New to group...blended family, so much stress

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by AllStressedOut, Jun 15, 2007.

  1. AllStressedOut

    AllStressedOut New Member

    I'm new to the group tonight, so hopefully I'm doing this right. I'm at my wits end and I need some advice or even just some understanding. My family is a his, mine and ours combo, 6 kids total. We are going through termination/adoption process now and its taking a toll on our difficult child's. They are diagnosed ADD, ADHD, ODD, Reactive Hypoglycemic and SAD depending on which I'm referring to. They see a pyschiatrist monthly for medications, Zoloft, Straterra, Foclin and sleep aid, again, depending on which one I'm referring to. One is on such a strict diet it seems like he should be in Auschwitz. I hate it, but it does help his behavior significantly. They're bio-mom is diagnosed bi-polor, impulse control discorder and partial mania.

    The last 6 weeks they have really taken turns for the worse. One was chasing a classmate around with scissors and throwing tantrums on the floor at school. Another was yelling at his teacher and leaving the classroom. Now we're having a problem with all of them stealing from the easy child in the house. I'm rolling my eyes at the sarcasm in the easy child and difficult child references because all of my kids drive me nuts on different days in different ways. The easy child's just don't have any diagnosed problems, they :censored2: up without a good excuse.

    husband is so exhausted he broke down in tears tonight. He blames himself, I blame myself. I think I'm the evil step mom and they just don't like living with me. He thinks he hasn't taught them correctly from the beginning. We feel like we can't let them out of our sight. We went the strict route, grounding them from everything under the sun. Sending them to their rooms for the day. Nothing works. They just got in trouble last week for stealing and we caught them again tonight under almost the exact same circumstances.

    What do we do? What works? I can't ground them anymore, I'm grounding myself to a summer with 6 kids and 4 walls. We can't possibly spend the rest of the summer at home because they can't behave. Taking away toys doesn't work, doing chores doesn't work, talking to them and rationalizing doesn't work. HELP! Someone out there has to have some advice or support. When we come down hard, everyone is punished because we're all grounded to the house. If we let up, we feel like they're getting away with everything. Chores don't bother them, losing toys doesn't bother them, their father crying doesn't bother them, us yelling doesn't bother them, us talking calmly doesn't sink what?
  2. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    Welcome to the board.
    You asked, now what? My first reaction is that you run away (tongue-in-cheek). That's always my first reaction when my kids make me nuts. One of these days I'll actually do it and I'll be found on the beach in Belize. :wink: I know what you mean about the easy child and difficult child references. As you can see from my signature, my easy child isn't very easy child, but he is typical teen (typcial teen). Some days he's just a PITA. (By the way, to do the signature, go to My Stuff at the top of the page and click on Profile. It helps us to keep everyone's info straight.)

    The Explosive Child by Ross Greene is highly recommended around here. It gives you a different view on parenting challenging kids - who, by the way, don't respond to traditional parenting methods - and takes a lot of the angst out of picking battles. I suggest you grab a copy and see what you think. Our kids do we require that we think outside of the box when it comes to parenting, otherwise you are just trying to put a round peg in a square hole.

    With bio-mom's history of a mood disorder, I'd be keeping that on the radar with the kids.

    Others will be along with their thoughts and ideas. Until then, remember it is important that you take time for yourself.

    Again, welcome. I'm glad you found us.
  3. AllStressedOut

    AllStressedOut New Member

    Thanks for the reply! I will go get the book tomorrow!

    I wish there was more local support for families like ours. None of my friends know what we're going through or have any idea what advice to offer.

    Sometimes you just need someone to understand where you're coming from. Thanks again!
  4. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    Look up your local chapter of NAMI. They should have meetings from time to time.

    by the way, I have hypoglycemia so I completely understand what you are dealing with on that front. The behavior is really out of the control of the person suffering from it. When my blood sugar drops, it's not pretty - it almost feels as if your body is shutting down, so it's going to make one cranky to say the least. I have days where it seems I can't manage my blood sugar no matter what. I've noticed it's very susceptible to stress. My kids know when I say that my blood sugar is low that everything stops until I get it back under control.
  5. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    First and most importantly, quit blaming yourselves. Believe it or not, it is not your fault. It is not your husband's fault. It is something chemically wrong or wired wrong in your kids. We all make mistakes. Parents with kids who are considered "good" make the same mistakes we do. The difference is their kids learn not to do the same thing over and over. They learn from their mistakes just as we learn from our mistakes. Sadly, our kids don't quite get it.

