Advice for family on the edge?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by LostSF, Jun 8, 2010.

  1. LostSF

    LostSF Guest

    I'm wondering if anyone has advice for a family that is about to go from bad to much, much worse?

    If you could go back in time and give your former self advice before things with your difficult child really got difficult, what would you say?

    My SD (14) has had behavioural issues all her life, but now that she's in her teens things have taken a real turn for the worse. Until about a year ago, her issues were tolerable -- a lot of attitude, a lot of lying (about relatively unimportant things), being manipulative, etc.

    But in the last year, and especially in the last few months, things have gone downhill. She's constantly finding ways to break the rules and finding ways around the consequences we give her, and the seriousness of the rules she's breaking is steadily increasing. It's gotten to the point where we don't trust her to be at home alone, and we don't trust her when she's out with her friends.

    We have her in therapy, but it's not helping.

    In a few weeks school will be over, and she'll be home alone for most of the day while her mother and I work. We've thought seriously about putting her into some kind of daycare or trying to get relatives to watch her during the day, but she's made it very clear that if we go that route she will do everything she can to ruin it so we'll have no choice but to let her stay home. She's done that very thing in the past, so I have no doubt that she'll do it again.

    I feel like I'm sitting in a house where a fuse has been lit, and in a few weeks the bomb is going to go off. I can't imagine what things are going to be like in our house in a couple of years, but I'm dreading what the future looks like more than I can say.

    So if you could go back and give yourself some advice, what would it be? What worked well, or what would you have done differently?
    Lasted edited by : Jun 8, 2010
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Doesn't sound like she has ever been diagnosed. Has she seen a neuropsychologist for an evaluation or a Psychiatrist (with the MD)?

    I am thinking she is taking drugs, and more than just pot.

    What can you do? Being honest, once my daughter got out of control in her teen years, we couldn't do anything until she decided to change (and she did). If your SD is dangerous, you may need to consider a residential treatment center. Teens are way different do discipline than younger kids. Because of their size and cleverness, it is pretty hard to make them behave if they don't care about anything. If your daughter has a posession she cares about, take it. I'd cut off allowance too and buy her bare essentials until she respects you (IF she is willing to do that)

    Sorry I couldn't help more and sorry you had to join our group, but welcome to the board. Maybe somebody else has a better idea. Where is her father in all this? If she sees lots of dysfunction somewhere, it can't be helping. If you have younger kids, don't leave her alone with them. I'd search her room for signs of drug use.
  3. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Lost... First of all - WELCOME!!!! I am sorry you HAD to find us, but glad you DID.

    My own SD (Onyxx) is 15, and has many of the same issues. Unfortunately - things DID go to MUCH, MUCH WORSE, and she is currently doing a short stint in juvenile detention - she failed her first-month-on-probation drug test.

    Honestly, at age 14, not many daycares will take our difficult children. In fact - it's the age more than the GFGness. I guess they figure they are old enough to be MATURE enough to stay home alone. Well... The fact that they are difficult children means they aren't.

    How about having someone come in to your home?

    Does she have any friends you approve of?

    Day camps? They do have these for troubled teens. We never could afford them, though.

    Honestly, there's a joke in my home between me and husband - If I had known it would get like this, I would have RUN, SCREAMING, the other direction. It's a joke... But it's not so much, anymore. I love him, and I would move mountains for him, Jett and, yes, even Onyxx.

    Out of curiousity and maybe empathy - what rules is she breaking? What consequences is she ignoring? And what will she do when home alone? Is she on any kind of medication, and does she have any diagnoses?

    I'm just one of many here... I can't say what you should do different now, but I can clarify.

    AGAIN - WELCOME!!!!!
  4. ML

    ML Guest

    One piece of advice that you'll hear over and over again (because it's good) is don't forget to take care of yourself. It's very hard not to do, but try to keep as much balance and perspective in your life as possible. I'm trying to say, don't let having a difficult child define every aspect of your life. I would also have given myself this website years earlier. I hope it helps you to know you're with people who "get it" and we're here to support you. Welcome to the CD family!
  5. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Ok, I'm thinking about my difficult child who is also 14. Life would waste away if he was left alone five days a week. He would sleep till 2, watch tv and play video games, and snack....

