disengaging essay..for stepparents

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by -, Aug 16, 1999.

  1. Guest

    I am not sure who wrote this, but someone posted this on an AOL message board...

    That's quite the "essay" is it not?

    sounds drastic, but not so much..

    my 11 y.o. difficult child and I had massive battle over laundry--wearing dirty clothes, putting clean clothes with the dirty ones and vise versa, ripping up his clothes, refusing to put them away, throwing them all over the hourse, ripping them up etc. etc. etc.. So, I "disengaged from" 11 y.o. difficult child's laundry.. (15 and 13 y.o. sk's do their own..as I "disengaged" from laundry for them too because it was such a "battle" etc.) My husband does 11 y.o. difficult child's laundry now...he hates doing it...has a much deeper understanding of what I had been going through.

    My sk's complain about the food I make(not your ordinary every day complaint either..11 y.o. difficult child would rage about certain meals I cooked--sometimes just because it was one of his other siblings favorite and it was "no fair that I cooked HER favorite and not his blah blah blah)..that's okay..I just scrape their plates mid-meal...let them go and make sandwhiches for themselves, or they can ask my husband to make something else...

    11 y.o. or 13 y.o. difficult children decide to hate me and want me gone (i.e. when he's in reunification fantasy mode) and try to make it happen, I disengage..they want to go out and play? Fine, call your dad at work and ask. They will make their own meals (sandwhiches for the most part or microwave food). They want to make a phone call, have a friend over, need a ride? All fine with me, just as long as they called husband and asked first..

    And husband's typical response to them??? (why don't you wait until I get home to ask)

    I implemented "disengaging" to a certain degree with full approval and support of our family counselor and difficult child's counselors.

    I didn't disengage fully however..I fully felt welcome to do loads of fun stuff with my sk's. (was pretty enjoyable to be a "disneyland stepmom" LOL)

    eventually things got into balance, sk's were more respectful, asked me to be more involved with their lives individually..

    husband got on the clue bus and became a great deal more involved with the children too.

    One of the first rights a stepparent has is the right to "disengage"..(although I cannot disengage ALL the time..as my husband sometimes has to go out of the country on business)...

    but I think there are some ideas here that can be utilized in just about any home, blended or otherwise. (especially when reading about a parent that is not involved with the problems a difficult child is having)

    And disengaging doesn't have to be a forever thing either, but it can be a useful tool to get "breathing space" and establishing your boundaries.

    3 difficult children(11b,15b,13g), 1 easy child(4g), 11 y.o.difficult child--odd/add/adhd/bi-polar/anxiety/ptsd the only difficult child needing medications at this time. 1200mg lithium, 50 mg thorazine(antipsychotic), 10 mg prozac, .2mg ddavp(eneuresis)
    13 y.o.-significantly depressed,add/ptsd
    15 y.o.--add/adhd/odd/depression/ptsd--on imiprimine for depression/anxiety)
  2. Guest

    Thank you so much for the post. It was long and I printed so that I could reread this. But I have a question....

    I'm home full-time with my difficult child and what do I do when he doesn't do the things that I have asked him to do? Like get dressed? Eat properly? husband will be furious if I have difficult child call him every time there is a question....

    I have to have this boy mind me. If I disengage, then he'll just run wild. Then, the neighbourhood will be terrorized.

    What do I do?

    This sounds WONDERFUL to me. I think that I will use it with my 16 year old SD, too.

    I want to use this but unsure how the day will work with dad full-time working and me staying at home with the little difficult child.

    Let me know, and thanks again for all of the insight.

    Going crazy as the stepmother of a 7 yr old, ADHD, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), ODD
    Mother of 11 yr old son (easy child)
    Mother 6 yr old daughter (easy child)
    Stepmother to 15 yr old daughter (easy child)

    difficult child is 20 mg Prozac, 20 mg Adderall
    Me: Not taking any medications anymore; gained 20+ pounds and that makes me more depressed than difficult child does
  3. Guest

    I stay at home too..

    When I spoke to my husband about this..

    we compromised... 11 y.o. difficult child was allowed two or three phone calls per day...and after that he would simply have to wait until his father got home.

