Dear Doctor,

I am a single mother who has raised one son from a marriage that broke up years ago. He recently decided he would like to live with his father, who has seen him once a week over the years. My son is now 15, and I worry about his father’s lifestyle. Neither of us has ever remarried, but he has girlfriends in, drinks more than he should, and is a kid himself. I am not sure what to do. I have physical custody and we have shared legal custody. Have you had experience with this kind of thing and does it work out?


Dear Deciding,

Over many years, I have seen situations like yours more times than one could count. Here is my take on the scenario and the dynamics.

Your son is a blossoming adolescent. He is male. He has decided his father is more like him and would understand his world. This is probably not true, but that is how he feels. If you stand in his way, he will likely go with his father anyway.

His father is something of an adolescent himself and will likely be less involved in discipline.

This makes you worry. What are you able to do?

Sadly, the answer is very little.

You could initiate court proceedings, but the end result will be to make a lawyer more wealthy and a probate judge frustrated.

These are situations where you win, but you ultimately lose. Here are some suggestions.

Engage a co-parenting therapist who will see both parents and your son separately. This is more for stressing rules and strategies for being a parent of a 15-year-old.

Be there. Remember important dates. Write occasional notes and remembrances with a little cash enclosed.

On your visiting weekend, have fun. Make it positive.

Over time, your son will value you and your values. Hang in there!

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, email him at


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