    I used to think like you when my daughter was younger. That is, if I gave in, I was giving her permission to misbehave. The reality was that the "stronger" I was, the more she would simply do exactly what she wanted since she felt she was going to get punished no matter what she did. Reading "The Explosive Child" helped me a lot. Since I adopted a little girl that was severely abused, the Keck book on Adopting the Hurt Child also helped me tremendously. I don't know if your husband's kids were abused or neglected, but you might want to go the library and just check out this book to see if might apply and help.

    I didn't know it until my daughter hit her late teens, but a lot of the things that I thought didn't matter to her did. She just refused to show me they mattered because she was afraid she would lose control. So, your kids may care a lot more than they can or are willing to admit at this time.

    Most importantly, take time for you and your husband. It may be a movie together after the kids have gone to sleep. It may be getting up 15 mins earlier every day to share a cup of coffee and a hug before the chaos starts. Also, find some time every day for just you. Maybe you and your husband can take turns giving each other a little break every day or every other day. It doesn't have to be long, but it has to be very strict "me" time. A walk, a bath, read, take the car to Starbucks, talk on the phone with a friend. Whatever each of you choose for yourselves. The big thing is that barring a major arterial bleed or other severe injury, the me time is sacrosanct and no one can disturb you during this time.

    Since I was a single parent, I got a friend to watch my daughter for an hour once a week and this was my time. I did no chores during this period. I paid no bills. I did nothing on my have to or nice to do lists. This was for me to wind down and gear up. It probably saved me from abusing my daughter a time or two. It definitely helped me survive when the week had been exceptionally bad. Like the one week she did in fact stab a boy in her class, cut a girl's dress, kicked the teacher hard enough to draw blood, assaulted me, destroyed her bedroom door and broke anything she possibly could.

    So, welcome. You're not alone. You've a wonderful group of people who do understand.
  6. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    AllStressedOut, welcome. You have already received a lot of good advice.

    While medications are never the full answer, they can definitely make or break a situation. I have three children on psychiatric medications, and we found that we could not begin to address the behavior until they were on a good medication mix. Once their mood issues were more or less stable, we could then work on issues like household responsibilities, family relationships and school-based challenges. As Heather suggested, you do need to keep your eye out for bipolar disorder given that it is in the family tree. You should also be aware that stimulants for ADHD and antidepressants (including Strattera) can make kids with bipolar much, much worse.

    Are the kids in therapy in addition to seeing the psychiatrist monthly? Have you and husband considered family therapy for everyone? My three children are in weekly individual psychotherapy, and we have also done a little family counseling. They have definitely been able to access therapy better once the medication mix was right.

    Again, welcome and good luck.
  7. house of cards

    house of cards New Member

    I would like to add my welcome to the group. I understand the stress of having multiple difficult child's and trying to resemble "normal" whatever that is. I don't feel that I am doing well enough to give any advice but I can offer support and understanding.
  8. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member


    With all those difficult children do you have a strong team of professional help that they all deal with?
    Strattera made my difficult child 'hate me' - her words.
  9. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    In no way should husband blame himself. It's not his fault, these are difficult kids who are not responding the way less difficult kids react. He can ground them forever and, like you said, they don't care. It's the makeup of the kids, not his parenting skills.

    I would definitely get "The Explosive Child" and read it cover to cover. It can diffuse the craziness while you try to help the kids. Another book I highly recommend is "The Bipolar Child" by Dimitri and Janice Papalous. Although none of them are diagnosed with early onset bipolar, the bio. mom has it, and it's very hereditary. Maybe you will see your kids in the book, maybe not, but it can't hurt to read it and learn about it. Stimulants don't help and often make it worse. Straterra is an antidepressant and could wreak havoc with any mood disordered child and ADD is sometimes misdiagnosed bipolar. All the kids are on stims. Maybe that's not the ticket. You can get second opinions--that never hurts. We had to do that with our son. The treatment he got at first just wasn't working so we looked elsewhere. neuropsychologist exams are good. I'd personally want all of the kids, re-evaluated, especially those who are violent.

    Stepfamilies are hard. My hub had to get used to my kids, and it wasn't easy. I wish you all the best.

