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Son Wants to Live With Me,
But I Have a Small Apartment

QUESTION: I am a 39 year old divorced father. My son is 7. He primarily lives with my ex, but I see and spend a lot of time with my son. Recently has asked his mother if he could stay with me for a few weeks or a month - i.e. basically live with me. We thought this was because of a "Summer Vacation" type perception, but now his mother is wondering if it's because he gets to sleep with me in my bed, unlike at his/their house where he has his own room and bed.

My son and I are very close - real buddies, and my living arrangements are quite meek and limited - i.e. I have a really small efficiency apartment. I do have a sofa, but have really never given it any thought. Do you have any thoughts this situation, considering my living situation?

ANSWER: Your sleeping situation with your son appears to have been forged on the basis of temporary living arrangements. His recent request to live with you highlights the fact that he needs his own private space in your apartment.

Talk with your son about sleeping in his own bed and establish separate space for him to do so. Consider getting a larger apartment to accommodate him if he does want to move in with you, even temporarily. In general, it is a good idea to do this regardless of how much time he spends in your residence. By addressing the issue of space you will quickly learn what your son's motives are for his request.

Your son may be expressing a desire to be included in your life on a more regular basis, and this may include the fact that he feels "special" to you. As he matures, he will inevitably need more space and it is natural for him to want to spend a few weeks or more living with you in the summertime. Rather than questioning your son's "motives" perhaps it is time to consider an adjustment of more space so that you will be capable of responding to his desire to increase time with you.

Remember that children grow up sooner than you realize. By the time he is a teenager he will no doubt need less of this kind of primary time with you. Accommodating to his needs now creates the opportunity for developing a relationship. This window of opportunity may close sooner than you think, as peer relationships take precedence and his extracurricular activities call for his attention. Preteens and teenagers often decrease time spent with the non custodial parent as they develop their own more separate lives.

For now, you are still the center of his universe in many ways. Enjoy it and make the most of it!

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter..

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