Me and my wife have been separated for 5 years now. We are co-parenting and have a custody schedule.
It was easy to manage our son when he was young. Now that he is 12, it’s getting a bit difficult to parent him. As per our arrangements, he gets to stay with me on the weekends. However, of late, he doesn’t want to come over. My ex-wife doesn’t know the reason too. When I try to call him, our conversations are brief too.
I want to spend more time with my son and ensure that he has both parents who take an interest in his life. How do I improve our relationship?
Please help me establish a better relationship with my soon to be a teenager.
Answer by Dr Ishita Mukerji, Senior Psychologist, Kaleidoscope, mental wellness center:
It is said that a child is the father of a man. Going by that logic, it is quite self-explanatory why the influence of a father is so important in the life of a son. In our Indian collectivistic culture, it is important to have inputs from both the parents to inculcate all the cultural values. But for a son it is very important to get the input from a father as it paves the path for the development of appropriate social roles in the child.
I appreciate you reaching out for help through the query. I understand the fact that the recent developments have been bothering you a lot. It’s true that one would want the best for their children and even if the parents are separated both would want to take an interest in the child’s life. However, as you have mentioned that your son has turned 12, I would like to point out a few issues.
This is the age when puberty usually hits children. This phase would bring with it a change in his perspectives and thinking process. So, it becomes very important to communicate more and more with the child so that he does not feel lonely or detached.
Check with his peers and teachers about his school behaviour. A lot of times emotional issues are manifested in different settings that includes the school as well.
You need to check how he is interacting with his friends. Since he is starting his teenage years, the nature of peer interaction is bound to change sooner or later which might have an impact in his emotional life.
Separation is an issue that is quite misunderstood in the Indian context and there are a lot of stereotypical notions revolving around the same. You need to talk to your ex-wife so that she can also explore if any such themes have been projected to him by his peers.
Also, when you talk to your son you can let him guide the conversation most of the time so that he understands that you are genuinely interested in his activities.
Emotional transactions are a two-way street. So, you need to open up to your son as well and share titbits from your own life to him so that he also feels a part of your inner circle. The aim is to make the child feel that you are not only his father, but also his buddy who will be with him through thick and thin.
Lastly, I would suggest that going through adolescence and living with separated parents can bring about emotional upheavals in the child which he may or may not be able to deal with in a healthy manner. You should also think about taking your son to a child and adolescent counsellor so that he can equip himself with better emotional management abilities. After all, a holistic development occurs only when we pay attention to all the aspects, both physical and emotional.
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