    If he raged while he "waited" he could do so in his room. If no raging, then he could play around inside the house, watch tv, play computer etc.

    the bonus: for every three days difficult child's had good/decent behavior (good, not perfect remember) we'd go to the pool(or another fun place), and 11 y.o. difficult child could bring a friend--(remember what I said about doing the FUN stuff!!!???)

    If meals were a problem, then I would ask my husband to make sack lunches and sometimes a "sack breakfast" at night or in the morning before he went to work! (sometimes would have difficult child help husband or me make his lunch--the night before. I simply grew tired of 11 y.o. difficult child complaining about whatever food I made.)

    The "morning routine" in our home is that first you bathe, dress, make up your bed etc. THEN you get breakfast. did we hear alot of complaints about this at first? Absolutely, but things tend to run much smoother if the eating is left until "later" or almost last. (better to just have the "have you brushed your teeth" issue than to have a raging child/children clad in pajamas and arguing with you as to "why he cannot go outside and play in his jammies etc."

    as for the "eating properly"..

    here is our "deal" with 11 y.o. difficult child..

    if he simply cannot eat properly then 1. he eats alone at the table and at least tries to use his manners (because the other siblings complain about his eating habits/manners and typically an argument ensues) or he can eat however he would like to in his room. (where sack lunch comes in handy).

    For us, this wasn't even a punishment thing..and with the above options I found that 11 y.o. difficult child would "mix and match" sometimes he'd do well eating with other, sometimes he just wanted to eat alone at the table, other times he would eat in his room. (it's no longer an argument or a battle).

    Also have difficult child ask your husband the NIGHT before if he can go and play etc.

    for ex.

    difficult child: "Dad can I go out and play tomorrow"

    husband: "yes, as long as your chores are done, you have eaten, are dressed for the day, your bed is made etc. etc. And listen to Dee if she tells you to come in etc. etc. etc."

    Then, YOU can say, "sorry difficult child...but your dad said you needed to have _____ done before you go out to play. As long as you get ___ done you may go outside and play for ____.

    This is how we did it and it worked surprisingly well. Despite husband having to do alot more work! LOL

    But I simply told my husband, that if THIS is working, then he is doing what NEEDS to be done and what a great father he was etc..(although he still grumbles massively about doing 11 y.o. difficult child's laundry LOL! I keep suggesting to him that he take 11 y.o. difficult child to the laundry mat and let him do it himself!)

    Remember like any idea/plan, you have to shape/mold it to suit your needs.

    3 difficult children(11b,15b,13g), 1 easy child(4g), 11 y.o.difficult child--odd/add/adhd/bi-polar/anxiety/ptsd the only difficult child needing medications at this time. 1200mg lithium, 50 mg thorazine(antipsychotic), 10 mg prozac, .2mg ddavp(eneuresis)
    13 y.o.-significantly depressed,add/ptsd
    15 y.o.--add/adhd/odd/depression/ptsd--on imiprimine for depression/anxiety)
  4. Guest


    Thank you!!! I feel like this was written about our house and my husband.

    My therapist talked to me about disengaging over a year ago. I couldn't make it work but didn't really understand until I read this. My husband had me so convinced that I was the wicked witch.

    I am sending this off to my husband as well. I can't beleive that someone else could feel the way I do. I am contemplating separating because my husband just doesn't get it. I am at the end of my rope and when I tried some of the things that you have he has accused me of child abuse.

    Maybe he will see that it isn't me and that I am not the only one who feels this way about things. (And then maybe he won't and I won't be any worse off than I am now) But I thank you-this is a wonderful piece. Great info and a place to identify.
  5. Guest

    Thanks again for the response [​IMG] I cannot tell you how much it has helped me. husband is still in the process of reading it. He was really busy at work yesterday! But he told me this morning that he printed it so that sometimes during the day, he will read it.

    Dee....I cannot tell you how much your advice/recommendations have meant. And to think that I didn't even have to spend hours in therapy to get this advice!! [​IMG] I wish that I could give you a HUGE hug in person for this....it helps me with the teenager, too, after Dad has gone to bed (he works early) and she wants to have boyfriend over, whatever. I've said that I'm no longer comfortable making any decision that your father isn't aware of, and I am not waking him up.

    I cannot tell you what a difference there is in me.