  10. AllStressedOut

    AllStressedOut New Member

    Thanks for the advice and support everyone! I can't believe how emotional I'm getting just to know there are others out there like us. I love all of my kids, but the stress is unbelievable at times. For so long they seemed to be doing so much better, but lately it has gone down hill. Both of us as parents feel like we're messing them up even worse. We're checking out both books from the library today. Our psychiatrist seems to prescribe the same medications to all the kids and that doesn't seem right to me. The oldest is the only one in counseling now because when he started, the youngest wasn't responsive to the counselor and the middle one didn't seem to have any problems, so we thought he didn't need it. I think we need to rethink that and put them all in it. Is it helpful to have the same counselor or would it be better for them to have different ones? We see +'s to both sides. Any advice?
  11. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    What's most important is that they have a therapist they click with, so if that is a separate therapist for each kid then so be it.

    How long have you been on the medication roller coaster? A lot of disorders mimic others (for example ADHD and anxiety look a lot alike) and a 45 min initial evaluation followed by 15 min medication checks with a psychiatrist isn't enough time to really make those determinations. With bio-mom's history of a mood disorder, I'd want a full psychiatric evaluation done. Not only is bipolar hereditary, but mothers with mood disorders are statistically more likely to have children on the Autism spectrum.

    It's perfectly normal to feel guilt and responsibility. However, if you were truly as horrible at parenting as you feel you are right now, you wouldn't be here trying to find help for you kids. I have spent a lot of time beating myself up for "mistakes" I made and in the amount of time it took to get a proper diagnosis for my difficult child. But, I'm human and, therefore, fallible and I'm going to make mistakes. The important thing is that I was always trying to do the right thing for my child. And re: the amount of time it took to get a proper diagnosis, I still beat the national average by a good several years so I must have done something right. But I have to remind myself of these things often.

    The point is, we are our own worst enemy and our easiest target when it comes to pointing fingers. The reality is that it's noone's fault. It just is.
  12. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I'm not saying therapy doesn't help. It can. But therapy while kids are unstable, violent, etc. often doesn't work. The kids are unable to get that much out of it until their conditions are stabilized. If you do go with therapy, I'd get new ones that are not in any way connected to the psychiatrist because in my opinion I think a fresh look at the kids could spawn a new diagnosis. Since none of them are responding to ADD medications, in my opinion it's smart to look beyond that rather than doing the same ole same ole that isn't working. I wish you luck and hope that, whatever you try, works out better than this. Remember, if one doctor isn't helping your kids, do what you'd do if your child were physically sick and didn't improve or got worse--find somebody else. Do they have contact with bio. mom or is she too sick or out-of-control to be safe for them?
  13. AllStressedOut

    AllStressedOut New Member

    Bio moms rights were terminated last month. She can appeal, but so far we haven't heard anything, not too much time to go before appeal time is spent. She is very sick, doesn't take medications and self medicates with meth. Her impulse control disorder also gets her into much trouble with the law. If her rights stay terminated, I plan to adopt as soon as I can.

    difficult child I has been on different medications since 1st grade. difficult child II was just diagnosed with ADHD a year ago and has been on medications since, academically they helped significantly, but he is angry and use to be my pushover. difficult child III, also diagnosed a year ago and on medications since & diet shortly after. The diet seems to help way more than the medications did. He was on medications for not quite a month before starting the diet. The medications on all 3 have been tweaked as far as mg's, but the medications haven't really been changed all that much besides increasing dosage in the last year. difficult child I has been on so many different medications before I was even in the picture, I'm not 100% clear on all he has tried. Adderall was one, I know they wanted him on Concerta, but at that time bio mom didn't agree with any medications or therapy so I don't believe he ever went on it.

    We've got the books and I plan to read them over the next day or so. I'm at a loss as to how to discipline right now. The PCs never needed much in this area and now I feel like a drill seargent. I want life to be easier on my difficult child's, but I can't condone stealing and lying. Any suggestions before I finish reading the books? Right now they're grounded with no priveledges and are in our sight at all times. I can't believe how little they were out of our sight yesterday and were able to steal in that small amount of time. Just walking to their rooms and back is all it took. Any suggestions for now or should I just leave it as is until I've read both books? This life just seems so depressing and with depression as part of the problem, I feel like we're just making it worse.

    Thanks everyone for your help!
  14. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    The thing is, when you do a strict grounding like that - where you've taken away all privileges - you kind of leave yourself stuck. IOW, what else can you take away for some other behavior that comes up - and with difficult child's, it will. Read The Explosive Child first. That will help you immensely in that regard.

    Hang in there.
  15. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    What medications/doses are the kids taking?
  16. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    Since Mom's rights were just terminated, the odds are this is causing extra acting out. No matter how much they love their dad or care for you, the confusion and pain they are feeling is something they cannot control and, thus, more acting out.

