Question 2: My ex-husband has completely different rules at his house. He lets my 14 year old daughter do whatever she wants and I’m afraid that she’s going to get into trouble. What can I do?
Unfortunately, this is a common scenario for mothers and fathers as well. Often one parent sets rules and boundaries and for many reasons (sometimes simply to sabotage the stricter parent) an ex husband or ex wife will abandon all rules and let kids do whatever they want. If you are in this situation, take heart, there are a few things that you can do and that you should know.
First, never criticize your ex in front of your kids. If you are very angry, rant to a friend, not to the kids. This always backfires and ultimately drives the child away from you because when you criticize your ex husband, the child becomes very defensive about him. You need to allow her to feel free to talk to you about her Dad.
Second, always take the high road. You may feel like the bad Mom all the time because you are setting boundaries and rules, but your kids need this in order to develop into strong adults. Teenagers grow up and recognize (usually sooner than late) what good parenting is and they gravitate back toward the parent who lived with integrity and sanity. So hang in there and don’t be afraid to always do the right thing for your kids, it will pay off even if they estrange themselves from you for a while.
Third, pay very close attention to what goes on while she’s at her father’s and let her know that if she is ever in a dangerous situation, she needs to call and you will get her anywhere, anytime. This is always a good idea for teenagers regardless where they are. The truth is, daughters do find themselves in bad situations and every girl needs to know that if her gut is telling her she needs to leave, you need to get her.
Finally, understand that regardless of a Dad’s behavior, every daughter wants her Dad. You can divorce him but she can’t. She will take him to her grave. So even if he is emotionally ill or has serious behavior issues, a daughter always wants a better relationship with her father. Honor that. Give her the permission to love him as he is. You don’t need to sanction his behavior, but acknowledge her need to love her Dad.