    Is she trustworthy to babysit? What about pet sitting for neighbors who are on vacation? What about volunteering at a local neighborhood church during vacation bible school? Volunteering at the SPCA? I'm just thinking of something that she might be interested in where responsibility could be learned.

    If staying home happens to be the only option, what about a chore list daily so she can earn a little spending money. Watering the plants, weeding, dusting, vacuuming, etc. A load of laundry every other day - perhaps some things that need to be done like taking everything out of the fridge and washing it out with soapy water or cleaning out a closet. Perhaps a couple items every day and then a read a few chapters of a summer reading book and she could earn a little money at the end of the week. Rather than have family watch her, can she do something for them?

    My list of "if I could go back" would be endless if I wanted to go there. I could come up with something. But, I try not to think about "what might have beens" and rather just deal with the "what ares". As we say around here, life is what it is. If you can't change it, create something else out of it.

  6. dadside

    dadside New Member

    What would we have said/done? First, been more "demanding" about getting a solid diagnosis, and working to ensure that education was in a structured classroom. And special education would have to be with "regular" students - not marginal cases or worse (with respect to behavior). That would take things into high school -- near teen age. At that age, I'd be actively suspicious of any change of friends, activities, attitude, grades etc -- all signs of drug use. And I'd hope Id be wiser than I was (and most parents are) in wanting to believe and so believing that drug use was "just an experiment", or "only a little pot". By time a parent knows, its gone farther. And when that happens, good luck with local programs. If early enough, you might get lucky. We weren't early enough, and away-from-home help was needed.
  7. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    If her behaviors are starting to border on criminal or dangerous, running away, stealing, threatening, etc. I would send her to a 60-90 day boot camp or intensive intervention, even if I had to take out a loan.

    If she has a significant mental illness, I would begin to build my case for intensive services - by researching what is available in my state and then making sure to jump thorugh all of their hoops.

    I would call 911 at each and every threat to hurt others or herself, I would ask for an ambulance to transport a mentally ill child who is having a crisis to ER. Once at ER, I would push very hard for an admit; once admitted, I would push hard for a full neuropsychologist evaluation.

    Some of this we did and some I wish we would have done.
  8. erbaledge

    erbaledge New Member

    One word: Listen.
    I am so working on doing this now, so I'm unsure of the success of it all. But actually listening to them, even if they are lying or manipulating when they are speaking. Another member here told me, take notes while my difficult child is talking/lying, then when it's my turn to talk, I can then go down my list of notes of untruths and let my difficult child know I know the truth.
    But ya, listening. As I think back to my own childhood, my parents never did, nor did they even make feable attempts to - tho I gotta I was NOTHING like my difficult child, not even close.
  9. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Pay someone to be velcroed to her behind. No joke. She isn't showing you she can be trusted to make good choices during the summer, so she needs intense supervision. Have her mom tell her (because as the stepdad, you're on the same level as something stuck to the bottom of her shoe) and you and your wife need to back each other up.

    We have the same situation, in reverse. It's my daughter who's the difficult child, and my Hubby trying to deal with her rudeness, awfulness, and general obnoxiousness. At almost 19, she's less awful than she was...most of the time. Ages 13 through 16 were horrible years.
  10. LostSF

    LostSF Guest

    Thank you everyone for your welcomes and thoughtful replies and suggestions. It really is quite comforting to know I'm not alone in all of this.

    We haven't taken my SD for any kind of testing, and my wife is somewhat resistant to the idea because she's clinging to the idea that SD is just going through a phase. SD gets reasonably good grades at school, and hasn't been in serious trouble there or with the law either. But her homeroom teacher seems to dislike her, and that's a common theme in her life: people like her at first but after a while find her too difficult to be around, and sooner or later they stop trying. This includes most of her classmates at school, and most of her relatives too. We had her volunteering at a local shop in the hope it would teach her some responsibility, and while he was happy with her at first, the owner recently politely hinted that she shouldn't come back.

