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How to Cope When Your Teen Wants to Move in With Your Ex

How to Cope When Your Teen Wants to Move in With Your Ex

There are few experiences as heart-wrenching as when your teen tells you he wants to live with his dad, say Circle of Moms members Mel and Kimberley B. Following their divorces, both of these moms saw their teens announce that they wanted to leave and move in with their fathers.

"My son and I had a huge argument and he decided to call his father and left with him,” Mel says of her 13-year-old son. “I am doing the best I can, but I am angry, upset and feel helpless.”

When Kimberly's 16-year-old daughter moved out of her home and into her ex's, her words echoed Mel's: “I feel screwed over. I am angry about it. I feel lonely, alone, and hurt — to say the least.”


Hearing from your child that she wants to live with your ex instead of you is very painful indeed, but moms who've lived through it say that how you respond is what really matters. Here they share seven strategies to help you get through it, too.

1. Call Your Teen's Bluff

When your teen repeatedly threatens this to leave, “you just have to call their bluff, as hard and emotionally painful as that can be,” say moms like Christina M. “If your child is threatening to leave, the next time you just have to pack his bags yourself, then drive him over there. It may take a few months, but he will come back. When he comes back, you tell him that the next time he threatens to leave, he will not be allowed to come back."

2. Let Them Go

Sometimes the only thing you can do is to let your child go, says Rhonda C. “... we have to allow our teens to make their own decisions so they can deal with the consequences. We have to remember we are still their mother and continue to mother a child who leaves. If you support [your child's] decision instead of making her feel guilty about it, she'll be open to compromises to make this work. Keep the communication lines open between you.”


3. Set Rules

Rhonda C. and other Circle of Moms members agree that it's important to maintain contact with a teen who moves in with his or her other parent. It helps to establish rules, both with your child and with your ex, Rhona adds. “The other parent needs to help ensure you are visited regularly, and your child needs to know a schedule for coming to see you."

4. Don’t Take it Personally

Jane S. offers that teens are sometimes under pressure from their other parent to make a switch. For this reason, she cautions moms not to take a teen's threat to leave too personally: "Odds are [that your child's] dad has lured her with promises that things will be different if she lives with him,” she says. “Try not to focus on your hurting feelings. Instead, see this as a test of all the things you taught her since she was little.”

Wendy D., who has gone through this several times, also urges moms to realize that it is not their fault: "It’s the kid testing the limits,” she says. “They think the grass is always greener on the other side. Just keep the lines of communication open and stick to your guns. . . . My daughter ran to her dad because of [my] rules. Now she is home and behaving better than ever. Sometimes you have to let them go [in order] for them to come back.”

5. Don’t Let Them See You Cry

If your ex-spouse still harbors ill will, he may be working behind the scenes to convince your child to move out from your home.  For this reason, a Circle of Moms member named Jana recommends not crying in front of the child in response. "It does seem so cruel, but just try to keep your chin up and try to be strong.”

Marie W. also suggests protecting yourself. You cannot let [your child] see you upset,” she says, referencing her own experience with her 13-year-old son. “This is what he wants. Let him go live with his father. He may come back on his own later. If you make a big deal of it he knows he has you licked and will hold it over your head."


6. Allow Yourself to Grieve

It is okay – and necessary – to recognize the pain and grieve the loss, says Ruth W. “It is extremely painful to be rejected by your child, and it's okay to feel pain and sadness. . . . Personally I am allowing myself the time to grieve and think. . . . you have been through all the stuff of raising a child and now he’s gone."

7. Move On

As hard and gut-wrenching as it sounds, you have to take care of yourself and move on with your life, “trusting in your gut that your child will finally see the light,” says Wendy H. “If your relationship is strong she may be back sooner than you think."

Keeping yourself busy by finding something else to focus on also helps to ease the loss, says Donna L. “Find a way to vent and rebalance. Pick up an activity that you love, join a support group, anything that gets you enjoying your life again. Regain your peace of mind, faith and hope.”

How do you protect yourself when your child wants to live with the other parent?

Image Source: WalterPro4755 via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

