My marriage ended when my children were in their teenage years.

My son was 13 and my daughter was 15.   Our “parenting plan” was that the children would live with me for the majority of the time.  My ex would have them for dinner one night a week and every other weekend.

I thought that this was not enough time.  I thought that the kids would feel deserted by their dad but he was adamant.

We argued a lot about it but he thought that this was the best situation for the children. And by best, what he really meant was that he felt it would be best for ME to make sure that his children were disciplined, stayed on track at school and deal with the emotional ups and downs of two raging teenagers.  He felt his role was to have a lovely dinner once a week with them, and to be a Disney Dad every other weekend spoiling them rotten. No rules, no curfews. They could do whatever they wanted. And he could did whatever he wanted.

Tired of fighting, I agreed.

This worked for the first year. However problems started to arise with the kids. My son was drinking, smoking drugs (and dealing I think), doing poorly in school and not respecting me or any boundaries I had set.  My daughter found a new boyfriend and skipped school constantly.

Every day the school called about one of them and every night there was fierce fighting.

My life was again turned upside down.

I started seeing a parent coach and my focus was to parent my kids with both love and boundaries. I asked my ex to come with me so that we could be a united front.  He told me I was overreacting and didn’t think there was a problem.  He actually told me that this was normal adolescent behaviour and that I was the problem!

Frustrated, sad, alone and exhausted, I knew how much I loved my children and how important it was that I was there for them as they were spiralling off the tracks.

And then one day, they both came home and told me that they didn’t want to live with me anymore. That they were both going to live with their dad. He was more chill, and he let them be.  Shocked, I said that is not happening.  And they proceeded to tell me that their Dad was fine with them moving and that it was their choice.

They have recently moved and I don’t even know how to navigate this chapter. I know moving in with their Dad will be the worst thing for them.  I have dedicated my life to raising these kids, and now at the most crucial point where they really need strong parental guidance they have gone.

They are slipping through my fingers and I am unable to stop it.


Lauren, 46

49 Responses to “My teenagers have chosen to move out and live with their Dad”

  1. Anonymous

    I have been where you are now and it is a tough situation. I think if they do move in with their dad it will be a wake up call for all of them. Just be there to continue to support them and love them and maybe help pick up the pieces if it doesn’t work out. Take care of yourself also.

      • Anonymous

        I am existing through this – but have realised I HAVE to keep
        living ….and see what happens if they choose to come back ….

      • Anonymous

        I am also in this situation and it’s extremely difficult…a lot of people say give my son space but I find it hard not to even send him a text.

  2. Cricket

    I have been through something similar. As a mom, it can be devastating. Just know your not alone. Take this time to really focus on you… counseling, self-care, and anything you’ve put off doing because your focus has been your kids. Continue to love them and support them while continuing to provide healthy boundaries. The day will come that they will respect you for that. I am in the place now that I can look back and see the silver lining. I am the happiest and healthiest I have ever been in my adult life. I wish the same for you… that you can look back five years from now and be proud of what a great job you have done not just moving through this, but in creating a stronger, happier, healthier you.

    • Lauren

      Thank you Cricket. I actually don’t know anyone this has happened to. I feel like a failure – first my marriage now my kids. What is wrong with me?

      • Mother of4

        I my opinion ..let them move in have him finally see what you’ve been dealing with call the school and tell them to call him if any problems come up…believe me your ex will be changing his tune once everything gets out of control in his life..sit back and watch!

        • Frank

          Why would you assume that a man can not handle this? I am tired of this shovanistic thinking towards men. My boys are 10 and 15, both moved in with me after the divorce. I have a full time career, maintain a very clean house, take care of school activities, sports on the weekends and cook meals for them every night execept Friday. Women feel empowered by this way of thinking. We can take care of ourselves and our children, just like any mother can. I want to be able to take care of any problems in school, I want to be tere when they are sick. Sit back and watch a real man take care of his life and children! There are men that can do this!!!!