    From what I've read, she has many symptoms of a sociopathic disorder -- glib and superficial, lack of remorse or guilt, lack of empathy, deceitful and manipulative and shallow emotions. This also very much describes her birth father, so she comes by it naturally. I'm not a psychiatrist, but it seems like enough of a description of her behaviour that it makes me afraid of what the future holds for her (and us).

    In terms of the rules she's breaking, I guess I'd describe it as a lot of little things.

    For example, she was giving out her personal contact info (full name, home address, school name) to strangers on the Internet. Strangers who were asking her to send "sexy pictures" of herself to them. We explained to her how dangerous this was but she said she didn't care, so we took away her Internet access at home. But she's still using it when she goes to her friend's house and not trying to hide it from us, even though she knows that's against the rules. We've asked her friends' parents to keep her off the Internet, but they're not always home and don't seem overly willing to police our daughter when they are.

    This week, she let the tub overflow causing a leak (and significant damage) in the ceiling, and somehow put a hole in the drywall in her room. In both cases she's denied knowing how it happened, and won't take any responsibility for it. I know she's at an awkward age when accidents can happen, but it's her complete lack of caring and taking some kind of responsibility for it that really concerns me.

    And she's apparently been telling the kids at school that she's had sex. For various reasons we believe she's lying about that to try and seem cool, but I don't think it will be long before it's the truth. She keeps trying to make plans to see a few different guys, and then telling us she's just going out with her friends. We've caught her doing this a few times and she confesses that she wasn't being honest, but she continues to try and see them without our knowing.

    We recently grounded her for two and took away her music for lying to us, but since then she's been even more... difficult? Vengeful? I'm not sure the best word for it.

    And tonight she had a breakthrough of sorts at therapy (my wife attended the session with her). She admitted that she's seriously thinking about running away. First she said she'd go and live with her Dad, but later realized that she would be even less happy there (he's very controlling and would use emotional abuse to make her "behave"). So then she said she'd have to come up with some other plan for leaving home. It left my wife in tears, and now I feel even more unsure of what we're supposed to do.

    It feels like we're locked in a power struggle with her and every time we think we're gaining some ground, she goes out of her way to show us that's not the case. We feel like we have to monitor her every word and action, but it feels like a losing battle. It's exhausting and demoralizing.

    But I know I'm preaching to the choir here, and that many of you have much more difficult situations than we do. But it does really feel like we're on the edge of a precipice.

    Thank you again for letting me vent, and for any other advice you may have.
  11. erbaledge

    erbaledge New Member

    What happens when you find out she's been on the internet at a friends' house? Does she get a consequence? What kind?

    What consequences did she get here? For each. One suggestion, the whole in her bedroom wall, have her fix it with your supervision. It's not hard to do. Yeah, unless you paint her whole room, the wall won't look fantastic, but that's not the point in the consequence. It's about teaching her real life consequences, if she put a wall into her home as a grown up, she'd have to fix it or pay someone to do so.

    Suggestion: I believe you said she's 14? Call her bluff. If she were my daughter, and i knew she *was* having sex, I would want her put onto birth control, because let's be real, parent's can not be with their kids 100% of the time, so better safe then sorry. And since she's saying she is having sex, ask that they also test her for stds'. So basically a full fledged pap/etc appointment.

    Now, here is something I am learning about doing with my gfg15. With gfg15, I can not *make* her do anything, literally. So that's fine, assign the wall consequence. Until she fixes the wall, whether it be today, this weekend, 2 weeks from now, a month - whatever - she will not 'move on'. So no television, no internet, no computer, no radio/tv/special electronics in her room, no cell phone, no phone calls, no going to friends, NOTHING! Make sure you have plenty of paper, pencils, crayons, etc available. When she throws out " well then I will have nothing to do." <or> "I'm bored" or whatever - tell her "I know you are bored (showing her you listened to her and know what she is saying) so here are pencils/paper/etc, use it to write letters to your friends/family, draw pictures for yourself/friends/family, write poetry, scribble; Whatever you choose dear, here is how you may occupy your time".
    - this way, she has the control of when she get's ungrounded of sort. The first day, she'll probably test you; be patient, in due time she'll get it done, I hope.
    - offering the art supplies again is showing that you are listening and understand her. She's bored, so you are giving her an ally that has lots of potential, shoot, if she wants to make paper air planes fine.

