Ladies, let’s talk about boundaries, kids and divorce.

I worked with a divorced woman who had custody of her only child, a son.  The son was in high school, was popular and had good grades.  He also smoked pot and had told his mother about it.

The son’s relationship with his father was poor.  His father rarely contacted the boy and likewise, the boy infrequently contacted the son. During the marriage, the father had been emotionally and physically abusive to the mother.  The mother had concerns that the father may be abusive to the son during visits but still did not want to sway the boy, post divorce, away from the father.  She had never “bad-mouthed” the father…Actually, they, the son and the mother, never talked about the father or the lack to involvement he had in the boy’s life.

When the boy told the mother about his pot use, the mother was “overwhemed” with conflicting thoughts.  One the one hand, she knew it was dangerous for him to smoke pot or use any drugs…it was illegal, it would “mess up” his ability to study, lead him to the wrong crowds, put him in risky situations, etc.

Yet, she felt guilty.  She felt his pot use was her fault because of the divorce…he was using to cope with stress of coming from a “broken” family.  But she also felt good about him sharing this with her, as opposed to his father.  She felt it suggested he, the boy, liked her more than the father, or respected her more, or wanted her in his life more than his dad.

Therein lay the problem…if she did what she knew she needed to do, tell him, insist that he stop using pot (and take the steps to ensure he was not involved in drug use, i.e., urine screens, searching his room, etc.), she feared he would pull away from her…and possibly move towards his father, who, because of his lack of contact, she thought her son thought he could hid his use from him (the father), possibly live with him and keep living a pot-filled happy life!

Hence, her contact with me.

Long story short…I shared with her she needed to set the boundary of no pot use (or reinforced her belief that she needed to insist her son stop using pot) and run the risk of “loosing him”.  She was very sorry for the fact that she and her father had divorced and that they had exposed him (the son) to all kinds of bad things during the marriage, i.e., their fighting.  I believe we all can relate to this…feeling we failed our kids.  I joke with parents saying “All you have to do is wake up and you can feel bad about being a parent”.  But this woman needed to hear from me that her son, I thought, was needing, wanting her to stand up and set a boundary with him.  In some ways, I questioned if he was testing her, asking her to set this boundary.  Kids will/do do this, as a way of ensuring that their parents are still paying attention as they (the kids) get older and separate themselves from them and the family.

She REALLY struggled to set that boundary with her son…but she did set it and followed through.  The son argued, yelled, threatened…but did comply.

In my experience, his compliance was not just luck.  He needed and was asking to be reigned in and she was able to do it.  Developmental psychologists will tell us that kids need this at this time in their life (teenage years).

More later….

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