At the beginning of the year, I wrote a blog article on why I let my daughter move out.  She had been hounding me for months, trying to get me to agree that she could move in with her father who lived four hours away. I refused at first. I was the one providing for all my daughter’s needs. I was the one who gave her all my time. I was the one who had consistently been there since the day she was born. How could I let her move in with her father when I had dedicated my whole entire life to being her parent? Plus there was the hassle of switching her school, her doctor, her whole life from Sonoma County… But more than anything, how was I going to be able to let go of the girl who had taught me everything there was about being a mother?

In the end, I let her go. She moved in with her father, went to a new school, made a few new friends, and lived a life that was totally separate from me, her brother, and her stepdad and stepbrother. And at first it was really hard. I cried on the way home from dropping her off for the last time.

But I survived.

She lasted two months at her dad’s house. The life she thought she was going to live didn’t exist. Before her move, her visits with her dad had been a fun vacation from every day life. But living there was a whole different story. It just wasn’t what she expected. She learned quickly that vacation dad and full-time dad were two totally different people.

I share this story now because since I told about how my daughter moved out, a bunch of other parents have contacted me with their own stories of children wanting to leave one parent to live with the other. Some don’t know if they can let their child do it. Others are already in the process. And every one of them are hurting.

Here are some examples:

Kay: “As I sit here, typing this comment, my daughter is finishing packing. She is 11 1/2 yrs old and today I take her to the airport to live with her Dad a few states away. I want to cry. I hate her Dad right now, even though I know he is a good parent. We get a long and put our differences aside a long time ago in order to put our daughter’s needs first.”

Angie: “As I made cupcakes for my daughters honor ceremony, still it was on my mind. This afternoon as I sat with my daughter, waiting for the principal to call her name for her straight A certificate, I suddenly felt my eyes well up with tears. I have molded my beautiful daughter to what she is today.”

Marie: “I am going through the exact same thing with my 14 year old daughter. I can’t imagine her not being with me on a daily basis but I have to remember whatever is best for her is best for me.”

My message for parents going through this:

1. Your child’s decision to live with their other parent is not a slight against you. And to be able to separate your feelings about your child’s father away from their relationship with their father is huge. Not many divorced people are capable of doing that.

2. You are a good parent for putting your child’s happiness above your own. And even if your child doesn’t recognize this now, there will come a day in the future when they will understand how much you loved them to be able to let them go.

3. No situation is the same. Some situations include a parent who is NOT in a place where they should be caring for a child full time. Some situations will have the child realizing the grass really isn’t greener on the other side. And some situations will have the child truly happy after the move. Please do not make any decisions on your future and your child’s future from one person’s account of letting her child move away. This is not a decision to be made lightly. But it should be a decision made with unselfish love.

And finally…

4. Remain a constant in your child’s life. If you and your child have come to agree that they can move in with their other parent, I want to express how much I feel for you and your situation. Go ahead and mourn. Get in a good cry. But then, understand this is not the end of the world. Even if your child doesn’t live with you, it doesn’t mean  you can’t remain close. Contact them via email, phone, text, etc every few days. Send them care packages in the mail. Plan regular visits with them.

Who knows, this change might be the very thing that brings you closer together. :-)

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  1. Kelly Knapp

    Thank you so much for your articles. I read them and I think I would never want to put my story on the internet. It just struck me how much reading your story and people’s comments have helped me though so here goes… My ex and I had an amicable divorce 7 years ago and were very flexible with parenting and communicating with each other. He got re-married about 4 years ago and I’m not allowed to talk to him unless it goes through his wife. My ex husband and his wife are very religious and have very narrow views on everything. I feel like there is a lot of coercion and manipulation of my children going on. My 17 y/o son has been unhappy for a few years and I have tried to allow him to handle things himself. I have even had to tell him that he can’t come home and complain to me because I can’t “fix” anything, it’s up to him to fix it. I wound up filing a petition to modify our schedule because his dad told him that if I would like my 13 y/o daughter live with them full time, they would let him live with me full time. I filed the petition for my son to have an open custody schedule and my daughter to have a 50/50 schedule with me. After a horrible court hearing this last summer that is exactly what the judge ordered. I should also say that I was recently remarried so that has affected things as well. My son is much happier and willingly sees his dad and goes to church with them once a week. Unfortunately my daughters relationship with me really suffered due to this. They brought her to court to testify against me. She didn’t really say anything negative against me and the judge actually admonished them for bringing her into court. The judge also felt that her dad and step sister were influencing her. Anyway I wanted to let things settle down before I brought anything up with her about last summer. I was amazed that we settled right back into our regular schedule (school helped) and our relationship seemed like it was right back to what it was. I have tried to be very flexible and respectful of her going to church and youth group at their church. I recently tried to talk to her about this again and I was surprised that she said she wasn’t happy at my house when everything has been so normal. My reasons for following through on the court proceeding rather than just allowing her to live over there full time is because of their lack of flexibility. They told the judge that they felt I should only have what amounted to an average of 17 hours per week of visitation. Now that we have a schedule in writing (and my daughter’s recent comments to me), I feel like if she did move over there on a full time basis I could still be able to move her back if she decided she wanted to. With all of that back ground, I feel like the pros of allowing her to move in with her dad are: 1), teen girls who have a strong relationship with their father’s do better in life, 2) I understand her wanting to have a closer relationship with her step sister. My cons are: 1) their religious views are to narrow minded and restrictive, 2) I feel like they are still trying to push me out of her life. I feel better having written this down, but any feed back from you would be appreciated.