    Gbmom, I've read your posts...all over the board...does your husband have an email address? If you would send it to me personally, sometimes, it's easier to have a unbiased opinion? There is a stepdad in my area that I met through this board (his stepson was at the same hospital as my stepson in March), and his wife and I talk on the phone frequently. His handle on here is Tripper. I would love to collect some stepparent stuff, anonymously, and send it to him, if I could. Or I could send it to you and you could print it. There has to be a way to make him see that you are not full of it.

    Ladies/Gentlemen....what can we do to help this wonderful lady? Hopefully, this is the major sore point in the relationship.... don't know what I could do about other stuff people argue about. If my husband will read this information, we've got to help Gbmom.... one reason...she's the only one in that house with her eyes wide open and willing to work on the problems.

    Any ideas???

    Dee, thanks again!
  6. Guest

    Thanks Margaret and others. I will take any and all the help I can get. You are a wonderful group amd may just be able to help me find my way!!!

    I do love my husband and the kids-despite everything. I love kids period-I studied Special Education in college and loved them all.

    If I can find a way to reach my husband with your help, I would praise the Lord and be forever thankful!!!!

    Thank you for you wonderful support. I am so glad that I stumbled upon this place.
  7. atexlaw

    atexlaw New Member

    So glad I found this thread. I'm engaged to a wonderful man who has two kids - 15 YO boy and a 12 YO girl. I have a 21 yo daughter who's in college. My daughter and I have always been close. She has her moments but nothing that prepared me for The Boy. My fiancés daughter is wonderful. It's just the boy.

    I've been with my fiancé for just over two years. Until recently, he was awful to everyone but me. For our first two years, he seemed to have a grudging respect for me. Unfortunately, after we went on a recent family trip, I finally lost all my patience with him as he was abusive to my daughter as well as to his sister. Once I lost my cool with him, he seemed to have realized that he can get under my skin too, and now has turned his attention to me.

    In a nutshell, he has oppositional defiant disorder. No question. His mother is a therapist, and has diagnosed him with that. Yet she seems unable or unwilling to help him with it. He goes to no therapy. He only takes medication for his ADD but not when we see him on weekends.

    After the latest episode - in which he told me "go f$&@ing kill yourself" because I would not give him my Netflix password since he had been so disrespectful -- I had concluded that the only way I can keep my sanity is to disengage. Fortunately, my fiancé is very supportive of me, but he doesn't seem to know how to help this kid.

    So disengaging is now my plan. I am not going to help him with any benefits or privileges. He will have to do everything through his father. I certainly want them to spend time together, and I'm not going to completely go away, but I am not going to be the one to make the plans or to try to discipline or to provide benefits and privileges. Up to this point, I had made everything happen. Computer. Phone. New bedroom furniture. Nice vacations. Etc. No more.

    We have the kids only every other weekend, so I don't have to worry about full-time parenting.

    I'm still very concerned for this boy and I don't see much future for him - his ODD is severe and my fiancés whole family thinks he needs a special school. His mom won't help and I don't see how I can save this kid.
  8. pigless in VA

    pigless in VA Well-Known Member

    Welcome, atexlaw.

    My son was diagnosed with ODD when he was 4 years old. There is no medication for this. It basically means that the kid is super difficult to deal with.

    I think sometimes for boys that they think anger is the best response to everything. I used to say that anger was Ferb's default emotion. He certainly had a lot to be angry about, but most of the time I was the person receiving the brunt of his anger. I didn't see any improvement in this area until Ferb asked to see an anger management therapist when he was 16. He broke his cell phone in anger, and I refused to replace it.

    Absolutely try not to react to them. They thrive on pushing other people's buttons. Be prepared for the ante to be upped constantly. It is not a fun parenting experience, for sure.
  9. Littleboylost

    Littleboylost On the road unwanted to travel

    Welcome Al

    This is a big challenge with you, your new life and a blended family. Have you considered family therapy? I am certain that the boys behaviour will affect you all. He may not go but it will help the rest of you.

    You have made a great decision in terms of managing for yourself, this dynamic is going to impact all of you.

    My son was a beautiful loving happy and well adjusted child. When he turned 15 that all changed. It takes a toll on you and your family.

    Please take care of yourself and seek supports to help you through this journey.