Teenager has estranged herself from our family

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-30-2002
Teenager has estranged herself from our family
Tue, 09-10-2013 - 11:06pm

Hi All!

Thank you for reading.  We have an unusual situation that has been very hard.   I have joint custody of my two daughters.  I am happily remarried and have one stepson, he is awesome.   My oldest daughter "Jenny" recently estranged herself/separated herself from my family -- Jenny has moved in with her father (my ex husband) full time, after 12 years of splitting her time between me and her dad.   She turned 18, and that day, she announced to me and her stepdad that it's so time consuming to be in (joint custody) that she wants to live with her dad full time, and, she said in a perky voice "and if I miss you guys, then, I'll come see you!"  Her 13 year old younger sister misses her.  We all miss her.

I understand that children sometimes move out when they turn 18.  But she is still in 12th grade, and always had a close relationship with me, my husband (her stepdad) and her younger sister.   To suddenly announce that she's moving out was very hurtful.  Her grandpa said to me "boy, that was a slap in the face"    ***Brief background.   She has moved in with my ex husband (her Dad).  He is a verbal abuser and very controlling.  He does have good qualities (he is a hard worker) But my ex husband is also in a cult-like religion.  


My own former brother in law emailed me last year and said that he and my ex "were raised in a cult-like church"     My ex is so controlling, that he hasn't allowed Jenny (my 18 year old) to get a driver's license.  He also told her in the past she could not shave her legs until she was 16 1/2 -- she was embarrased.  Jenny wears long skirts and no make up...that is fine, but we believe her Dad (my ex)  has pressured her to do so.   My ex's new wife wears no make=up, wears long skirts, never wears shorts, and is very very religious.  My daughter Jenny tries to please her Dad. She's told me that now that she lives at his house, it's "Great to be able to go to church service 3 times per week".    I have seen her twice.  Both times, she wanted to meet at a restaurant, and had her dad pick her up at the end.  He missed work to pick her up, even though I could have driven her to his house. (We offered to teach her to drive when she was 16, she'd say she wanted Daddy to teach her.  Now she has no license at age 18)

So in a nutshell, she's 90% cut herself off from me, my husband (her stepdad), her grandpa (my dad), her grandma (my mom) -- and everyone is saddened.   Even on the night before her 18th birthday, she was loving towards us and we had no idea she'd move out.  My parents and my husband say "she's been brainwashed by her dad" and "it's not healthy that he won't let her get a driver's license" and "he's scripted what she says to all of us".    She loves her dad and is caught up in his religion and the 1950's type clothing she and her stepmom wear.  I mean no disrespect about their religion...it's just that in the last few months, she'd read the bible about 5 nights per week after homework, and sometimes she'll pray over drinking a soda or a glass of milk...she doesn't just pray at mealtimes.  If I'd buy her a Gatorade at a 7-11, she'd pray over it in the car before drinking it.

How would you handle the hurt if your loving child up and moved out, to move in with your controlling cult-like ex husband?  When I say cult-like, even ex's own brother said that to me.  My husband finally closed Jenny's bedroom door so we don't have to feel crushed when we pass her room.

Advice on the heartache?  Incidentally, my 13 year old daugher is doing fine. I think she likes having the computer to herself, not having to wait to share a bathroom with her big sis, exc.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Wed, 09-11-2013 - 10:26am

I think all you can do is keep the door open and keep inviting Jenny to visit you. It's hard because she's 18 but she's far from independent since she's still in high school.  Would she agree to have a family dinner once a week (even if you have to have it in a restaurant)?  Forget about her clothes--it would be more upsetting to have her dress in a sleazy way.  Nothing bad ever happened to someone by dressing modestly and not wearing makeup. 

I wonder why your BIL said that this religion is like a "cult?"  Dressing old fashioned and reading the bible a lot does not make a religion into a cult.  Are there other reasons? 

Does your DD have plans to do things after high school--go to college or get a job?  I would focus on her future.  I would also tell her that you think every adult should know how to drive--it's just a basic life skill.  If she doesn't drive, her access to jobs & housing will always be limited to places where there is public transportation which is fine if you live in a big city, but not for areas that don't have that.  Does she always want to be dependent on people to drive her around to do grocery shopping, etc.?  If she got married & had a sick child, would she not want to be able to drive the child to a doctor in an emergency?  I wouldn't keep nagging her about it but just pose some real life scenarios for her to think about.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Wed, 09-11-2013 - 11:29am

I think it's vital that you separate your feelings about the religion from your feelings about your daughter. They come through loud and clear in your post, and if it's hard for strangers to tell the difference between your feelings about your child and your feelings about her faith, you can be sure your daughter will have trouble with this, too.

First, she has to know you love her for herself. No matter how you feel about the clothing, lack of makeup and Bible reading, she has to know that you aren't judging her for choosing this lifestyle. Don't comment on anything to do with her faith, or roll your eyes (not that you do this) or in any way indicate disapproval of this religion. If it is a cult, she will need a safe place to land should she choose to leave, and if it's not, she will need to know that her mother still loves her even if you disagree with her choices.

Eighteen is a normal time for sorting out the differences between family beliefs and one's own. She needs to be free to do this. In my own experience (and my understanding of the Christian faith), everyone has a need for God, and people choose to meet that need in different ways. If this is a need that was never met in her home, it's natural for your daughter to try to get it met somewhere else. Give her time and space, and she will come back to you, maybe not to live, but as her new adult self.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-06-2013
Thu, 09-12-2013 - 11:39am
I can only imagine the different emotions you are feeling from one moment to the next. Have you considered talking to a counselor to help you work through your feelings and move forward in healthy way? Sending you lots of encouragement and prayers!!
Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Thu, 09-12-2013 - 6:55pm

As hard as it is, I agree with the others.  Just keep inviting her into your life and keep the door open.   I can think of many worse things you could be encountering. 

You are still her parent, just as much as her dad.  So nothing wrong, especially now that she is 18, with encouring things like the drivers license, etc. 

This sounds similar to the religion my Aunt belongs to.  She is still just as fun and funny as she has always been. 

Take this time to focus on your 13 year old and your husband.  Your parents can still reach out to their grand daughter on their own.  And again, just keep the door open. 

On a side note, you will also want to talk to your DH about eventually having a boundry if she decides she wants to move back.  Not a game you want to play back and forth.  Not fair to anyone to make such announcements and then think she can just waltz back in like nothing happened.  KWIM?  You want to be treated like an adult?  Then okay, here we go....

Hang in there.....