Straight Talk Advice

Feb 18, 2014

Teen loves parents equally but wants to live with mom

Dear Straight Talk: I'm 16 and my parents divorced last year. I love them equally but I live with my mom because there is more structure here that's helpful for school. However, now my dad is remarried and is pressuring me to live at his house. He knows I don't like switching houses every a week (parents, you try it) so he is pressuring me to move in full time. I do stay there certain weekends and holidays already and often have dinner there, but I really don't want to live there. I feel so bad about this! The pressure is making me really emotional and unstable. I'm ready to move there just to solve the problem — even though I totally don't want to! Why can't he just be okay with me living where it's best for me without this big guilt trip? How can I convince him that I love both parents equally even though I want to live with just one of them? —Torn Apart by Guilt

Moriah 17, Rutland, Vt. Ask me a question

To help eliminate the “favorite parent” problem, make it clear that the choice is for you. It's better for you personally. Most parents appreciate teens making beneficial life decisions, since many don't. You might mention this.

Carlos 18, Fairfax, Va. Ask me a question

I went through this. My mom was moving to the U.S. and my dad was staying in Bolivia. It was too much pressure for an eight-year-old, but I told Dad I loved him with all my heart, and it was best to move with Mom because not only did she need me, I needed her. Sit him down and express your love. Then follow with what you know is best.

Breele 20, Dana Point, Calif. Ask me a question

You're 16, you don't need justification, just clarity: “Dad, I love you and this is what I'm doing.” Don't move because you feel bad for him. He's a grown man, he'll get over it. My dad did. I experienced something similar. And shame on him for how much he guilt-tripped me! The strain he created in our relationship was his doing. I wanted to live with my mom — and I did. Despite the strain, my life was incomparably happier in the more stable household. Keep doing in life what makes you feel empowered and strong.

Warren 24, Nashville, Mich. Ask me a question

Stability is important for school and mental health. Your parents love you and ultimately want what's best for you. That said: Do what's best for you. Your father may be upset or sad, but in time he will understand. Just let him know how much you love him and continue visiting him. That's how I dealt with my parent's divorce and I have an excellent relationship with both of them now.

Katelyn 19, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

Tell him your mom provides more structure, and that he provides other things (love, emotional support, etc.), and that you love them equally. Suggest that you'll call more often or schedule regular “daddy dates” (along with the dinners, weekends and holidays). If he continues pressuring and guilt-tripping, ignore it and stick to your reasoning. He'll either come around, or he won't — and neither will be your fault.

Dear Torn Apart: The freedom to “choose” between parents can indeed be a major source of stress and destabilization — especially if parents use guilt and manipulation “pick me” cards. I find it easy to support your choice because you want the more structured environment (as opposed to the one with the most toys and/or fewest rules) — AND you're not excluding your father. Now, if he could just relax and enjoy you! It's important to be absolutely firm about your decision. When you waver, it makes him keep trying.

Editor's Note: One of best things for a parent in a divorce to realize is that you are your kid's Mother and Father — with Capital Letters. Even if you did or do something super bad, even LOTS of super bad things, in almost ALL cases, you will still be LOVED by your children — just because you are Mother and Father.

Too often parents feel insecure about their lovability during a divorce and begin coveting, bargaining, manipulating, and fighting over the children due to this insecurity, all at a terrible price to the children. If that's you: RELAX! Your children will almost always love you!

THE IDEAL PARENTS following divorce:

• Don't covet or manipulate the kids.

• Don't bad-mouth the other parent.

• Both actively and genuinely encourage the kids to keep up a relationship with the other parent — holding them to it, when necessary. (It is good for their future.)

• In dealing with teens, both parents encourage the teen to make primary the residence where there is structure, hands-on support, low media exposure, healthy regular meals, and rules conducive to success. It is incredibly difficult to succeed in high school today without such structure and hands-on support. If both homes provide that, and are within reasonable distance from school, that could mean the teen schleps back and forth, although schlepping is, by nature, difficult and rupturing of structure.

• Parents are willing to have a non live-in relationship, or a weekend relationship, or something creative — which can be wonderful when the teen is happy, healthy and successful. They will love you all the more for it. —Lauren

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  1. By Colin, age , from Sacramento, Calif. on 02/18/2014

    The best thing you can do is simply be honest with your father and tell him what you said here.  If I were you I’d emphasize that living with your mother helps you in school.  Remind him that you love him equally, and maybe spend a little more time with him to show him that.