          • MINDY

            RARITY!! Good for you . We do fall into the stereotype view that a man cannot achieve what you are doing.
            Maybe you can run some workshops for the rest of the lame male population that are fathers,

          • Colleen

            Yes, but You are few and far between. We know You exist. Just not in our worlds nor the worlds of our Children. And, it is the Children that really matter to Us.

          • Anonymous

            Totally agree with you, I preferred my father myself, especially in the teen years as I wanted to become a man…

      • Benji

        There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. I am in the same situation, though the dad made this happen, and I see that the kids need someone who holds the balloons. This is the phrase that came to me early on, because who is going to say, “I am not discussing the divorce with you.” or about money “that is not your problem.” to an eighteen year old? Me. Because good boundaries have to be modeled and life really is a learning ground. I am learning to take really good care of myself, make sure the bullying stops on all levels, and practically moving forward. The best part for me is seeing that I am fun to be around, easygoing, and the more time I spend doing ME stuff, the better it is. When I create a strong and ethical life, I move forwards, and I say no to my ex strongly, and to others who have his opinion of me, and amazingly, this has halted much of the negative experience. The courts have proven faulty to someone who manipulates and I have found that being very strong helps me, being very honest and not candy-coating it, but also I am not discussing this with the kids. They then can see for themselves what is happening, and quiet, not having to wonder how mom feels about it clears some space for them. This has turned my relationship with them right around, but it has been really hard, still is really hard at times too. I can be a mother bear, and a very strong me as well, deciding “What would I do if I have all the resources I need?” What would _____________ do?” (my name here) Where do I want to live, what do I want to do? Benji (maybe travel?)

      • Donna

        I get how you feel. As they say these days, “it is what it is.” I found your article when I googled for advice on this subject . My three went to live with my alcoholic narcistic ex three years ago. I just saw on social media he had a large part in a concert he didn’t even tell me about. I’m learning to let go and just leave a nice comment. The older two in college visit when they can. I’m busy working toward a lisence and take care of myself. Let me tell you, it does get easier day by day, but in some ways I still grieve what used to be. I’m not sure if sharing my pain helps you but I just want to let you know you aren’t alone.

      • Anonymous

        I have the same feeling. My ex left me 13 years ago and now it feels like he is taking my son.
        I see you posted 2 years ago. Tell me how are you now?
        I keep hearing from people saying he will be back if I let him go but honestly, I don’t think he will be back.

        • Cami Nelson

          Im in the same situation. My heart is broken. I would love to hear how you are doing.

        • Kemi

          This is currently my situation. My ex is a narcissist and he somehow convinced my ONLY child that it would be better if he came to live with him. To say the least, I am devastated. I miss my son. I walk past his room and cry, I look at other children waiting to ride the school bus on my way to work and cry, I come home and cry. My life has revolved around my son because I wanted it to. Even though I can see him when I want and he can come over, it is not the same version of him.

          I am receiving the same advice that he will return. I do not think so. To hope that one day he will awake and change his mind I think is out of the question now. I am just hoping this gets better.

      • Jomama

        Nothing! I am in the same boat but never see my daughter now. She refuses to see or speak to me, i think because i wont/cant admit to the crimes my ex has accused me of ( reasons for divorce). She was 3 then, 18 now, been living with him for 8 months.

  3. Angella

    Disney Dad now gets to be a real dad… and the kids get to see that. I’m not sure this is the worst thing. Dad will have to step up to the plate. Kids will get more Daddy time. You will get you time.

    Go with it. Be supportive, loving, and a good mom.

  4. Shereen Diaa Hassan

    Happening to me this week 🙂 .. I am enjoying taking good care of myself now .. while the kids will see the real dad that was before just a friend 🙂 .. enjoy your time & by time the relationship will be balanced.

  5. Lauren

    Thank you all for your comments. My concern is that he will NOT step up to the plate. That the kids will run wild with no supervision. My anxiety is out of control! I am finding it impossible to let go.

    • Donna

      Your choice is to let go or be dragged. I just now realized this post was from last year. I hope things have calmed down somewhat for you.

  6. B

    Same thing happened to me, and kid returned within 3 months. Try not to worry – the kids will be ok, most teens act out at some point.

