Spouse Calls: Moving experiences with a teen
Stars and Stripes June 29, 2008
My son is a high school freshman, on the top of the world, makes super grades and does well in sports. He is popular and loves his school.
Now the hard part: We had to tell him we are moving again (our third move in four years) to an assignment only three hours away — not far, but too far for my husband to commute.
Our son is lashing out, very angry. He is mad at God, mad at the military. He threatens that he will do nothing when we move. He won’t make friends, play sports or try to make good grades. He asks, "What will you do to me? Take my phone, computer? Who cares? You’ve already ruined my life!"
We have told him this is our last move. That if possible, we’ll stay at the next assignment until he graduates. My husband will give up his dream and not go on the group command list.
Now I just take each day, wait for the blow-up and dread the day that we force him into the car and drive away. In the meantime, I am trying to keep the trauma from spreading to my younger two children.
I am trying to be excited about the move, but I also have my own issues to deal with. I’d appreciate any advice.
— Moving Mom
Your son has experienced several transitions in recent years: multiple moves, and becoming a teenager. All are stressful for him and you.
He is frustrated by lack of control over his life. He’s growing up and gaining independence but is still a child, subject to family decisions. This is a good time for him to learn that there will always be events in life he cannot control — even as an adult. The only things we can always control are our own actions.
Let him vent and let him know that you sympathize with his frustration and love him no matter what. Remind him the whole family is in this together. You are all leaving friends and making sacrifices, so he is not alone.
Don’t worry if he is mad at God. God can take it. Encourage your son to tell God how angry he is. This will direct his thoughts to something bigger than himself.
While expressions of anger are appropriate, threats are not.
Let your son know he cannot get what he wants by threatening to use bad behavior and deliberately poor choices as a weapon. His good behavior is not your reward for giving him what he wants.
Emphasize that he does have control over his own attitude and personal choices, no matter where he lives. Help him see that if he blows his grade point average or gives up on sports, the consequences will go beyond cell phone and computer privileges. These decisions will affect the quality of his high school life, limit his college choices and affect his future.
Making promises to your son now about your husband’s future career decisions is something you should carefully consider. Your son’s attitude could change in a matter of months, but a career takes a lifetime to build.
It’s likely that after the move and a period of adjustment, your son’s own personality and military-kid survival instincts will kick in, and he won’t be able to resist getting back in the game.
Put emphasis on what he can control: his attitude. Remind him of previous moves that turned out well.
Even if he rejects it now, your reassurance of love and support, and reinforcement of appropriate choices and behavior, can pull him through.
Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and see the Spouse Calls blog at http://blogs.stripes.com/blogs/spousecalls