations. I agree with the person that said making him responsible for things like his clothing, phone, recreation, etc. is a good first step especially if he has an account that money goes into regularly.

FYI - Given his diagnosis's your states Vocational Rehabilitation office may have a lot of support for employment and/or going to school. Hopefully he is making contact with the community colleges disability services office. His goals need a lot of planning and he'll need a lot of help with that planning.

If it were me I would not make him work and attend Community College right off the bat and insist he pay rent unless said rent is coming out of a support check. I don't know the details but usually not all of a support check is meant to be spending money or go straight to the kid. Generally it also covers necessities like food, shelter, clothing, etc.

Anyway - my point was going to be that even really good people don't always understand learning disabilities. As you know they are real and they often require accommodations, which means that maybe your son will not do things at the same pace or in the same way as the other kids in your new blended family. If your significant other doesn't really grasp that, to bad. You know your kid.

The basic tenants of responsibility, sharing in the household, accountability etc. are all great and real and absolutely necessary to learn but the journey may not look the same for your son. It kind of sounds like your significant other votes for tough love and that will result in a shift where your son steps it up to do things without lists and paying rent will somehow result in a kid that looks more focused and driven. Welllll.....it doesn't really work like that in my humble opinion. You know your son Liz. You know when he is truly being a lazy somewhat entitled teen and when he looks lazy to outsiders that don't understand. I know you can see the difference because you are smart and you know your son better than anyone - so don't second guess yourself.

My bossy advice - Put him in charge of his own laundry. and quit thinking about his dad and his dad's house. You can't second guess all your decisions based on the fear that he'll go to his dad's house or all these different scenarios going through your head. Just do the next right thing.
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Old 10-11-2016, 12:09 PM
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Hi, Liz. I don't have much input on the new blended-family and Dad issues. Just wanted to let you know you're not alone: I worry that I've let DS slide on a lot of things trying to make up for the stuff we've had to deal with regarding his Dad and I'm trying to stop/change. It's tough, though. I find I still tend to want to step back if DS doesn't like the changes and I have to push myself to keep on. (In all honesty, though, I kind of think it has a lot to do with my perfectionist traits: I can do *this* faster, easier and with better results... so it's not just the alcoholic-dad stuff.)

DS has a hard time remembering what's on the chore list, even though it really doesn't change much day-to-day. We ended up writing out a brief 'schedule' for him and put it up on a chalkboard decal by the fridge. (First stop when getting home is always looking for a snack.) It's working out pretty well. He feels more like he has some control because I didn't TELL him to do it and I feel less like a nagging mom. I know your son is older than DS, but maybe there's some other method that would help him? (I've been using a combination of a weekly planner-bullet journal to help me keep track of what I need to do.)

((((hugs))))
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Old 10-11-2016, 01:13 PM
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Thanks everyone. I waffle between feeling like I let my kid down to thinking that it will be Ok. MY own sponsor enabled her son, who has LDs and bipolar depression, and now she has a 23 year old living at home on her dime who doesn't work, never went to college, etc and she's encouraging me to practice tough love so I don't wind up where she is.

Here's the deal. My ds has admitted he is lazy. He comes right out and tells me so. I told him years ago that I needed him to step up. We started a daily task list that he could use to keep track of his chores and school assignments. It works for a few months and then it all falls apart. I've tried various ways to work with him, I've reached out to his teachers, I've asked for referrals for job programs for teens, and I've been driving this since before I moved in with the bf.

I often wonder just how bad his disabilities are and how much he plays me. As much as I hate to say it, I wonder if he just 'acts' stupid sometimes or asks me how to scrub the toilet AGAIN, when I know he knows what to do!

Yes, he has learning disabilities but he is fully capable of handling his own schedule. He gets himself to school, to tennis, to meetings, to his tournament matches, etc on time. He prepares for them himself. He takes his racquets to get strung, he does his own laundry, he locks the doors when he leaves the house, he fills up his tank and manages his car to the point that he knew when to take his tires to get checked, etc.