  7. Christine

    I know how you are feeling Lauren. My 17 year old daughter left my home in June to go live on the streets of Toronto with her boyfriend. Then when that didn’t turn out very well she went to live with her Dad’s brother’s family because I had too many rules. There was a point that I really did not think I could handle all the anxiety and could not possibly handle my daughter not wanting to live at home anymore. It was one of the hardest things I have ever been through. I kept the lines of communication open. I respected her decision to not come back home even though it hurt like hell and I cried a lot! Now I feel stronger and more confident in myself than I ever have in my life. People told me when she left to take care of myself but that seemed impossible to me at the time, I felt like I was on the edge of having a complete breakdown. But you will make it though this…your kids will see one day when they gain some maturity and life experience that you were a great parent and we’re only trying to do what was best for them. And you need to remind yourself of that about a hundred times a day but it will get easier. You will soon see the life lesson for you in this and you will grow as a person and even though you may not be able to see it now there will be positive things that will come out of this very difficult situation. Have faith they will return to you so you can finish your job as their Mother. And yes work on yourself and know you are much stronger than you think you are, you will get through this!!

    Stay strong Lauren!

  8. Been There

    I went through something similar when my son decided he wanted to spend equal time with both parents. I hated the idea, though I knew it wouldn’t last because my ex was doing it for the wrong reasons, but I agreed to it. It didn’t take long (only a few months) before my son realized his dad wasn’t really the same fun person he saw every other weekend and he quickly turned back into the person he was when we were married. One year later my son was back with me full-time. He is flourishing in school, is respectful and even appreciative of the rules I impose. Being a teenager, he still tests the limits, but always still respectful. I know it’s because of the time he spent living with his dad and seeing the difference between “weekend dad” and the “real” person. You never know, it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

  9. Ashley

    I see this is old… but daughter moved in with dad at 16 for car and to run wild. She is doing that and now refuses to even speak to me. Sleeping with girls and boys, shaving head and dying it blue, all over the place all hours of the night. No structure.

    I have two teens with my current husband. I feel guilty when I try to just let it be. Every time I call her dad he curses me calls me a bad mother and says she has panic attacks because of me. 🙁

    I have been there while he screwed off! We were never married THANK GOD!!! My current husband and I have been together since she was 3 months old and raised her like our own.

    Not even a text message for mother’s day. She wants to punish me for making her go by rules and not allowing her to run wild.

    I’m giving up and just letting go… maybe.

    • Jodz

      I am in a similar boat, when my boys turn that 12/13 age my ex gets in their heads and turns them against me. He is very manipulating in a very clever way. My 17 year has just starting speaking to me again after 3 years. My 12 year just left this week without telling me ! My ex will not encourage him to return😞
      I also have an 8 year old so I’m expecting the same in a few years

      • Heart broken

        Did you have a court agreement? Mine is the same age as yours (13) and wants to go to dad’s but we have court documents for 70-30 (my way). Is it worth the fight to keep him with me?

    • Jackie

      Ashley, I am so sorry but relieved to find someone who is going through exactly what I am right now, it’s making me so tired and sad. I hope that you’re ok with you family and have had some relief from letting go, sending you hugs. 💜

  10. Hated

    Sad to read all these but nice to know i am not alone. My 17 yr old daughter left a few months ago. She decided i was not worthy because of rules that were not even close to being strict. She has had is still has a 21 yr old boyfriend. She and i were fighting a.couple months ago and she anouced shes going to move out with him. Shes in grade 11. So my husband tell her he also hates me and they can move out together! Husband thinks hes the hero here. His mother has always hated me and guess where they alsways visit. My daughter deleted and blocked me from all media. I felt and still feel suicidal. She says hates me and that im toxic. I really am super healthy and just had a few chores for her. My hisband would undermine me and say she doesnt need to unload the dishwasher or have a curfew at nite. Do u guys think one day i will be in her life again? I doubt it. 🙁
    Im not a mom any more.

