Full time Stepmum In Need of Support

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by mins, Dec 17, 2007.

  1. mins

    mins New Member

    Hi everyone,

    I am having a bit of a hard time at the moment and am glad to find this board for support.

    I am a full time step mother to my 9 year old step daughter. I am also a birth mother to my 3 month old son.

    My stepdaughter has always been very attention seeking and we have had lots of behaviour problems with her since she was 4 years old. We first thought that it was because her younger sister was very sick and got all of her real mothers attention. Then her sister died when my stepdaughter was turning 6. A lot of anger and aggression followed since then and we got full custody of her 6 months after my husbands other daughter passed away. We were understanding that she was angry about losing her sister etc so we were supportive and to a degree lenient. About 2 years after she passed away though (about 18 months ago now) the anger, frustration etc wasn't going away. We did counselling and everything we could think of to help her. All the while her real mum was totally unsupportive and aggrevated the situation by condoning bad behaviour at her house. In other words it was too hard to fight with her so she gave up.

    Now her behaviour can be excellent and she can be the most caring, considerate and helpful child I know. She logically listens and takes in what I say but she doesn't listen to her mother or father. She usually abides by my punishments without too much of a fuss but this is because I have had a zero tolerance attitude since I have known her. She ignores her father most of the time and apparently fights quite badly with her mother. She has never yelled at me and would never hit me but she does with children and her mother. I am pretty sure I have gained a lot of respect with her in order for me to be the only person she treats this way.

    Anyway, my issue is that after many years of loving, caring, taking fun places and having heart to hearts with her, she is now misbehaving at school and talking back and arguing with the teachers and principal along with the other students. She is behind academically because she cannot maintain focus and concentration. This also stems from the lack of support she got at her mothers over the first 2 years of her schooling. The principal is almost certain she has Oppositional Defiance Disorder. After reading up myself and scoring 9 out of 10 on a regular basis I tend to agree completely. We have a referral to a pediatrician and we are just waiting to find out when we can get an appointment.

    I am at home with my son on Maternity Leave. I am getting phone calls to come and get her nearly every second day because of her behaviour at school. I am getting severely stressed and upset because I am feeling as though it is all dumped on my shoulders and her own parents are taking no responsibility. I do not want her bad behaviour around my son. I will not accept it at all and have smacked her on the legs or bottom when she gets to a point where she is losing it. It is the only way to get her to snap out of it. That is not going to work forever I know that and I am very scared about the teenage years. This is not a behaviour that has cropped up overnight but it has gotten a lot worse over the last few months. Again we thought it was because my son was born and talked to her about it but she really has no control over her behaviour at all.

    I have told my husband I need to take a step back and he needs to step up a bit. He is trying but he yells a lot and has very little patience so this just sets her off quicker than remaining calm. I am sure she anmnoys her father to get a reaction.

    Anyway, sorry for the very long post but I have a feeling that I am going to require help and support from an outside source because I don't receive much at home.

    Also I am frightened that she will hurt my son out of jealousy and won't leave him out of my site with her when she is in a bad mood. He is also missing out on a lot of my time and attention because she demands so much of it. And I think he can tell when I am tired and stressed and unhappy because he seems to cry more. I don't want him to have to deal withthis but I am finding it extremely hard to compartmentise my emotions.

    My biggest issue is that I want to help her so much and I always do. I don't think that will stop. I am just at a point where I am totally feeling that she is not my child and therefore not my sole responsibility. When we went for custody I thought I would be supporting my husband in raising her, not being her only parent so to speak. I am the ONLY one that effectively disciplines her so she is going to grow up hating me although she loves me now. I dunno what else to do.

    Thanks for listening.
  2. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    Welcome to the site. :flower:

    You're absolutely right in that you shouldn't be bearing the brunt of this. Even if she were your biological child, it's important that everyone is on the same page. Now that you have a little one that needs you, it's even more important.

    I recommend the book The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. Get your husband to read it, too. Is the referral to the pediatrician to get you a referral to a mental health professional? Generally, pediatricians don't have the expertise to diagnosis (diagnose) these types of illnesses/disorders. We recommend, usually, a multi-disciplinary evaluation and/or a pediatric neuropsychological evaluation, but I'm not sure what resources you have. At the very least, I would recommend a pediatric psychiatrist (psychiatrist).

    More will be along in the morning (I'm assuming you're in the UK?) to offer their support and ideas.

    In the meantime, pick up that book, encourage your husband to read it too, and - most importantly - get some time for yourself.
  3. mins

    mins New Member

    No Australia. Thanks. I will look for that book here.

    We have a referral for a general pediatrician at this stage and they will refer to a psychologist. I tried to go straight to the psychologist pediatrician but they can't take a referral from a GP.

    Thank you for reading my post.

    Edited to add: Sorry I meant psychiatrist pediatrician
  4. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    Well, with 'mum' I knew it wasn't the states! :wink: I was trying to do the time difference in my head to decide where I thought you might be from.

    We have another very active member from Australia. Hopefully, she'll see this post later as I'm not familiar with the way your health care system works.

    I did wonder how much of the parent's reaction - or inaction - towards your stepdaughter stems from them having lost a child. That may be something they have to work on, too.

    It's good that she has you. Now, just have to get dad on the same page as you. Consistency makes children feel more secure, especially our children. They seem to need it more than the neurotypical kids.
  5. mrscatinthehat

    mrscatinthehat Seussical

    I hope that you can get your husband to get on page with you. If you all are not going to work together things will be much harder. As I am sure you are finding out. I went through this. Once everyone is on the same page (if possible) taking a step back and making your husband do things is a good choice. It won't be easy (again I am familiar with this). You are on the right track to start getting evaluations.

