I have a thirteen-year-old daughter who came to live with me about twenty days ago. She has always lived with her mother, but her mom spends too much time at work and my daughter has always felt lonely…. She wants to live with me in order to have someone to take care of her and attend to all that she needs; but her mom calls her many times a day and calls my family members to offer suggestions as to how they should treat our daughter.

I would like to know what I should do, since what I want is to get to know my daughter better and teach her in my own way, especially now that she is approaching adolescence.

Dear Friend,

There is no right or wrong solution to your problem. There is no magic formula to get your daughter’s mother to cooperate, and there is nothing you can do to instantly resolve the conflict between what you wish to happen and what is happening instead. So accept that you are on a journey and you will make progress each day, but that you will not arrive in a matter of days or even months. And as you conquer some conflicts, others will appear.

When parents do not live together, there are almost always difficult conflicts that must be dealt with. Both of you love your daughter and want the best for her, but each of you has a different idea as to what is best. The quickest and most direct way to resolve some of the conflict is to go to a counselor or mediator. This could be costly, but it could save you hours of unproductive disagreements and unpleasant confrontations. Tell the counselor that you are there for the short-term process of working out an agreement that both of you can follow. The details to work out should include the number of phone calls per day from the non-custodial parent, the role of other family members, and rules that you both agree to enforce when your daughter is in your custody.

If you do not have access to a professional, try to find a wise person that you both respect and trust, and that neither of you feels would be biased toward one point of view or the other. This could be a church or community leader.

To assist in making reasonable and mutually agreeable rules, we suggest that you use the Bible as your standard. God provided the Bible as a kind of guidebook to keep us on the right track. The Apostle Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”(1) If you both agree to teach your daughter to follow the Ten Commandments as well as the other instructions in the Bible regarding purity, integrity, honesty, and self-control, then you will agree on the biggest issues. If you also agree to take your daughter to a church where the Bible is taught by the leaders and practiced by both the leaders and the congregation, she can find friends who are being taught the same standards. The teen years are all about friends, so finding a good group of friends is a very important step. (Obviously not all teenagers who go to church follow Biblical principles. But you are more likely to find that kind of teenager in a church than in many other places.)

Change your perspective from problem solving to cooperation. Communicate your wishes in a positive manner, and be ready to also consider your daughter’s mother’s point of view. But expect the process to take at least five years.

We wish you well,

1 2Ti 3:16