    • Kate

      You will always be a Mom….the ex’s that undermine are just totally immature and are Destroying their own children…..and guess what ….they don’t care. That is the heartbreaking part of all of this. I have a strong belief inGod and believes that He sees everything, but it’s hard to go thru and it’s hard to see the kids manipulated and emotionally abused

    • Denied

      Hated, the details differ only slightly but I am walking the same journey with you. I feel exactly like “Im not a mom anymore”. I do think (kinda) they will come back to us. I wish we could exchange emails, be supportive for each other!

      • Heather

        My boys dislike my boyfriend and his kids because there have been domestic issues in our home. I understand, completely because I don’t like the way I’ve been treated either. Now, at ages 15 and 18 they want to live permanently with their dad. His house is only 10 miles from mine, so it’s not a distance issue. It’s that I feel like they’re choosing their dad over me. He has more room and more gadgets and it’s much quieter there. I have tried to get my boyfriend to leave – because I choose my children over him and his – but he won’t and can’t. He hasn’t worked in many years due to PTSD (for which he refuses to seek social security disability benefits). He has nothing but the clothes on his back; that I purchased for him. He has no family to go to either. My only hope is to put my house on the market and find another that is smaller so that there will be no room for them. I want to live in the town where their dad is again so I can let my son take the bus to and from school instead of having to drive him and pick him up at his dad’s after I leave work. It’s as though their dad is the main parent – he’s #1. My 15-year-old barely speaks to me but I think that might be typical teenage stuff. My 18-year-old has Asperger’s Syndrome and talks to me about everything. However, he decided that now that he’s in college, about to get his license, and working, he is going to choose where he lives permanently. My boys relate better to him because of all the gadgets and games. He’s a good dad but I don’t think they’ve seen how good a mom I am. They don’t see me as being a good person for caring for people and taking them in when they were down and out. They see me as a sucker and everything I’ve done has been a waste.

        It’s heartbreaking and I feel like I have no control. Will I even hear from them? When will I see them? I can’t force them. I’m stuck, however, with the knowledge that my boys want to leave because of my boyfriend and his kids. They think I’ve chosen him and his family over them. It sure does appear that way, doesn’t it. I’m at a loss.

        • Victoria anderson

          I am going through the same thing. I have a 14 and 16 year old who want to stay with my narcissist ex husband. I have given them everything they insult me everyday and now my daughter is hitting me. I am going to leave and hope god forgives them for what they have done to me. Out of control teenagers. Never thought my life would end up this way. 50 and alone

  11. Anonymous

    I thought I was the only one..I a,
    M so sorry for all the other mums out there who are not with their kids. My 19 year old son was my world …and that is probably the problem. He is choosing to stay with his dad while I move out as I am so unhappy. All I ever wanted was to have a family and be a mum and now I have nothing and I am no one. Everyone will know and know what a horrible person I am.

  12. Caroline

    I need some words of wisdom and encouragement from those who have gone through this. My son moved with his dad two years ago at 14 and now my daughter wants to move at the end of the year at 15. I am beside myself. I am hurt beyond belief. I expected my son to want to leave, but never my daughter. I am going to miss out on the remaining milestones as they will be on the other side of the country. I’ve dedicated my life to them. I recently divorced because of stepkid/stepdad issues and I will be on my own. I want to run away and start over, but my dad passed recently and now my mom needs me.

