Q: Is it normal for my high school daughter to want to live with her dad and his wife?

She does not want a relationship with me, her real mother, or her half brother. I don’t know what brought about the change. She won’t talk to me about any real issues; she just says that I stress her out.


A: Without knowing the details of the family situation, it is difficult to provide a specific answer. Is it normal for a child to choose one parent over another? Absolutely. What are parents to do when they feel left out of a relationship with their children? It depends on the situation, but here is some general information about children and divorce that may be helpful.

  • The decision on where children live should be made by adults.
    Children should not make the final decision on where they will live. Allow children to give input, but adults must make the decision based what will be best for the children. Look at the discrepancies between the two households. Is one parent better prepared to provide a structured, caring environment for the child? Are the adults in one household more like to establish and enforce reasonable rules? Will one household allow an overindulgence of material items while another is more conservative? Does one allow more freedom while the other is more confined?
  • Parents should work together.
    Separated parents need to work hard on maintaining a relationship so that they can work together to provide consistent rules and expectations at both homes. Consequences should be as consistent as possible between the two households. It is imperative that parents do not bad mouth one another in front of the child.
  • A relationship with both parents is important.
    If children live with one parent, it is critical that both parents reinforce the importance of spending quality time with the other parent on a set schedule. The noncustodial parent must remain involved in his or her children’s lives. It may not be in the traditional ways, but it can be through scheduled visits, phone calls, e-mails, parent-teacher conferences, attendance at the children’s activities or time spent together in a neutral location.
  • Get professional help if necessary.
    This situation may be one that is ideal for a professional counselor to help make decisions that are best for your family, provide support for you as a mother and help rebuild the positive relationship with your daughter.