SusanLuman1392083711 SusanLuman1392083711 3 years
I don't know why the choice to live with your father would be such a bad choice. Children need a strong male and female influence in their life to grow up without feeling a deep void. When the original custodial party feels a loss they need to think what their child is gaining. They should also think of the many years that the other parent had to take a step back and be the non-custodial parent. What goes around comes around. Your kids aren't going to be living in your house forever. If they leave a few years sooner than you expected it really won't be that bad.
Merary14995502 Merary14995502 3 years
One last thing: I wonder..... When it is dad (and sometimes a step-mom) who raise the child and they suddenly decide to live with mom, the response is usually, "yes! They need their mother" and blah blah along with a gazillion reasons why it is a "must" and a "need" that this move occur. So I wonder, why are we not as diligent to protect the father-child relationship? .... Like my mom says, "you call it 'Tomato,' I call it 'Tomahto' LOLOLOL
Merary14995502 Merary14995502 3 years
This article made me sick to my stomach. I stopped reading after the paragraph "Let Them Go." "They'll have to deal with the consequences." Ummm huh? I find your rhetoric quite demeaning and condescening toward a father's ability to care for a child. This article REEKS of a "holier/better than men/fathers," a common and sad trend. I am a daddy's girl, and as much as I love my mom, would pick my dad 10x out of 10. Want to know why? Because of EXACTLY what this article reflects: a need to put MOM's best interest ahead with the facade that "it's about the child" and "protecting" the child. Really? Children need protection from the man YOU OPENED WIDE FOR AND MAINTAINED A LIFE WITH? More often than not, its simple, dads get it because they're not such an emotional being. My kids are independent human beings, they're NOT my possession, even though we incorrectly fight tooth and tail to establish that our kids would are. DADS ARE NOT SPERM DONORS LADIES! AND IF HE IS A "TERRIBLE" FATHER NOW, MORE LIKELY THAN NOT, THIS IS THE SAME MAN YOU LAID DOWN WITH AND FOUND "WONDERFUL" BEFORE THE SEPARATION. Like I said, I absolutely LOVE my mom, we have an amazing relationship and I know there's not a thing she wouldn't do for me- but that is beside the point. Meaning, IT IS NOT ALWAYS ABOUT MOMMY DEAREST. As a sidenote, I always find it interesting: When kids who have lived with their mother's for most of their life want to explore/develop/deepen the relationship with the father, it "must" be ecause said child is being "lured" or "brainwashed." Sadly, most mothers couldn't accept that it TRULY isn't about them.
Ashley14765708 Ashley14765708 4 years
As a step-mother, I'm appalled by this article. It''s very obviously written with the mother's emotional needs in mind. Sometimes the child's best interest is to live with the father. In the case of my step-son, there was no luring him over with promises of a better life. The plain fact of the matter is....some women should never be mothers. And children see that. They know who pays attention to them, provides for them, and parents them. I know this website is dedicated to mothers but have a little respect for the father as well. They get the shitty end of the deal 95% of the time.
TMiller1366310364 TMiller1366310364 4 years
My daughter and I are not fighting but her dad is trying to convince her to move in with him. He's expecting a new baby and tells me he wants our daughter to come help his latest wife, #4, with babysitting. Plus he says he no longer wants to have to pay child support. Our marriage failed because of his infidelity. He is selfish and manipulative and was emotionally abusive (basically told me I was worthless everyday, chased down every skirt including my sister's, refused to get a job, etc.). However, I have chosen not to reveal his faults to our children because the subject is personal and inappropriate. I know children see themselves as an extension of their parents and I never wanted to make them feel bad about themselves. So, when they begged me not to make them go for visits (saying their father ignored them and they were bored), I insisted that they should spend time with him while they still had a chance and it was only for a few weeks. My son actually failed a class on purpose one summer so he'd have to stay home for summer school and not have to go to his dad's. But now my ex has admitted that he's been talking bad about me behind my back and trying to turn the kids away from me. He does not have our daughter's best interest at heart and I feel as though he just wants to use her. She still has 2 years left of high school and he lives in the worst school district in the state. He promised her one thing this summer, that he'd help her get her driver's license and hasn't even started her in a class yet. Says he's been too busy. He is a recovering alcoholic who still smokes pot but when I confronted him, he promised not to smoke when the kids were over. If she goes to live with him, I fear she'll suffer irreperable emotional damage. She is so innocent and sweet. I just can't see leaving her to live with this ogre.
ClaudiaJarez1369780223 ClaudiaJarez1369780223 4 years
This is a very good and informational, internet information page, I really could use some of these, right now, I was told the same thing by numerous family members, to just let her go, and do her thing, as much as it will hurt me to let her go, she keeps threatening me that if I don't let her miss school ie...she will live with her Dad...she missed alot of days of school..till the school attendant told her she can be responsible for her own life if she misses, school....
DianeWisley DianeWisley 4 years
My 16 year old son decided over Christmas break at his father's he was staying. I feel betrayed by my ex and very hurt by my son. He text me this decision. He and I were arguing and he had become verbally abusive towards me. My ex has a wife and an adopted 3 year old. We live in the same very small town. My son just came over for the weekend and I was on eggshells on the time. My stomach hurts. The power has changed. We were coming to a decision all together to have my son go to his fathers for a month or two. I was close to agreeing with it. Nothing permanent, but to seperate us to work on our relationship. I believe he needs a man in his life at this age. He loves his father and sees no wrong there. I am seeing a counselor tomorrow...the same one he and I are going to. I am focusing on me. But going through a divorce, having my oldest leave for college last Sept and now having my son's just a lot emotionally. I didn't see this coming. But I know of course Christmas was a lot of fun...skiing, his aunt and uncle were out so there was a lot of activity. This puts me back emotionally when my husband walked out. And in saying goodbye today, I did tear up. It's not ok for my son to not live with me. The counselor said to give him space and I will.
kathypetersen64398 kathypetersen64398 4 years
My 15 year old went to live with dad and refuses all contact. She sounds just like my abusive ex when she texts me. Same words. Same power tactics etc.. Scary. I don't think it is good to just let her go and let him have free license to manipulate my daughter against me. He has found the replacement mother for my daughter. All three of them degrade, demoralize and attack me like I am not worthy of a relationship with either of my daughters. It is sick. What kind of relationship would they have if they didn't have me to pick on? If I don't fight for my right to be a parent what would I be teaching my daughter? Bend down to the power of the men in your life. I think this would be a tact that would set her up for picking an abuser as a partner for herself. Thanks very much for the article. It is a horrible situation when a child is manipulated by an abuser to turn their back on a loving parent.
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