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  2. By Vickie, age , from Carmichael, CA on 02/18/2014

    I was in a similar situation and went to live with my dad against my better judgment.  When my parents broke up and my dad moved out, they both agreed that my younger brother and sister should stay with our mom, but that I was old enough to decide for myself with whom I wanted to live.  I love my dad, but at my age I really felt the need to live with my mom full-time, and of course have frequent visits with my dad.  However, he made me feel guilty that he would be left all alone.  He also said I would be much better off since I would have my own room and not have to share a room with my sister any more.  It was against my better judgment, but I gave in and went to live with him.  I’m sorry I did so.  There are many things that a girl my age needs a mom for that a dad just can’t do.  Also, having my own room wasn’t anything that great after the novelty wore off, and I starting missing the companionship of my sister with whom I had always been close.  We still see each other and share a room when I go there for visitations, but it’s not the same and will never be the same again.  I really wish I had gone with my instincts and had not let myself be pressured into this.


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    1. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Sebastopol on 02/18/2014

      Vickie—Your comment will help others in the same boat and I appreciate you writing in. You don’t ask for advice, but please know that nothing is written in stone and at any point you CAN move back to your mom’s. As Breele said, you don’t need justification, just clarity. He is a grown man and he WILL get over it. Breele also says: Do in life what makes you empowered and strong. I couldn’t agree more.—Love, Lauren

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  3. By Tammy, age , from Vacaville, CA on 02/19/2014

    I had an experience similar to Vickie.  I moved in with my dad and his new wife so that I could have my own room and get away from my little sister who couldn’t leave me alone and drove me crazy.  But not too long after I moved in my new stepmom’s 20 year old daughter lost her job and moved in with us and I had to share my room with her.  Sharing a room with her was MUCH worse than with my sister.  Even though she moved in on me, she resented having to share a room with me and made no secret of it.  She was older and very domineering and acted like I had no rights and was always putting me down.  I couldn’t even get undressed without her putting me down for how bad I looked since I’m somewhat overweight which was very humiliating.  My sister never did anything like this and undressing in front of each other was never an issue. 

    I had to swallow my pride and move back in with my mom and my sister. My sister was actually happy to have me back in our room so that she could go back to driving me crazy, but after my stepsister, sharing a room with her didn’t seem so bad anymore.

    Anybody put in the position of having to make a choice like this should do what feels right, but it shouldn’t be based on something like getting your own room.


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  4. By T.C., age , from Petaluma, CA on 02/22/2014

    When our parents separated pending a divorce, my older sister was given the option of living with our dad or staying with our mom and me and our younger brother.  She really wanted to stay with us, but I wanted my own room, so I made things as bad as possible for her so that she would go with our dad and she reluctantly decided to do so to get away from me.  I’m very sorry I did this.  As Vickie says, having my own room wasn’t any big deal after the novelty wore off and not as wonderful as I thought it would be, and I started missing my big sister who actually had always been really good to me.  We share a room when she stays with us on visitations every other weekend, but she barely speaks to me after the way I treated her and got her to move out.  I’ve tried to be very good to her when she’s here and we’re sharing a room with the hope that maybe she’ll move back, but so far there’s no indication that she will and I get the feeling that she likes being away from me and I can’t really blame her after the way I treated her.


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  5. By Misty, age , from Vacaville, CA on 02/22/2014

    There actually can be advantages to an arrangement like this.  When our parents divorced we worked out an arrangement where my sister and I would each live with one parent and switch every six months.  My dad moved to a place close enough that we wouldn’t have to change schools.  It has worked out quite well.  My sister and I weren’t getting along at all and hated having to share a room and having to share our only bathroom in the morning and sometimes couldn’t even have privacy “on the facility” as has been discussed in Straight Talk.  Now that we’re only together and sharing a room every other weekend we get along much better and have become much closer.  Since we see the other parent all the time as we live close by and stay with one of them six months at a time, it works out great.  As Vickie says, there are things that a teenage girl needs a mom for, but I see her often enough even when I’m living at my dad’s that it’s not a problem.


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  6. By sherrill, age , from Santa Rosa, CA on 02/23/2014

    here’s something I don’t see mentioned. When my ex and I divorced, he did his best to get our 14 year old to move in with him. Reasons? Mostly he wanted to pay less child support and have the tax deduction, and that’s the truth. At first she was flattered to have dad wooing her. I forced her to stay living with the rest of us for 3 months, then told her she could decide after that. By the time the three months was up, she was well aware that life at dad’s was not going to be paradise, and it was never brought up again. The girls continued to have a relationship with their dad, but none of them ever wanted to move into his house.  The best thing this girl can do is just tell her dad “Look, Dad, this is not about winning a popularity contest. It’s about what I feel works best for me with school right now,” and let it go at that. She sounds like she has a good head on her shoulders. She should not let herself be manipulated by guilt or pressure from her dad.

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  7. By Hana, age 28, from USA on 06/28/2018

    The only solution I can think about is talking straight to your father. You can’t live in unstable condition, it’s exhausted.

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