I work with a young man (Terry) from a divorced family. He’s a bright kid with ADHD but has a tendency of playing one parents against the other especially when he wants something. And this has made it hard for his parents to cope with this situation, as this is something that they weren’t told about by their divorce lawyers and how to cope with it. As they are co-parenting, this behavior from Terry could have an effect on their relationship as well. In other words, Terry is very manipulative and can cause huge stress for both of his parents.
After realizing that there are two different set of rules (I am not totally blaming his biological parents here…Terry is very sneaky), I had to get the parents on the same page. While the parents want what’s best for Terry, there is certainly a little bit of a different opinion on how this should be accomplished. His mother is very nurturing while his father holds a harder line. It should be noted that Terry’s diagnosis isn’t clear (a whole other story for another day…there’s some resistance to knowing the issues).
In a meeting with both parents, they agreed to do three things with Terry.
- Inform Terry that the set of rules was consistent between both houses. Terry would no longer be able to have privileges at one house he lost at the other one.
- Give Terry specific tasks he needed to accomplish like keeping his room clean at both houses and helping with dinner.
- Stop giving him outs of not following rules. If you choose not to do this, you can do that…He has too many outs when he doesn’t want to do something. It is either do what is expected (come to a joint parental decision) or a specific consequence is determined. Both parents have to be on the same page.
This is going to be difficult, but both parents are determined to do what is best for Terry. They need to work together, and based on what we’ve discussed, they’re willing to work through their personal issues and do what is best for Terry. For any families dealing with a similar situation, keep things concrete. Any variance will cause a child to take advantage of an already difficult situation.
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