Just when you think you have parenting under control

What I didn't know this time was that her boyfriend was going on the camping trip...

My eight-year-old son recently went camping with his best friend and his family. The friend’s mom is a single mother and my boy has spent lots of time at her house and has camped with her and her two children before.

What I didn’t know this time was that her boyfriend was going on the camping trip. When my son came home and told me this and he also told me that he and his friend had slept in one tent with this man while the mother and her daughter slept in another one.

I don’t think this is right at all and I told my son that. He is now upset and I don’t know how to handle this with him or with his friend’s mother.

One of the frustrating things about parenting is that just when we think we have everything under control, something unforeseen pops up and throws us for as loop!

Clearly you thought this camping trip was going to be like all the other times your son has been with his friend and his friend’s family and now you are faced with this upsetting news.

To start with your concerns about your son, he is now aware that you do not approve of the sleeping arrangements on the camping trip. He may be feeling like he did something wrong and may be wondering what he should have done.

I don’t think that the decision to include the boyfriend on the trip and to have your son sleep in his tent was in any way your son’s responsibility.

My suggestion is that you let him know that this was not his fault and that it is an adult issue. You could also reinforce the idea that if he is ever uncomfortable about what another person asks him to do then he should talk to you or to another trusted adult.

Your main concern here, I think, is the friend’s mother’s decision to include her boyfriend, to put your son in his tent for the night, and to do both of these without talking with you beforehand. You will need to address these issues with her before you can feel trust in her ability to make good decisions that involve your son in the future.

How you go about addressing these things with the friend’s mother depends on your relationship with her and your communication style. These are a couple of things though that I think are important no matter how you choose to go about it.

One of them is that you communicate with her soon and certainly before your son visits her home again. Leaving it for awhile and allowing your son to visit before it is resolved will only increase anxiety for both of you.

Another important thing to think about is your expectation for the friend’s mother’s behaviour in the future. This is something to get clear within yourself about and then to communicate clearly to her.

Your willingness to trust her with making decisions about your son when he is in her care depends on her understanding of your expectations and her willingness to act on them. I would suggest to you that if there is any doubt about this then you may need to limit your son’s time with his friend to occasions that you can monitor in some way.

I hope this works out well for you and your son.

If you wish to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at info@pacifictherapy.ca. Consult a Counsellor is provided by registered clinical counsellors Nancy Bock, Diane Davies Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead and Sara Lynn Kang at pacific therapy & consulting inc. It appears every second Thursday in the Record.

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