'everything changes'

(20 Posts)
thehook Mon 27-Jul-15 11:37:52

I'm posting to ask for help from other Step-Mums who have DC as well as having their SC very regularly. I've nc'd because it's quite specific. And long! Sorry!

My DSD has been with us for 3 weeks straight and will be with us for another 3 weeks. She's usually with us 50:50 but for various reasons, is doing 6 / 8 weeks of the summer hols with us. I think it's likely that from September she'll be doing more than 50:50 with us.

As well as DSD we have DS6 (nearly 7), DD4 and DD1. DSD is 11.

I'm not asking for advice about DSD, I need help with supporting my younger DC.

My DSD's behaviour has got progressively worse over the last year or so, at both homes and at school (although the behaviours are different at each). I suspect she's going to need some counselling or something at some point in the near future but that's up to her parents to action, not me. I don't see her behaviour getting any better and if anything I think it will get worse. I have my theories about why she's behaving as she is but I don't have any answers or solutions.

The last 3 weeks have been really hard as I know they have been for lots of other Mums. Non stop bickering and tears despite lots of fun things going on, playdates, parties, days out, holiday clubs etc. We're moving house too which has added to the stress-levels!!!

DS hurt himself the other evening jumping off a bank in my parents' garden so as DH was away, I put him into our bed. He had the biggest meltdown I've ever witnessed, sobbing uncontrollably that he wished in the new house (we're moving next week) it could just be "Mummy, Daddy, DD4, DD1 and me. I don't want DSD to come anymore". I asked why and got, "because everything changes when she's here, she's horrible to me, she makes everyone hate me, DD4 goes crazy when she's here and she hurts DD1". I couldn't argue with him. Everything he said was true and will probably continue to be true. DSD has done some really nasty things recently. I told him we were a family, and families were like teams and just because DSD isn't with us all the time, it didn't make her any less of a team member. I promised to talk to DSD in the morning which I did, I gave her the same "team bonding" speech as I'd given my DS.

DH is away all week and I need to work Tues - Thurs so I've booked our two younger DD's into nursery / pre-school and DSD and DS into a holiday club.

I've sent them off to a week-long sports camp together this morning (they come home each night, it's just a day thing) to do an activity they both love and are good at but DS didn't want to go and cried on the way there saying "DSD will make everyone hate me". She has a habit of rounding up other children to gang up on one particular child, often DS. I spoke to her in front of DS and reiterated that they needed to treat each other with kindness, support each other as siblings, have fun together and make new friends etc. I won't know until I pick them up at 3pm how it went but I suspect it fell on deaf ears. I feel so guilty and sad for DS.

If he's upset when I pick him up I could arrange for him to go to a different sports camp with one of his friends from school but I'm worried about the precedent this sets. It's always been my stance to treat DSD as if she's one of the other children regardless of her not being with us all the time - I try to act like we're one big, happy family. I wondering if I've got this all wrong. I want to protect my DS but I don't want to split up our family into two different groups with DH and DSD in one corner and the other kids and I in another....

How do others deal with the change in dynamics that a SC coming and going brings? How do I 'cushion' my own resident 'DC' from in my DS's words, 'everything changing'. I don't think everything does change from my perspective - but it obviously does from his. I'm big on routine, I insisted a long time ago that contact was consistent so we all (DSD included) knew what was happening on a given day. No red carpet gets rolled out when she comes and I can honestly, DH treats all his children equally. Help..

HoneyLemon Mon 27-Jul-15 12:13:08

Oh your poor children sad Your DS sounds especially unhappy.

It's one thing misbehaving at home, but she has been bullying him outside of home as well.

As a mum you're very understandably protective of your own children. I would be too. I just don't know what advice to give because my instinct is to say keep her away from them, but I know you want to try and work at your family.

missmargot Mon 27-Jul-15 12:32:49

I'm sorry you're having to deal with such a horrid situation and I think you're doing a brilliant job of remaining calm and trying to make sure your DSD is treated the same as your children.