    I hope this helps, it's just some insight/ideas that came to me.
  12. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Miss KT has recently become concerned about the numerous holes in her bedroom walls. I refuse to fix them. If she wants them fixed, she can buy the supplies. Logical consequences. Once she moves out, her room will become my library, and I'll fix it FOR ME.
  13. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    I'm agreeing with everything I'm seeing here... Honestly if we'd been stricter with Onyxx to begin with, some of her behavior might have been different.

    Unfortunately, I know there will be times when your SD flat refuses to comply. She's old enough that if she rages (and believe me, a temper tantrum and a rage are two totally different things, but you probably know this already), give her a chance to calm down. But - don't give her too many chances. Your local PD will come out and talk to her - we usually get a few weeks to a couple months of quiet behavior after one of these "scares". That said - don't call them unless you are afraid for yourself, other people or SD herself. If she's throwing furniture, that's a red flag. If she's just screaming at you? It really hoovers, and it hurts, but it's not life or death.

    Sending you hugs... Because I know how awful it can be, to be a stepparent and love the kid who is driving you insane.
  14. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    Get her on birth control - yesterday.
  15. LostSF

    LostSF Guest

    Thank you again everyone.

    Three follow up questions:

    1) I've been thinking about erbaledge's comments about consequences. We have tried to have a consequence-based set of rules for SD for a while now, but it's hard. Every time we impose consequences it becomes a battle, and my wife is in "pick your battles" mode. And worse, it seems like our consequences just push SD to hide things more and makes her more resentful, instead of teaching her any valuable lessons. I think we're both afraid that if we give consequences for every mistake SD makes, it's just going to cause us more problems.

    So we tend to impose consequences when the rules have clearly been broken, but aren't as consistent when we have doubts. If we gave consequences for every mistake SD made or when we had suspicions but no proof, she'd be grounded pretty much around the clock.

    Is that misguided thinking? Should we be imposing consequences for every issue, even when we don't have solid proof?

    2) I was reading more about Oppositional Defiant Disorder last night, and thought that it sounded like a good fit for SD. I talked about it this morning with wife and suggested we take SD to get tested, and wife said that she's worked with ODD children before and that SD isn't one because she doesn't "lose control."

    And after reading some of the other stories here, I'm wondering if I'm barking up the wrong tree. SD used to have temper tantrums, but has never had anything that I would describe as a "rage" (e.g., where she's screaming, throwing things, etc.). She's outgrown her tantrums, but now her behaviour is much more subtle -- refusing to follow the rules, telling us she doesn't care, lying, being manipulative.

    I count my blessings that my situation isn't as difficult as many of yours seem to be, even though every day with SD is a challenge and has been since I came on the scene four years ago.

    Please excuse the expression, but if you were to describe your situations with your difficult child as a war, I would describe ours as a cold war.

    So am I wrong to think/hope that there's some kind of disorder at the heart of this? Am I in the right forum?

    3) When wife asks SD why she's unhappy she often says it's because of me and that she hates me, even though she can't give any reasons why she doesn't like me. I've never been mean to her or rejected her, although she is quite jealous of the closeness wife and I have. She never speaks to me unless I speak to her, and then it's only one word answers. I've tried to build some kind of relationship with her, but she rejects me completely and has from the start.

    On the other hand, she's very accepting of her birth father's wife, even saying she loves her. So that just makes me feel even worse.

    I'm starting to think that SD really would be better off if I wasn't in the picture and wife was a single mom. I'm not planning on leaving, but I just find myself wondering how much my being here is a part of the problem.

