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I'm at a complete loss, as is my husband, on how to deal with this situation. I'll try to be brief. All input is welcome. Thank you.

My husband has sole custody of his 3 boys. I have primary placement and majority time with my kids. We live over an hour apart for about 4 years.

His ex-wife began sending him text messages of pictures, memories, songs, vacations, and the like. Stopped and turned to messages of hatred, anger, gross/inappropriate images, and the like.

His oldest began living with me (essentially) but turned to telling me he hated me, my husband and I would never work, damaging my property, and causing harm to my children through physical and emotional means, including an effort to ruin our first family vacation (partially successfully) and spreading inappropriate rumors about my oldest at school.

My kids have accepted my husband and his children with no ill will, anger, conditions since day one. Normal jealousy and time issues, and sibling comparisons/battles but nothing outside the home and nothing overly destructive. My ex, as well, has never said anything to my boys negative. Only in the beginning he inquired if my ex husband was/is good to the boys and how relationships are with his kids. Normal.

Influence on issue: Ex-wife has no rules in her home, does not monitor what the kids do including on the internet, what they eat is catered to the kids (mainly the youngest who is now 9), nor chores or responsibilities. In our home, where 5 of the 6 reside the majority of the year (90%+) there are rules, responsibilities, expectations, consequences for actions as well as rewards, variety of meals (sometimes loved and sometimes not), as well as careful monitoring of behaviors and influences including video games and the Internet.

Mom wants her youngest boy but not the middle boy as she has no influence over the middle, and extreme over the youngest. The oldest also has heavy influence on the youngest. So, mom and oldest brother every time they have the youngest say things to him like, "I hate her," "She is a bad person," "She is not your mom," "Her kids are not your brothers," "You don't have to listen to her," "Is she feeding you, "Has she touched you," "Is she mean to you," among other comments. They even called Child Services which came back "unfounded" on me, the stepmom.

Problem: His 9 year old has acted out for over a year against me and my boys. Most recently Child Services suggested counseling for his youngest to help resolve issues, but $3,000 later there are no changes. My husband thought military school to get discipline and appreciation in kids life. Until a new development. This week the 9 year old said he hates me (not a first time), he believes his mom and brother about me, does not want to change his behavior toward me and will not change his behavior, he will not accept me, and that the counseling has done nothing to change his opinions or his intentions in our family home.

Question: What do we do? How do we approach the problem?

Thank you.
Dearest kitty709,

I sure do empathize with you. My family is blended as well; his mine and ours. I had to learn to stay out of the issues on my husband’s side of the family. He and I can converse together about things, but he still is responsible to parent his own children. They are not ‘mine’. They have and love their own mother, faults and all, just like my children love me as their mother. We can't repair the children's hearts by pretending that the new dynamic in their lives is the best one. If you accept the fact that their father rejected part of who they are when he rejected their mother, you can learn to be understanding about how harsh it is on children that their family is broken, and if you do, then you might be able to become a friend and gain their respect. But you will NEVER replace their mother. Their father chose to abandon the original family for whatever reason. It really doesn't matter why, it happened and it is over. Their family is permanently broken. Their brokenness should evoke only empathy. And their own father should apologize to his children for his part in contributing to their pain and causing division. If he will do this it will help heal the division. The children now have two completely different types of families. Please stop expecting them to choose between the two. That is like expecting someone to choose between the front or back side of their own body!

You are experiencing the typical situation that often arises from judging the mom that was not granted primary custody. You can learn to be a real friend to your husband's children by not judging the children's mother. The children are trying to show you that they love and choose their own mother. She is blessed to have their love and loyalty. To your step children your position is always going to be the outsider. I think you need to back off and stop mothering (smothering) the step children. The children are acting totally normal. It's not their fault the parents divorced. It is not your job to change them.

Make sure to NEVER criticize your step children’s mother to the children or to your husband! It will always ricochet back on you. If you have done that apologize as soon as possible to the children. They love their parents. You are the interloper. The children’s mother belongs to them and they belong to her. It’s not our place as “steps” to critique the other parent or the children. We make the rules for our own household, only. What children may be allowed at the other parent’s home is not at all our business. We need to differentiate this in a kind and understanding way with the children when they visit. Let them know mommy and daddy have their own homes and rules, and that it is normal and OK. It is just different..

Let me be clear that I don’t blame you for all of the confusion at your home, but you certainly can choose to be a critical part of the answer. Doing what it takes is up to you. I suggest that you & your husband get counseling for yourselves. You are the ones with the problem, so take a hard look at what you are doing, saying, expecting. All families are different, and the children should NEVER be compared. Children should never be made to feel they need to choose against a parent. That cuts them to the bone, as the children are both parent’s flesh & blood. We adults need to think…just which arm and leg are we expecting them to severe? It seems you mean well enough, but no one can replace a blood parent, not even if the parent is not a good parent. Children have eyes, so let them judge for themselves. When we judge our own flesh & blood we are judging ourselves. If you want the children to accept who they are so they can relax and make better choices, you need to accept who they are. That means we have to stop judging the children and the other parent, and learn how to be better, more loving and accepting and self-disciplined parents ourselves.

First you have to let go of seeing yourself as being the victim. You only need to take care of your own attitude and the dynamic will change dramatically, at least in regard to your relationship with the children. It involves facing the fact that to them you 'took' their dad from their family. The only way to stop the bleeding is to begin to see things from the children's point of view, as this is not about who is ‘right’. Your own children's stability comes from the fact that you and your ex have a congenial relationship. Your only role is to demonstrate understanding and empathy for the difficult position the step children are in. The more you can do this the more the step children have space to relax and stop feeling they need to defend their mother.
Note the fact that your new husband did not replace your children's father. The children did not create this mess in their lives. The rules of your household should not ever be compared to or confused with who is their mother. In case you don't know, some of the greatest geniuses and contributors to society come from messy and chaotic homes.

Think about it. Are you raising soldiers to do as they are ordered or contented contributors to society. The book Cinderella is more about the result of over-bearing perfectionism and jealousy than about the ending. The children don't need a new mommy, and they do not need ‘fixed’. It is as simple as that. If you can communicate with the children that you are sorry they have to suffer the choices of the parents and tell them you just want to be their friend, the healing will start.
There is nothing you can do about her behaviour. The only way to deal with the alienating parent is to basically ignore whatever she says or does. Do not retaliate or respond to the child with any blame for stuff that he is obviously repeating. Treat him with the kindness you have always shown him. This is an issue which will be ongoing until he is old enough to work it out for himself. We have had much of the same trouble with my son's ex wife, but the children are now older and they look back and know that we were always kind and loving to them, no matter what their mother said. He will have that same memory of you in the future and that is when things will improve. The counselling did not work because the mother was probably actively undermining it. Hang in there, Sera





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