    My question is what are they stealing? Is it impulse or deliberate? That is, they see it, they take it or do they plan it out? If impulsive, I think I would just take back what they stole and leave it at that for now.

    My daughter was a pro at stealing. It was rarely thought through. If she it, wanted it, had a chance, she took it. If anything had pockets, I sewed them shut. Her backpack was see through. Same with her purses. I actually had to do pat downs before we left stores. I also found that there was no punishment that worked. What seemed to work was just stopping the opportunity as much as possible and not letting her keep what she took. She did have to apologize to whomever she stole from, including me. Verbally to strangers, in writing to those she knew. If taken from a store, she had to pay the price of the item from her allowance as well as lose the item back to the store or to Goodwill if they refused to take it.

    As to the lying, that one is something I never succeeded in really curbing. The best I could do was simply not give her a chance to lie. To this day, I simply tell her I don't want to hear an excuse, just a simple yes or no to whatever is being asked. If I think she is starting to lie, I stop her as soon as I can and simply tell her the story doesn't matter, just make whatever is wrong right. Of course, I had the advantage of only one child. She couldn't blame someone else in the house.

    Hopefully, you'll find the right mix of medications and a good fit in a therapist soon. It can help.
  17. AllStressedOut

    AllStressedOut New Member

    difficult child I takes 80 mg Straterra, 200 mg Seroquel, and is supposed to take 200 mg of Zoloft. I think he looks awful with that much, so I keep it at 100 mg of Zoloft. He gets red circles around his eyes and just spaces out all day on 200 mg. The psychiatrist just changed the Seroquel to a sleep aide and I can't recall the name. Rozerum maybe?

    difficult child II takes 20 mg Foclin, 40 mg Straterra and 25 mg of Seroquel. His Seroquel has also been changed to the new sleep aide and Zoloft has been added, but I don't recall the dosage, he hasn't started yet.

    difficult child III takes 30 mg Foclin, 100 mg. Seroquel and was also just changed to the new sleep aide and Zoloft was added, again unsure of the dose, he'll start this week.

    Our solution right now to the stealing was to remove everything from their room except beds, dressers & clothes. This makes items of interest easier to spot. I think this time was impulsive because they did it in a moments notice, but last weeks was planned out between the older two. Since the first time they were caught, they've been in our line of sight or had a clear room, so they did it quickly and threw it under the bed for later. Other than clearing their room, they've had to be in the same room with us, but this is just too much for us. We have to have some breathing time. I do the same thing as mentioned about the lying, I ask yes or no questions and tell them it is a simple yes or no question and to answer it this way and I'll ask for more info if needed. The only thing I've noticed on this, is the youngest difficult child pauses to answer when he's lying and if he's not lying, speaks up immediately.

    The acting out started before they new about moms rights being terminated, but maybe they had a feeling or maybe they over heard something. We had waited to tell them until after her 30 days to appeal was up, but found out a week later that she had requested a new trial and was denied on the last day of the 30 days, which now extends her appeal time to 90 days. We waited to tell them so that there wasn't a possibility of change, and now there is. I hope for their sakes, nothing changes, because I'm not sure they can handle anymore uproar. They have not seen her since Aug 2005.
  18. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I still think, like smallmom, that you ought to take a look at those medications. So many stims and antidepressants could make a "Normal" kid rage and get angry. With biomom's history, those medications could be fueling mania--rageful, angry, violent mania. My best advice is to get a second opinion on the diagnosis and the medications regime. Nobody wants to hear "mood disorder" for a kid. it's easier to hear ADHD/ODD, but if ADHD medications aren't calming the kids, if it were my group, I'd be thinking that they haven't found the right answer and would be looking for another one that may be more useful. I have bipolar II. If I took Zoloft and a stimulant or Adderrall and STraterra I'd be flying. If I just took Adderrall I'd be flying. I flew on Ritalin. I don't know what's wrong with your kids, but I would not disregard their genetic history, and I'd definitely seek a totally fresh opinion on all of them. Hey, whatever you decide to do, be sure to find SOME way to take time for yourself. (PS-Zoloft took two weeks to put me in the ER for akathesia. It's not a mild drug, and I was only on 50 mgs.)((Hugs)))
  19. AllStressedOut

