Reader writes: My 12-year-old came home upset (near tears) after a weekend visit with his father. His much older stepsibling has been teasing him, and it's really taking a toll on the kid. My little guy is a "brainiac" who prefers to read and play on the computer rather than play a lot of sports. The sibling is taunting him for this and calling him lazy. My son said, "I feel like I can't be myself there, or I will get picked on." His stepmom is also making little comments and my son is sensitive to all of it. He is more sensitive than they realize.
His dad and I have a fairly good relationship, but I hate to start poking into what goes on in his home. We have been pretty good about boundaries and trust. It is understood that we trust each other to do what's best for our son. I am encouraging my son to talk to his father about this, but I am doubtful he will do that. This is affecting his desire to spend time there. I think this teasing is going on under his dad's radar and part of me wants to call and raise a flag just so he'll take notice. What do you think?
Chuck replies: It's normally a good idea to accept that there will be differences in how things are managed at both residences and that there is generally no need to try to change that. This situation, however, seems to deserve some "poking into." Your son should not have to be subjected to taunts and ridicule while he is visiting his father and his father's family. It could adversely impact on his relationship with his father at a very important phase of his life and potentially endanger his mental health. As much as possible, visitations should be a pleasant experience for the children. I would encourage you to talk with his father, explaining what is going on, and tell him that you trust he will handle the situation. You will want to follow up with your son and his father after the next visit to determine if things have improved.