That said, I wonder if because you are so conscious of wanting to treat her the same as the others that you are actually treating her differently. If it were DS behaving like that to one of your DDs would you still send them to the same activity or would you separate them? I wonder whether you would actually send them to different holiday clubs but are reluctant to do that with your DSD in case she feels she is being treated differently?

thehook Mon 27-Jul-15 12:53:22

Thanks for responding. I don't know what I'm doing, I feel completely lost with the whole situation atm.

Yes, you could be right @missmargot. Maybe I'm overdoing the inclusiveness thing... Ironically, this would have been a perfect opportunity to give them a week apart by putting them into different camps. Why on Earth didn't I think of that?! It might not be too late, if today's gone badly I might ask if I can move one of them onto next weeks' course instead and find another activity for this week. If I'm met with a sobbing 6 year old at 3pm, I think I will do that.

missmargot Mon 27-Jul-15 19:53:40

Don't beat yourself up, I think as a step mother it is really easy to go too far the other way when we are trying to be fair to our step children.

How did it go today?

thehook Mon 27-Jul-15 20:16:32

Not great. DS burst into tears as soon as I collected them. I'm just waiting to get them all into bed so I can call DH to talk about what we do in the short and long term. hmm

supermariossister Mon 27-Jul-15 21:54:43

hope ds is okay tonight and you manage to speak to dp. I try my best not to make things different when everyone is here but often wonder if ds thinks things change too. hopefully you can switch clubs if needed

Kkaty Tue 28-Jul-15 00:08:23

I had a similar situation - although not as intense. My live in DSD always treated my DS by bossing him around as the eldest - and it made my DS feel belittled and I think was on the verge of bullying.

I'd say get on top of it - I know it isn't easy. I changed what I did to make sure that I was almost always around when DSD and DS were together - and as soon as something happened I immediately pulled her up over it.

I also spoke to my DS and asked him to tell me as soon as possible any incidents that happened - I think went and spoke to both of them about it and if I thought DSD was being bossy I had a word in front of my DS so that he knew I was dealing with it - and said that there was only one parent to DS and that was me. I also separated them out for a while - insisting that DSD went to her mum's at allotted times as she tended to just ignore these - and made it clear that part of the reason was that she was not able to treat my son that well at the moment.

I know it isn't easy, but your son may be feeling dreadful in a situation that he knows you can't easily control - as you said you are not her parent and it is always quite tricky to have the history/bonding to do this properly.

I hope that this helps! And yes I'd say immediately separate them out of camps and tell your DP why too. Both kids need to know that you are being FAIR and that means clamping down on any child who is being nasty to the others.

thehook Tue 28-Jul-15 07:05:31

We have decided to put DS onto the different sports camp for the rest of the week with his school friends. It's not his preferred activity but I know he'll be relieved all the same. I'm going to have another talk to DSD in front of DS this morning. The coach confirmed she'd been awful to DS yesterday so I feel like I have good grounds to tell her off. I've arranged a couple of playdates for DS after camp that DSD won't be involved in too.

DH is going to have a serious chat with DSD on Friday when he's back and is phoning Mum this morning. He's reluctant to move forward with counselling because DSD is extremely dishonest, manipulative and infinitely attention seeking so God knows what she'll come up with for the benefit of the counsellor but I guess hope they're trained to see through that kind of thing. I don't see any other routes we can take anyway. Thank you confused

missmargot Tue 28-Jul-15 08:37:20

Good luck, it sounds like you've made the right decision and I'm glad your DH is supportive of your views. Counselling might not be easy at the moment but it sounds as if it is inevitable and won't get any easier the longer you delay it.

chocoraisin Tue 28-Jul-15 16:00:40

Hi there,

well done for being so calm and consistent first of all. I'm going to put on my parent coach hat now (it's my full time job) rather than my Step or Mum hat for some advice, and I hope that's ok. All the kids have had a huge amount to deal with - as have you! And DSD's dad being away will be adding to the dynamic right now, but as I'm well aware, these things can't always be helped. I don't usually post specific advice but I really think this could be useful for your family to explore.

