My teenage daughter has fallen in with a bad crowd. How do I discuss it with my ex?

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Dear Sheila

About six months ago the father of my teenage daughter and I went through a custody battle in court. We ended up with a shared care arrangement whereby she spends half her time with each of us. During the court case he alleged I was drinking too much and it got very acrimonious. Since then I’ve been on the 12 step programme but my daughters behaviour has become more wayward. She is hanging out with a bad crowd and I think she is doing drugs. I think she may also be self harming. I don’t feel I can talk to my ex about it after the nightmare of our court battle. What should I do?


Leonie, SW London

Dear Leonie

Thank you for your letter.  First of all well done for participating in the 12 step programme.  You don’t mention which step you are on, so I am not sure where you are in your recovery.

I am sorry that your daughter’s behaviour is causing concern.  Children deal with their parents’ divorce in different ways.  Court is always a bruising experience and I expect your daughter is still feeling those bruises.  Sometimes children feel they are not being heard in all the noise of a divorce, and, forgive me, but if a parent is drinking too much they are emotionally not available to that child.

In the spirit of good co-parenting I would absolutely speak to her dad and voice your concerns, perhaps you can frame it in a non accusing or punitive way like this….

“I am struggling and worried about  ******, who she is hanging out with and what she is up to.  I would really appreciate a chat with you to see if we can have a joined-up approach to help and support her.  I would really like to show her that we love her so much we can work together and support her. I appreciate that our co-parenting has fallen short in the past and I am sorry that was probably very difficult for her and you.  I really want to show ***** that her parents can work together in a united way and that we are still a team.”

That may open the door for you both to discuss risky behaviour and boundaries and what she would like from both of you.

Hope that helps.


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