So, I don't see someone who isn't capable of contributing financially to the home. My parents made me financially responsible for myself at age 14. My son has said that I've actually taken it easy on him and we've discussed these new higher level expectations ad nauseum over the past year or 2. He agreed nearly 2 years ago that he would want to start working once he was driving.

As for the bf, yes I do struggle to get him understand learning disabilities. He and I butt heads about this when it comes up and I stand my ground. Yet, I do agree with him that my son needs to get a job. I honestly believe it will help his self esteem. The support checks stop next May and that's when I'll need the help the most.
If my son chooses community college, I will most likely have him live with friends closer to campus and NOT have him work because the school demand would be tough for him. But, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

On a fun note.......A good friend of mine, whom I've been doing some freelance work for, runs a top PR firm in town. She asked me to assist her with a live shoot at the local TV station in a few weeks. She then asked if my son would like to come be a part of it. He'd get to be on TV. I thought he'd shy away from it but he was totally gung ho, lol! It's a short segment about pets and the dangers around the holidays. My son will be one of the dog handlers on set.
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Old 10-11-2016, 02:14 PM
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Hey, lizatola. It sounds like your son is good with doing the things he likes. That's when he is responsible. And not so good with doing things he's not crazy about, like scrubbing the toilet. Wait. That's me! I cannot tell you how often I have forgotten how to unload the dishwasher. You sound like you have a good handle on stuff. You know yourself and you know your son. Now it's just making it all come together with your new family. Gotta agree with Thumper. Put him in charge of stuff that affects him, like his laundry and such. As long as the girls in the family are treated equally and don't end up always getting the domestic goddess chores, it should all work out eventually. Peace.
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Old 10-11-2016, 09:52 PM
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Agreed...

...coming from somebody who did the same thing to his daughter that you think you might have done to your son. When we told her she had to do chores and pay rent she moved out-- it was painful for a bit, then it wasn't, and it turns out she's doing just fine. That was three years ago.

The painful part was changing my behavior and outlook-- so much guilt! Ugh!

Good luck!

Originally Posted by lizatola View Post
Yeah, we aren't charging him rent until he's out of school. If he does go to community college, he'll be going across town and we will have to find him housing so he's not driving 50 miles a day.

I wouldn't ask him to work if he was a full time student. My bf is saying that if the boy doesn't go to school, then he needs to work and contribute financially so that he learns what it feels like to start taking responsibility for himself.
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Old 10-12-2016, 10:27 AM
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I work with special needs teenagers and know how stubborn they can be. And how hard they'll work to get out of doing chores lol. However, I must say, if your son has a car and is buying gas for it, presumably he's cognitively able enough to drive. In that case he's able to process instructions for chores.

Have you spoken to your ex about this? When parents live apart it'd be an unusual teenager (high ability or one with special needs) who didn't try and pull a fast one from time to time. I've seen this in my own family, and with my pupils with divorced parents.
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Old 10-12-2016, 10:52 AM
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I am only going to address one aspect of your post, and that is having your DS pay rent. And I'm not going to chime in as to whether it is appropriate or not; only you can decide that. In my experience, my DD split her time between my XAH and myself during her final year of High school, and she received Social Security benefits for a few months as my XAH is on disability. Prior to her 18th B-day, the money went into his account, but after she turned 18 in February, it went directly to her. This impacted XAH's income significantly, and he demanded that DD start paying rent...to both of us. Saying that I needed to back him up. So, my solution was to charge her rent (we all agreed to 10%, which was about $60 to each parent.) This only lasted until she graduated in May, which amounted to 4 months rent. When she went to University in August, I simply gave it back to her in full, as an allowance. I am a bit more financially able to do that, so XAH had no reason to question it. I don't even know if DD told him about the allowance afterward. Anyway, your SO may consider such a suggestion, as he probably understands that DS does have needs that extend beyond his own childrens'.
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