    • Deb

      I have gone through this with my beautiful amazing 15 year old daughter just 2 years ago. I’ve had custody since our divorce when she was 5. He married and moved an hour away just 6 mos after our divorce was final. We had a solid agreement as co parents then – until he met the current wife. Our daughter is an amazingly mature and faith filled young woman. I was completely devastated when she said to me “momma, I think I’d like to try living with Dad.” As you know, the feelings of pain, hurt, betrayal are beyond anything one could imagine as a Momma. But I also knew in my heart, she isn’t like every other teen who just wants to get out of living under rules. Her dad didn’t come to anything. Not a single awards program, choir concert, field day event, cheer competition, volleyball game… not one unless it was on his weekend.
      Yet… she wanted to move in with him??
      As difficult as that time was… I had to LISTEN to my daughter. What HER needs and desires were. Step outside the realm of my own desires and emotions – and really understand her reasons for wanting to try this.
      Especially because of the controlling, lack of co parenting, complete disrespect I consistently received from her dad and step mom…….
      I had to let go. But doing that DOES NOT mean you are no longer her momma! SHE NEEDS YOU. And always will! It’s been 2 years now (she was 13 at the time). And she’s still thriving and still the amazingly mature, intelligent, loving daughter / only now… she sees. The manipulation that occurs. The control the step mom tries to have..
      but I have NEVER STOPPED being there 100% for her. She realizes the sacrifices I make to BE THERE for her.. just as I was when she was home. I’ve never missed a game, an event, or a single visit. I drive two hours in city traffic to get to her NO MATTER WHAT.
      And she NEEDS me…
      It has brought us even closer – if that was possible.
      She knows she can be honest w her feelings and she can TRUST me to still be her #1 support. She has “the best of both worlds” by having us both in her life.
      She has since told me “leaving my momma was THE ABSOLUTE HARDEST thing I’ve ever done.”
      She cries.
      She has difficult days.
      But we get through them… together.
      God truly does have a plan for us all. Focus on self awareness. Self CARE. Learning to heal and learning to give up control of things that we cannot. Seek counseling, Talk about it with people who understand and suppprt you. The hardest thing is thinking “what will people think?” “What did SHE do to make her daughter want to LEAVE?” … the JUDGEMENT…
      It took me a solid year to be able to talk about it openly. To be able to discuss it without crying….
      remember: YOU DONT OWE ANYONE ANYTHING. Take your time in letting yourself get to a point of acceptance and PEACE.
      It won’t be easy.
      And it won’t be painless…..
      But you are doing for your children … to give them the chance to have a relationship and “see what it’s like” on the other side.
      They will love you and respect you for it.
      I hope this msg gets to you…..
      Prayers are with you & would love to know how things are going

      • Anonymous

        Super helpful advice and so much of what I am feeling today. Thank you.

  13. Rachael

    I was just trying to find some supports on line and stumbled on this thread. Sad to read everyone’s situation, and yet thankful you have all shared. My amost 13 yr old and his dad sprung this on me recently. Like many of you, he thinks his dad is so cool and fun and never gets angry etc. His dad has been selfish and not made the kdis a priority over the years we’ve been divorced, but I certainly have. The kids havent seen it on the surface and I have never spoken poorly about him (as much as I wanted to many times). I worry his dad wont foster the extra-curricular or social encouragemnt my son needs and that he wont be the best he can be. I am trying so hard to be okay. I also have an 8 year old and am not sure how/what to tell him. I worry he will feel rejected by his dad somehoW. I worry the boys will have resentment for what they do/dont have with the other parent. I so wish we could all communicate in some sort of group. Does anyone know of any group on Facebook maybe? Love and happiness to all…

    • Cortney

      There are many Facebook groups on this…
      It’s called Parental Alienation. It is the cruelest form of abuse/domestic violence, towards the child and the targeted parent. The first time this happened with my daughter 4 years ago, I didn’t know it had a name. Now with my son… I’m smarter now. Doesn’t make it hurt less.
      Look up PA… There are support groups and Facebook groups, books…

  14. Anonymous

    Today feels like the worst day of my life. I can hardly believe when I finally said ok to my boys how quick they packed their stuff. I have met ever single one of their needs and to come to terms to let their dad give it a shot because it’s not working here is heart wrenching. I feel such shame and sadness like never before. I will pray they will come home but have to come to terms if they decide not to. Just heart broken. Thank you for being brave to write this I’m dreading telling anyone like it’s a dirty secret. How are you all doing now?

  15. Saira

    I’m in the same boat as most of you. Maybe things happen for a reason. Maybe there is a reason God is allowing this to happen, and we just don’t know it yet? Every dark cloud has a silver lining, I firmly believe this. May God bless us all. Hang in there all of you.

