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Teens & Blended Families: Frequently a hotbed of struggles

answered 01:44 PM EST, Tue November 08, 2011
I don’t know what to do. I have been married to my wife for 3 years and it is a good marriage, the second for both us. I have an 11 year old daughter and a 13 year old son from my first marriage and I have shared custody of the kids, taking them on weekends and my wife has full custody of her 17 year old son.

At first things were quite good. My kids really liked and looked up to their older step brother and we were able to have a lot of fun as a new family without a lot of the drama that sometimes taints new family unions. Over the last 18 months or so though, my wife’s son has really gone through some major changes, changing from a basically sweet and adventurous kid who liked to push the boundaries a bit to a sullen and irritable boy who won’t go to school and who, I think, is a drug addict.

We have tried everything with him but he is just determined to do what he wants to do and he doesn’t give a damn about the consequences. I really think he has a serious drug problem, at the very least with marijuana. It’s very sad and it’s terribly hard on my wife who is at her wit’s end. But what’s worse, is now my ex-wife is hearing a lot of stories about ‘the parties’ and ‘the drugs’ and ‘the girls sleeping over’ etc. And she is understandably very concerned about the influence he is having on our kids. I am too, actually. She says if I can’t get control of things she is going to seek full custody.

So now I really don’t know what to do. I feel like I am caught in an impossible situation and I am forced to choose between my wife, who I love and my kids, and in this situation, I have to choose my kids…but it is just such a sad thing if this ends my marriage. Any advice on what I can do to make this better?

Ken Sneed Says...

Ken Sneed K. Sneed

I don't know that there is one simple answer for this kind of problem, and you're certainly not the first person to wrestle with something like this.

My initial thought is that you can begin with a combination of counseling for her son and your family and add some healthy, firm and loving boundaries.  Locate a good counselor with a good reputation for working with adolescents and their families and get the process started.  Also, read the book, Boundaries, by Cloud and Townsend.  

I'm also concerned that your wife might be acting in an enabling manner that allows her son to act out without experiencing consequences for his behavior.  If there are no consequences, why should he change his actions?  The two of you must talk about being firm with him about what will/will not be acceptable and in a loving way, initiate consequences that will give him a reason to want to act in a responsible way.

Again, get the counseling process started and do what you learn is likely to give the best results. 

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Page last updated Nov 08, 2011

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