    Hope you can get some help.

  6. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

  7. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    It sounds like the acting out at school started after or soon before the baby was born. Is that correct? If so, I imagine there are a lot of issues and fears going on -- the baby might get sick, the baby might die, she'll be shunted into the background again.

    It also sounds like the only way she got attention when her sister was alive was by acting out. She's had to put up with a lot in her short life and I'm sure she feels she's been cheated.

    Somehow, your husband has to learn how to father her with a lot more patience and a lot less yelling. Consistency is crucial. It sounds like you are very consistent and her bio parents are very inconsistent. There may have to be a meeting of all adults with some very firm rules laid down and, if an adult refuses or cannot follow these rules, they may have to step down for awhile in seeing her. If possible, get everyone to read The Explosive Child. It may open a few eyes and help them to parent her in a different manner.

    I truly believe step-parenting is the most thankless job there is. You have an ex second-guessing and frequently undermining everything you do. You can't feel like she is truly your own daughter because the other parent is still in the picture, so part of you keeps a distance. It is a hard job and your job sounds even harder since you are the only adult she seems to respect.

    I hope you find some answers as to what is bothering her and why the behavior is escalating. Best wishes.
  8. Janna

    Janna New Member

    You must be a saint. I really admire you for what you're doing for your step daughter. I think it's awful, however, that your husband and his ex wife can't take a stand. Someone needs to.

    I have no advice but wanted to say that what I think you're doing is wonderful. Please do get someone to help you with her, soon, and start taking care of you and your new baby.
  9. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    G'day, Mins. You have a lot of issues here combining to make you feel overwhelmed. I hate to think how this girl is feeling, no wonder she's misbehaving (I hate the term 'acting out').

    ODD - yes, I can see that she would fit the profile. The thing is, there are many reasons she could fit the profile, a lot of them unrelated. I wouldn't be pushing for a diagnosis of ODD; rather, I would be pushing for someone to evaluate her thoroughly and give you some support and suggestions on how to help her. I think that is what you want, too.

    For those not from Australia - we have a good health care system, even though it's somewhat overwhelmed in places and inadequate in others. In general, we do OK and because it's mostly government funded, we have much cheaper access to a lot of good things.

    BUT - as far as I know, we do not have such an animal as a neuropsychologist. Most kids with learning problems or behavioural problems are referred by a GP to a pediatrician, preferably one who is experienced with these sort of problems. Also, there is no age limit on patients, if they began seeing the pediatrician while they were still under age. My middle two saw the pediatrician today, and they are 23 and 21, respectively.

    Mins, you may already know this, but here are some perks of our health care system and how to get them:
    If you can get your GP to write a Health Care Plan for your stepdaughter (in other words, if no other GP has done this for a year previously, I think it is) then you can ask the GP to also include in that Health Care Plan a bracket of psychology sessions. You would need to find a psychologist in your area who is registered for this and who is known to be good with this sort of age group and range of issues, but it shouldn't be too difficult. Then you can get the help she needs, bulk-billed by Medicare.
    This would be therapy only, not psychometric assessment. Ask the GP, but I don't think you can get assessment under a Health Care Plan.

    You can also get other services this way, such as Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, a number of other possibilities.

    There is some paperwork involved and I think you need a GP who you see regularly personally, rather than just anybody in a clinic-based practice. But I think she needs that degree of continuity anyway.

    She may have an underlying learning problem such as ADHD, or this may all be down to the problems she's been going through in sequence all her life; her parents break-up, her sister's illness and death, her being pulled from pillar to post and seemingly rejected by her mother, the inconsistent parenting and now a baby brother who on the one hand may be replacing her and who on the other hand she may fear for.
    You need expert help to sort this one out.

    My feeling - if she IS ADHD, then this is just the icing on the cake for the poor kid. She's also got a lot of history to resolve and soon, because the older she gets the more set in the bad ways of thinking she gets and the harder it is to bring about positive change. If it's bad now, it's worse when she's a teen. Fix what you can now, is my advice.

    There is help available. There is also support at school available. If you browse this site you will learn about things like IEP, support funding, teachers aides etc. This is not limited to the US, we have them here in Australia too. Our educational system is very similar, in terms of support available and how to get it. Just different names, in some cases.

    But first things first - she needs a diagnosis. If there's no actual disorder, she at least should have the label of (whatever-they-call-it) "kid who has been through purgatory and needs to be managed differently". Maybe a certain amount of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, involving the death of her sister and the upheaval in her life in other ways.

    You've had "The Explosive Child" recommended - good. Get it out of the library fast and read it. If you can, get your husband to read it. If he says he hasn't got the time or just can't 'get into it', then either summarise it for him so he can understand it (which will consolidate it in your mind for you) or ask me (via PM) for a copy of my summary (written for my husband).

    It sounds to me like you need to find another discipline method, you and husband. Forget everyone else for now, you need to get yourselves into something you can make work, then expand from there. This book can help. It certainly helped us. But as you noted, your current methods won't work for much longer. You need a discipline method that will work; that you can administer without causing concern to authorities; something where you win every battle and eventually, something where she learns to manage for herself (ultimate goal for all parents).

    I'm based in Sydney but move around a bit. PM me if you want to make personal contact at all, although I am not a stepmum so I mightn't be much help there. I might be able to help with some names if you need it. The PM is to help you (and me) maintain confidentiality, it is important here so you can feel free to vent without fear of someone (such as teachers, doctors, administrators) realising you might be venting about THEM!

    And welcome. This is a good place to get help and support.