Dear Thelma: Separated from my wife and kids are out of control


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I seek your advice for my current dilemma. My wife and I separated officially in 2019 after I failed in getting her to cooperate and agree with me.

I gave her the custody of our four children – three sons and a daughter, aged between 10 and 21 years old. The youngest is my 10-year-old daughter. I did that because my children have chosen to live with their mother and there was no custody battle because I didn’t want to make things worse and affect the emotions of my children who are still young and immature. However I am only allowed to see them in the “affidavit”.



Today, problems have emerged, as I had foreseen, and they need to be tackled before things become more serious in future.

My 19-year-old sons are free to do as they like and I can’t control them. They don’t like to be counselled and are aggressive and easily provoked. These are also their mother’s traits.

Through her family, I have tried to advise her to be more reasonable but I failed to persuade her. She is rather stubborn and immature. We told her to be more mature, restrained and patient. Her negative traits will be bad examples to her children who are prone to imitate her, as evident in our sons who are already displaying such controversial behaviour.

This phenomenon is worrying me because this attitude and moral will cause problems in their interactions with society and their family in future.

I also have difficulty seeing my daughter as she is afraid of being scolded by her mother.

I think one of the ways of resolving these issues is for my ex-wife to be counselled by experienced professionals so she could think with more wisdom and professionalism.

I hope you are able to advise. Can I go to court if she refuses counselling?

KSK

This is a legal question for a court to answer. However, before you do that, I strongly suggest you do some soul searching. I say this because your letter is full of anger, which is not good for you or your family.

You and your wife quarrelled and no longer live together. Your letter makes it unclear whether you are separated or divorced, but I don't think that matters for this issue.

I would point out to you that when adults have children, they have to act as parents. That means nurturing little children into independent adults.

Parenting involves fun stuff like reading bedtime stories, going for activities, and playing, as well as duties like being there for parent-teacher meetings, helping guide kids through struggles like homework, quarrels with friends, standing up to peer pressure and more.

If the marriage doesn't work out, the parenting duties still exist. Even if the adults decide they can't stand each other, it is their job to work together well enough so that they can both parent their kids.

It's a challenge, but it's not impossible. Just like in families where a parent is away for long periods, on military duty, for example, or working overseas, the parenting bond is maintained by frequent calls, and enjoying bulk time together during school holidays.

From your letter, that didn't happen. You handed over the kids and parenting responsibility to your wife and are now criticising the results. Roping in her family to chastise her has led to an us-against-them situation.

Therefore, I think the first step should be for you to ask yourself some searching questions.

How do you see your role as a parent? How did you parent when you were married, and how did it change when your marriage ended? How did these changes affect your relationship with your kids?

When you and your wife quarrelled, the kids chose to live with her. Why was that? How does that make you feel? How did it impact on your relationships?

You handed over custody to your wife. Examine why you did that. Then ask how this approach impacted on your relationship with your kids.

Do include your children's point of view. In angry separations, kids can feel abandoned by a parent who doesn't pursue shared custody. Kids sometimes see it as,"They didn't want me enough to fight for me."

While some will embrace that parent anyway, others will experience complex feelings including hurt and anger. Sometimes, kids do not want to engage at all. If it's not handled properly, there is permanent estrangement.

You describe your two 19-year-old sons as easily provoked. I'm suggesting feelings of rejection may be an underlying factor here.

Also, you clearly don't like your former wife, but you don't say anything nice about your kids either. In fact, you don't appear to like them much at all. Why is that? What exactly do you expect from them?

Finally, your idea that you will give orders about how things should be and have your wife scolded by courts and counsellors into toeing your line. You really need to drop that. Ask yourself where that comes from, and what you expect to get out of that attitude.

In short, improving your relationships will take time and a lot of reflection. I think you would benefit from working with a mental health professional.

Once you have a clearer perspective, you can try and work it out. Three are adults, so you can approach them directly. As for your daughter, if access is an issue, then courts can mandate.

However, do deal with the emotions first, because without that insight, you're not going to get a lot of effective change.

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