    AllStressedOut New Member

    We've been referred to a new psychiatrist outside of our plan by two people, the counselor and a friend who has seen this man. He is very expensive though and its hard to gather the funds when paying attorney fees etc. Our insurance won't cover him at all, so it will all be out of pocket. We thought of taking them to our general practitioner for an opinion between now and then. Any thoughts? Our GP has experience in mood disorders, but obviously won't have as much experience as a psychiatrist. We're just not sure what else to do, with 3 that need the new doctor, its going to be about $400 to walk in the door and about $300 every month after, not including medications. medications now are about $200 a month. I don't think only taking them once is helpful, I think they need to be seen regularly by the same person, but this is a new monthly bill we can't afford yet. My dad says 200 mg of Zoloft is too much too, he says as an adult that 50 mg was his dosage. I've started reading the book that everyone recommended. So far, my kids seem easy in comparison to the those he gives examples of. Mine have more problems with outbursts like he talks about at school and not at home. School says its because they aren't comfortable enough at home to act this way, but I don't see it that way. We also get to hear that its because we don't pay enough attention to them and they need more. I think we are extremely structured and scheduled at home and they know what to expect, so it makes life easier for them. I have menus for breakfast/lunch/dinner on the fridge, we eat at the same time every night, showers are scheduled, bedtime is the same, time on playstation/computer etc. is scheduled for each kid. We started that just so that everyone got turns and life was easier for us as far as menus, so grocery shopping and daily planning was more simple, but I think in the long run, it really helped my 3 difficult children. The chaos in a normal classroom is too much for them I think and thats why they're breaking down there. One teacher once compared our home life to a concentration camp and said this is why our youngest difficult child was breaking down at school, because he felt relaxed enough there to do it. I have always heard structure and scheduling helps kids thrive. I didn't use to be so structured/scheduled when I was a single mom with 2 easy child boys, it wasn't until I had my 3 difficult children that I thought this is what I needed to do for them. They have improved significantly since my husband and I have been married. difficult child I use to urinate on kids at school, kick teacheres, threaten people, got suspended from school in Kindergarten and more. Now his outbursts are more arguing with the teacher or kids, nothing physical. I feel for him because he doesn't have any friends and can't seem to make any. I wish I could afford to buy this book for all of their old teachers and new teachers. I think it might make them realize that we are doing our best and that some kids are just this way. I do agree that their medications aren't right, I'm just not sure what to do about it in the immediate future. We can't afford the new psychiatrist out of plan right now. Our monthly bills between the current psychiatrist/medications, attorney fees and ex issues are $1200 a month. I don't think I can squeeze another $400 out of it. Do you think the GP will be any help? I'm fearful of trying a new psychiatrist in plan that I don't know anything about. The current psychiatrist is rated in the top 10 in our metroplex. The counselor doesn't like him though. Are there places to find recommendations for psychiatrists in certain areas? I prefer to hear someone had a good experience with someone over just randomly choosing one.
  20. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    Are there no other child psychiatrist's in your area on your insurance plan? What about trying at your local children's or university hospital? Because the kids don't seem to be responding very well to the medications they are on, and because of bio-mom's mood disorder, I would really push for a psychiatric evaluation - a multi-disciplinary evaluation would be best if you can swing it. There is info on that on the FAQ board.

    I agree that some kids need medications. However, I am not one that is willing to just try a medication and "let's see what happens" as has been recommended often. I refused medications for difficult child until we had a (somewhat) firm diagnosis. For years, noone could give me that answer, but wanted to medicate symptoms. Medicating symptoms may have very well worked, but it would have hidden the issue from being identified and treated. Further, medications have so many side effects and if you medicate, for example, a bipolar child with SSRI's you're looking for trouble. I wasn't positive that my difficult child was not bipolar, but the professionals wanted to throw an SSRI at her and if it induced mania, well then we'd just have to go to the hospital and at least then we would know, they said. They were very nonchalant about it. That just wasn't acceptable to me. I received a lot of criticism because of that, but I didn't care. I was doing what I felt was best for my child. My difficult child is vulnerable on her best days. Ending up in the hospital because of medication-induced mania may have very well broken her. I had days where I felt like a horrible mother for not medicating (in the days before we did), because difficult child was so miserable and I knew she needed something. I just wanted to know what that was first. So much of psychiatry is trial and error.

    As far as what the teachers say, so what? They don't know what's going on in your home. They don't have training in these kinds of issues. So many people think they have the answer - as if I wouldn't have done that already if it were only so easy. I got that a lot. I've been told that I was the one with the problem, not difficult child. I was told I need to be more strict, less overprotective, etc. I understand where you are coming from. It takes time, but eventually you get to the place where you realize that others speak out of their ignorance. It makes it easier to ignore others probably well-intentioned, but ill-advised, advice. Do the kids have an IEP in place at school?