    I have the option to take a job further from home that would mean less time in the house (leaving before SD gets up in the morning and getting home before she's in bed, five days a week). Although I think much of SD's behavioural issues (e.g., lying) would continue, I do think that she might be happier, or at least not have me to blame.

    Should I be thinking this way? Should I consider removing myself physically from the situation (taking a job further from home) to help increase SD's happiness and the peace in our household?
    Lasted edited by : Jun 9, 2010
  16. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    in my opinion - there is a difference between bad behavior and mistakes. For example - Onyxx is a Slob. Capital S. With no respect for belongings. So when her room was downstairs... Well, she wrote on the walls and floor. There is STILL (after multiple cleanings) makeup EVERYWHERE on the carpet (well, we removed it last week. It couldn't be salvaged). BUT - when she accidentally spilled black eyeshadow on my living room carpet, she came to me immediately and asked what she should do. We worked together on getting it cleaned up (there is STILL a dark spot, 8 months later) - but no, she didn't get in trouble for THAT. Because it was a mistake.

    What kinds of problems/consequences?

    As for wife - by all means, yes, pick your battles! However, keep in mind that consistency is NECESSARY. She lies and gets grounded? Grounded every time. I'm not so good at this, myself. But I do try.

    Not every diagnosis is a PERFECT fit for every child. All people are different, so that's why there is a "spectrum". I mean, I swear Jett is an Aspie, but the neuropsychologist disagreed. Also, in my experience, ODD is a good label for a recipe of behavioral ingredients, with the combined outcome of disaster.

    wife is resistant - so was my husband, originally. Not so much, now. Too much time has passed with too much happening.

    Could be. It does sound more intense than Typical Teen behavior. And honestly? I came here due to Onyxx... I got info on Jett... And husband... And I can talk to my "CD family" about friends, work, anything at all. So you're in the right place for you.

    This has Onyxx written all over it. First - DON'T feel bad about it. One thing I have noticed with difficult children - not just mine - is that they feel abandoned and rejected, so when someone comes along who really cares, and difficult child starts to care - they reject THAT person, because they don't want to get hurt again. Children with divorced parents feel this a lot. Honestly? My best friend does this, too. I stopped letting it hurt and just call him on his behavior. He doesn't like that, but he listens to me. One more thing - does birth father's wife let SD do whatever she wants? Is she the "cool" parent, more of a friend? That's not how it's supposed to be.

    Umm... No. If you and wife are as close as you said, it's not you that's the problem. Do NOT blame yourself. SD had ten years to get used to you not being around. Guess what? She's just now getting used to you actually being there. This behavior doesn't pop up overnight (as you know - it just grows and escalates).

    If you were to... Neglect, abuse, ignore, put down, or otherwise tell her she's worthless, then part would be your fault. But that's not what I see. I see a guy who is crazy about his wife and her daughter. I see a guy with a lot of love to give and a hero complex. Gotta fix it all, if I can't, it's my fault it happened in the first place. Nope.

    One thing that will KILL your marriage, though, is not being on the same page (not just with our difficult children!!!). If wife is resistant to your attempts... Try counseling... It's not a joke... husband and I almost ended last year because of similar stuff. It got very very ugly.
  17. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Get her on long term birth control. If she's talking about it, and meeting boys on the internet, she has done it or it's just a matter of time and the last thing she needs (or you and wife) is a grandchild.

    ODD is more a diagnosis for a younger child that means "We don't know what's wrong." I wouldn't go there with her...she is too old and ODD rarely if ever stands by itself anyway and often develops in Conduct Disorder. Conduct Disorder is pretty much like Antisocial Personality Disorder but usually isn't given until eighteen. But you'll know if s he is heading remorse, no empathy, no caring of rules, an inability to function well even though she may be very bright, con games, lying...sounds like you've read about it.

    I would put heavy emphasis on getting her diagnosed. Not diagnosing her doesn't change that she is atypical. It sounds like it's a matter of time before she does run away. I would think about residential treatment. 1/ She would not be able to run away and live on the street 2/ You and wife will have a much needed break and, at the same time, attend therapy and make plans.

