Dear Mary-anne: Is our bitter divorce damaging our son?
ADVICE: I have two sons and a daughter ranging from 12 to 15 and, as of last Christmas, no husband. He moved out to live with a junior partner from his law firm. I know I haven't coped well. I cried every day for months and once when my husband's new partner lent my daughter a sweater I returned it, shredded, in a bag.
My eldest son and my daughter seem to have escaped the fallout and they quite like the upgraded companion, but my middle boy is a ball of rage. He will not speak or see my ex, he's getting into trouble at school and just last week I found an electronic clothing tag in the rubbish that suggests shoplifting.
I'll admit I wasn't a good example and I'm disappointed that I behaved the way I did. My ex wants the three of us to meet and discuss our middle child's behaviour. Whilst I do want to help my child, I don't want to be in the same room as that woman.
I'm sorry you've been so hurt and humiliated, but your misery and retaliation is damaging your middle child — well probably all three — but he's the one displaying the symptoms. You'll already know it's not a victory if any child takes one side in the divorce fracas — there are no winners in the long run.
The ball of rage you mentioned will eat your boy up. I'm guessing he's about 14 – still a child, but trying to fight an adult battle.
It's good that your ex wants to help and if the new partner is keen to be involved then I'd really encourage you to include her.Take your son perhaps and let him witness you apologise for shredding the sweater. The apology isn't a loss of face for you; it puts you in a position of strength and control and it might be the catalyst your son needs to heal and move on.
Your son won't want to be angry and fighting, so the important thing is to let him have his relationship with his father again. Your three children need their dad and the new partner is now part of the deal.
Take care of yourself though. You'll still blowout, but save your rage and tears for when you're with friends or completely alone – away from your children anyway.
And lastly, the electronic tag? This is exactly the sort of thing that always panicked me in the past and often there was a simple, albeit bizarre, explanation. Put the tag in clear view on the bench and see what comes of it. You'll be able to tell pretty quickly by your son's initial reaction if you have anything to worry about, and you can take your cues from his response.
Mary-anne Scott has raised four boys and written two novels for young adults including Coming Home to Roost. As one of seven sisters there aren't many parenting problems she hasn't talked over. To send her a question email firstname.lastname@example.org with Dear Mary-anne in the subject line.