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Mom's Boyfriend Won't Get Close to Her Son

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My 10-year-old son and I moved in with my boyfriend about 5 years ago. My boyfriend has an 11-year-old daughter who visits us every other weekend. I love my boyfriend dearly, but he hasn't established a relationship with my son; he treats my kid like he's invisible. My son is young and looks up to my boyfriend as a potential father figure -- a father who doesn't care for him or want to be his friend. He told his younger cousin that my boyfriend was his dad. What are the long-term effects of keeping my son in this situation? Should I leave my boyfriend?

A: You have some tough decisions to make for the welfare of your son. If your boyfriend has hardly looked at or spoken to your son in the five years that you have lived together, he's damaged your son's self-worth. Your boy is still hoping that your boyfriend will be nice to him, appreciate him, and be a dad to him.

My suggestion is for you to see a counselor with your boyfriend. Your son needs you to be his advocate to help him get the support, love, and adult male relationship(s) that he needs. Continuing to stay with your boyfriend under these conditions is unhealthy for your son. As he becomes more and more in need of a father-figure to model himself after as he approaches adolescence, your boyfriend's neglecting him will prove more hurtful. I know that I'm asking you to make some difficult decisions, but you are responsible for your boy's welfare. This man isn't honoring what's most precious to you -- your son. If your boyfriend won't go to counseling, then you need to go on your own. Your son has suffered far too much neglect in this "family" relationship. A therapist can help you put other caring men in the life of your boy.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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