    October 27th, 2013 3:27 pm

  2. Dave Weidlich

    Thanks for this article. So sad that a 12 year old has to make such momentous decisions. Studies have shown that children do best when they have significant time with both their parents and when parents make the parenting decisions such as where to live. Of course parents going through divorce often cannot make parenting decisions such as where a child should live and how both parents can be involved in the child’s life. That’s why there’s divorce.

    Helping our kids with their parents’ divorce is one of the topics of the group we host for those seeking help and hope after divorce or separation. We are starting up DivorceCare Jan. 20 – Apr 13, 2014 in Petaluma – Sonoma County, CA. Tremendously helpful for those who went through our first session, so we’re doing it again. More here:
    Pastor Dave Weidlich

    January 17th, 2014 1:08 pm

  3. adriana

    I’m going through this right now. It is one of the hardest things I’ve done. I have a 12 year old daughter and a 14 year old son. It’s one thing when your daughter says she doesn’t want to clean her rt but it’s another when your son says that you have raised him for 14 yes and have done a good job now it’s dad’s turn. My whole life has revolved around my children. Now what do I do? I love them more then my own needs so with a heavy heart we are signing paper work this week. Thank you for your article. I needed to read it.

    July 29th, 2014 1:00 pm

  4. nicole

    Im am currently negotiating with my ex to agree to my 13yr old son returning to the other side of Australia to live with his dad and his 16yr old brother. My son is hanging out with some badly behaved kids at school and has recently been recieving harsher and harsher consequences at school. Which is responding to with worse attitude than ever.l am very concerned that he will continue getting worse.
    He has just returned from 9 nights with his dad. Has a much better attitude at home. And has plugged into drawing. ..church and youth group whilst on hoilday. However he is withdrawn..sad…and very homesick. I am negotiating with his father to agree yo sending him bavk on a trial basis for the rest of the year. To see how he goes living there. His school behavior and if he is happier there.
    It will be heart breaking for me. However. .if my son is happier there…then its best for him.
    I think that he needs his dads guildance at he moment.
    The male role modeling and to get back to his old school and friends. .church and youth group.
    So heart breaking and sad for me :(

    October 2nd, 2014 6:53 am

  5. marallen

    I’m so glad I’m not alone. My husband walked out 7yrs ago after having an affair and recently remarried the woman he left me for.
    It was a very bitter separation and divorce and our 2 children went every second weekend from fri-sun. After a year they chose not to go back as they hated it. My ex was sleeping in til 2 pm and the (young at the time) kids had to fend for themselves or being given to other relatives or neighbours to be looked after. There was no contact from him for almost 5 years then all of a sudden he messaged my daughter over social networks. He never had time for our son but had always had a close bond with our daughter. She secretly text him for months and then our of the blue told me she wanted to move in with them. Within a week she had packed and moved 2 hours away. I found a notebook which she had wrote in stating all the things he had promised. Going to his fiancés hen party, being a bridesmaid, going on fancy holidays, an ipad and an iPhone… some things I just couldn’t afford to lavish on her. Whenever I tried to ask her why all i got was a broken record “it’s my decision, I’ve made up my mind” she’s made new friends but she’s left on her own a lot with them workin, they also lack responsibility which worries me, but trying to talk to my ex is pointless as he will do the opposite of what i suggest to spite me. I’ve asked my daughter countless times to come home but she refuses and now has admitted she cuts herself when we argue over it. Seemingly her father knows this but didn’t tell me about it or seek help. I feel to blame somehow even though I’ve done everything I could for her and gave her all my love and time. At the same time i feel angry. I can’t discuss it with her without her getting furious. I don’t think my questions will ever be answered. It saddens us all greatly and I feel like a failure as a parent.

    October 7th, 2014 6:14 am

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