Dear Dr. Romance:  

My husband has a son with his ex-wife.  He is 12, but she still invites him to sleep in her bed. How old is too old to be sleeping with Mom?  I know kids from divorced parents have different issues-- one being how a child should sleep, what manners to follow, at what time to do their chores, homework, etc. I think consistency in both homes is important for the child. Our son is afraid to sleep alone, and I think his mother is encouraging that behavior.  I tell my husband that what his ex is doing is not good for their son, but he won't confront her.  We tried talking to her, but it did no good.  We consulted a child psychologist and told her what he said, but it didn't change her behavior.

Dear Reader:

Your stepson's mom is probably using him to help her own insecurity, which is not a good thing. However, it is much worse for him for you and his mom to be struggling about whether he sleeps with her. You have already proven that talking to her, even experts talking to her, will not make a difference. I suggest you take a non-adversarial approach instead.

Stop worrying about what he's doing with her, and begin teaching him gently about how to be an independent person.  Praise him highly and reward him for sleeping in his bed.  Make going to his own bed a celebratory thing. Make sure his bed is comfy, his room is to his liking, and let him have soft music if he wants it.  Bribe him to stay in his bed with an allowance or special treats when he does it. When he learns not to be afraid to sleep alone, and starts to enjoy it, he will want to separate from his mom, and if he does not see you as the enemy who makes him do things he doesn't like, he will ask for your help in separating from mom. "Avoiding the Drama Triangle" will help you understand what kinds of interactions create friction in relationships.  "Family Relationships" gives you guidelines for dealing with extended family.  "No Cooperation? Solve it for Yourself" shows you how to work around the ex-wife's obstructions.

How to Be Happy Partners: Woring it Out Together contains information and exercises which will help you and your husband work out a mutual plan for dealing with the ex.  Above all, don't let this war, with him as the prize, go on any longer.

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Author's Bio: 

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.