    I would never let this child home alone this summer. I trusted my drug using daughter to stay home for an overnight once when she was 18 (we went to a waterpark close to home with our younger kids). We returned a day early because one of the kids got sick, but we didn't bother calling her. We walked into a drug/sex party. We were shocked. We didn't think this stuff was going on to the extent that it was. She has given you no reason to trust her. Don't. This isn't just a phaze. She sounds seriously distrubed.

    I'm so sorry!!
  18. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    I was thinking along the same lines as Step, but she posted first! You're doing the best you can, in a difficult situation. You love your wife and her daughter, and want to do whatever you can to help. can't fix this and make everything wonderful. That's where my Hubby is struggling, too. He hates the way Miss KT acts, with her rudeness towards me (but mainly towards him), and wants to defend me. While I appreciate his love and caring, it tends to make things worse. Then we have everybody screaming, crying, ticked off, hurt feelings...

    You are not the problem, and I suspect there would be no change in your sd's behavior if you were to leave the family. Miss KT wouldn't have behaved any better in the long run had Hubby and I separated. In fact, I believe she would have been worse, in part because I would have had to work full-time rather than part-time, leaving her unsupervised. You and your wife need to be on the same page, work at keeping your marriage strong, and stand together against the onslaught of difficult child-ness. Hubby and I just celebrated our tenth anniversary two weeks ago.
  19. change

    change New Member

    This sounds very, very similar to my situation except my daughter is adopted. The behaviors are almost identical. Really. My daughter is currently hospitalized...going on a month now. Thankfully, it's fully covered by her insurance. Even though it's been frustrating because the doctor won't communicate much with us, they are willing to keep her for this long and this would have been a huge help during the school year (I am a teacher). I'm off right now so I am perturbed because now is the time when I CAN supervise her 24/7 and not be as stressed out about her behavior. I've only been off for 1 1/2 weeks though. I advise you to get some kind of diagnosis first...even if it's you can then sign up for something like MHMRA. I don't know if that's a Texas thing or if they have something like it everywhere. I do know it has nothing to do with socioeconomic status. It has to do with a mental health disorder diagnosis and once they have it, you go and sign them up for these services and they then get all kinds of services. I actually haven't done it yet but my daughter has Medicaid because she is a former ward of the state. Another parent was telling me that MHMRA services are even better.

    My other suggestion is to get her into a Boys and Girls Club during the day since you have to work. I'm pretty sure they're free or close to it. They work with at-risk kids. My daughter is just like yours and I have been able to get her into several programs (I'm always upfront with them about her behavior). Sometimes she is asked to leave after some time but at least they give me fair warning. It's better than having her home destroying our home or out shoplifting from neighborhood stores.

    Feeling your pain...
  20. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    After raising six teens (3 steps) and two grandsons I sympathize with your stress level. The fact that she will attend therapy and include her Mom is a positive sign. She has not closed herself off from you guys as many teens do. Whew!Does her therapist believe that she is displaying mental health issues? If so, ask for a lead to a qualified adolescent psychiatrist who can evaluate her and help her through these times. Even though her behavior is not what you'd hope for (understatement, I know) personally I think choosing your battles is the best road. Each family deals in their own ways with issues but in my experience trying to gain too much control of a teen is apt to sever the parent/child binds. I'm a proponent of carefully picking your battles. Birth control is needed, I believe.Trying to find her a volunteer summer job would be worth exploring. Obviously leaving her all on her own is beyond frightening.husband and I have lived the step-parent transition. My almost perfect teen son called my husband"Mr. X (his name)" for over two years after we married. Thank heavens my new husband wasunwavering in his quiet supportive demeanor. Meanwhile my older SD has "tolerated" me forover thirty years. No, her Dad and I didn't meet until six years after her Mom divorced him.Crazy, huh? Blending families is a pain but if the adults stay on the same page it works out.Keep reading and posting here. The support is beyond measure. You'll get differing views but everyone is sincere and caring. Glad to have you aboard. DDD