'My Son Wants To Live With His Dad': How To Handle Joint Custody


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How to maintain your bond with your child while satisfying everyone's needs.

Suddenly, your son springs on you that he's made the decision that he'd like to live with his father full-time — the joint custody arrangement you had shared with your ex-husband is no longer meeting his needs (at least in his mind). To your son, this may seem a logical request, but to you, it signals the end of a relationship and the closeness you once shared. You may even be taken aback at the emotions you’re feeling and be unsure of where to turn.

The reality is that we all change as we grow and develop. But, while you may have noticed certain developmental changes taking place in your son, this request from seemingly left-field has the potential to be particularly hurtful to you.


I'd like to share with you several critical strategies for coping with both your son's request and the feelings that may arise in you, and for maintaining, and even strengthening, the bond you share.

Communication Is Key
In order to cope with your son's wish, you must take care of your own needs and desires while remaining calm and meeting those of your son as well. Communication is key to learn what's at the core of his request. And, it's important to be realistic about your son's developmental needs and the relationship you share with his father.

Keep in mind that the mother-son bond is strong. Actor James Dean once commented on his rebellious, troubled nature by saying, "My mother died on me when I was nine years old. What does she expect me to do? Do it alone?"

We’re often confronted with daily reminders of the complexities of joint custody out of Hollywood. Entertainers like Charlie Sheen and Brooke Mueller, Pete Wentz and Ashlee Simpson, Gabriel Aubry and Halle Barry, and of course one of the most famous couples, Kevin Federline and Britney Spears, have all attempted to establish a "working" parental relationship with one another, while seeking custody of their children. 6 Lessons From Jennifer Lopez And Marc Anthony's Divorce 

While your circumstance may not play out in the headlines, it's no less heartbreaking and emotional. However, the bond between mother and son can't be broken by a simple change of address. This is an opportunity to strengthen, rather than diminish, your relationship.

Recognize Your Son's Needs
His needs become more complex as he ages. Many of them can be difficult, and as women, we can only speculate as to the journey a boy must navigate to grow into a man. During your time together, you've taught him certain things he must know to be kind and compassionate as he matures. And, you've taken care with the small lessons that present themselves daily that only you can teach: opening doors for a lady, listening, taking other's feelings into consideration, etc.

His father has the ability to teach him other skills necessary that we, as mothers, cannot. These are most typically through modeling: confidence, risk-taking, and how to develop respect for his body are just several of the skills his father can impart. Bonding between father and son is as critical to your son's development as the bond the two of you share.

This article was originally published at Mary Kay Cocharo . Reprinted with permission.
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Mary Kay Cocharo


Mary Kay Cocharo, LMFT, Certified Imago Relationship Counselor and Master Encounter-centered Couples Therapist

11340 W. Olympic Blvd. Suite 210, Los Angeles,  California 90064 310.828.2624 www.mkcocharo.com

Location: Los Angeles, CA
Credentials: LMFT, Other
Specialties: Communication Problems, Couples/Marital Issues, Dating/Being Single Support
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