  16. LIs B

    In a nutshell .. I co-parented our son after divorcing since the age of 5. Thru the years I had my son most of the time since he traveled a lot for work. Once he remarried and all of a sudden he demanded 50/50 even if he was out of town. Instead of going to court I agreed but ever since they it felt like they wanted to control everything while our son was with me because they knew better than I . At any case we ended up sending our son to boarding school do to some behavior issues which in a way it was really good for him, he could joe think for himself and become himself not what controlling people with their settle manipulation tactics to convince him what is better for him to fit their agenda . He recently came home and right away they talked him into living with them when to pick him up they said they already had plans, it felt like I have to ask permission to see my adult son that I love. . He is over 18 now and I know I can’t control Controlling people so all I can do is hope that all my sons decisions are his and not forced by manipulation and I’ll have to trust and respect his decisions. It is very hurtful and painful that his parents sit with him decide his journey in life and act as my husband and I his mom don’t exist and than my son throws the bombshells of his decisions afterwards. At any case any advice on how to handle the sadness and disappointment ? After all I was with out him for 2 years as well , paid 1/2 of the cost of his schooling and I love him just as much as they do. It’s been this way for so long I thought that when he turned 18 things would chance and they would ease up on their control/micromanaging ways. All I want is quality time with my son!

  17. Mollie

    I am going through this same thing and experiencing exactly what you all are! . My daughter last summer decided she wanted to leave to live with her dad at 17. I said no then her dad calls and basically talks in a way that made me cave He is not a bad person but he doesn’t really have any rules. Not like I really did I mean she needed to go to school do dishes and a curfew. I think she was annoyed I asked her too many questions and how she was doing probably to my demise. Anyway when I finally agreed to it she left so quick. We were still going to abide by the parenting schedule except I would get her every other weekend now. Well.. once she left she has never come back. When I talk to her dad about having her come here he says , “he can’t make her”. I am in constant pain and so sad. She is my last child. I was looking forward to senior year. Etc. I just feel like it was ripped from me. She never texts , she didn’t come on Xmas it’s just horrible. Sometimes I feel God wants for me to give it all to him and trust him but it’s so hard! I am scared that she never will ha e a relationship with me. I wish We al new how Lauren’s situation turned out. Lauren?
    This board is so refreshing. I know I’m not alone in this.

  18. katelyn

    My two daughters chose to live with their Dad 3 years ago. He lives down the street practically. i chose to be supportive and allow them to make their own decisions. They were 15 and 11 at the time. He is remarried with a child and I remained single. I was struggling against his narc personality, the fact he was more financially stable and had more of a home life, I let them go. I let go of the power struggle and focused on myself. I went back to college and got a second degree. I worked on myself. I see them less and less. no more overnights. it’s like a part of you dies. I suffer from depression and anxiety over it. They are full blown teenage girls now and don’t communicate. I have felt the weight of grief that just won’t go away. I hope they come back to me one day. But it’s the hardest thing i’ve ever gone through in my life. i was/am an excellent mom. maybe they just felt safer with him and saw me struggle a lot. it feels like abandonment. it hurts like hell. i reach out to them all the time. i see them maybe once a month for dinner. We have a 50/50 but we have been divorced 9 years. i am not going to fight anything in court. What do you do?

  19. Krista

    Wow these stories are so familiar to me. Had my now 18 year old tell me at almost 16 it didn’t serve her living here after a fight she was always difficult to be honest just had to push the grade. Albeit at 18 after first year university she is a great kid just not connected to me. My ex cheated on me 12 years ago my girls were 2, 4 and 6 at time broke my heart. He lied, deceived all the same. We had an amicable split as best we could but 10 years later not so great. My middle left to live with him broke me, my oldest all great and now my youngest told me the other after not listening about seeing her boyfriend during the covid that she is going to stay at her dads a while. Guess what she now see her boyfriend every day. So I can’t win it hurts but i know and they know I love them what 15 or 16 year old doesn’t want any rules. Anyways this is a journey that I completely hate but I know it time it will get easier. Hang in there. My 20 year old is amazing so time and patience.
    Thank you for the stories love to all


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