You asked what to do to support your resident children, and the advice I've got is the same actually for all of them. Look up Parenting By Connection or Peaceful Parenting on google for some extra resources (or PM me and I'll send more links) but the main one I'd like to show you is Special Time

For all the kids, DSD included, but especially DSD (with her dad) and DS (with you/his dad) Special Time can help repair the serious upsets that have been happening for them. It's about being 100% present with each child and meeting them in their own world, showing that you like them, you're listening to them and you welcome being part of what's going on for them. Special Time builds a really connected foundation for you to operate from as parent/child. Bad behaviour is never about 'just' acting out with kids. It's a reaction to a need. That need is often (but possibly not only) a need to feel deeply connected, welcomed and loved.

I can see from your post that you clearly love and welcome all the kids. I know from my own family though, that loving them isn't always enough for them to feel it! It's one of the hardest parts of being a blended family. So Special Time is my go-to solution for settling my own children, and SDC as well as my clients children. Read the link to find out more about how it works.

I know it's not easy to get into the routine, because ST is protected time for the children in addition to all the normal family stuff you have to do. Carving out 20 mins for each of them when you don't have to watch the others might be tough but I can guarantee you'll see faster, more permanent results with ST than you will with counselling alone (but still pursue counselling for DSD if you think it's needed). I remember reading this quote several years ago, before I discovered parenting by connection, and just having an 'Aha' moment!

"Children don't behave better when we make them feel worse".

Obviously there must be limits and boundaries, and reparations made when there has been bullying/unacceptable behaviour. But holding in mind that DSD will only behave better when she feels better is the key. Her dad should take the lead on ST but if you are there alone a lot, don't be afraid to try it out too. And definitely use it for your son to help him process what's been going on and feel safe/heard at home.

Very best wishes, X

thehook Wed 29-Jul-15 05:35:00

Thanks chocoraisin - I've just had a look and pm'd you!

Wdigin2this Thu 30-Jul-15 09:34:18

I'm afraid it just isn't possible to 'make' children from different families/backgrounds like each other and blend well! Your DSD obviously feels the lack of her father in her everyday life, (understandably) but her way of dealing with it by bullying your DC cannot be tolerated! Your DS needs to feel protected from any and all harm by you, his mother, so you've done the right thing my changing his camp! I think you're going to have to accept the fact that these two children are not going to blend, at least for the time being, and concentrate on making sure your own DC feel loved and protected. Involve DSD whenever it seems natural and 'safe' to do so, but keep a very sharp eye out for anything you think your DC are unhappy about, and swiftly remove them from the situation! Leave your DH to do the parenting of his DD, talk to him calmly and positively about the reality of your family life, and explain that you've done your best, but the 'blending' is not currently working, so he's going to have to step-up to the mark and find out why his DD is so unhappy (she must be to be behaving in this way) with your family life, and what can be done to resolve her distress! Good luck!

swingofthings Thu 30-Jul-15 13:04:42

This is a clear case of jealousy. For some reason, she is envious of your DS and therefore treating him horribly so that he can be unhappy as she is. I bet deep inside she cares for him deeply. To be fair, this issue can happen between siblings.

I think your OH needs a serious talk with her, but he needs to try to get her to open up and talk about her feelings, not in a way to make her feel that she is being rewarded with his attention for being nasty, but in a way that shows that he appreciates there must be something getting to her so that she would be so unpleasant with someone who has done nothing to her.

If she doesn't open up and remain on the defensive, I would arrange counselling as soon as possible.

thehook Fri 31-Jul-15 05:27:55

It's not just DS though. He's just the closest target when she's here. Sometimes it's DD4 and a couple of weeks she injured DD1 doing something really horrible. She does the ganging up thing at school and has been behaving terribly at her Mums (oddly though the behaviour at her Mum's is targeted at Mum whereas as when she's with us, it's only ever at her younger siblings. She's apparently quite nice to her younger sibling at her Mums house but very aggressive towards Mum. It's the other way round here).

Her Mum thinks the behaviour at our house is jealousy over the fact the other three children see more of DH than she does.

Personally I think it's partly jealousy (but actually not over time spent with DH), partly that moving between two very different homes with different boundaries and expectations since she was tiny has taken its toll and partly the fact that her parents very clearly dislike each other (which DSD has learned to exploit).

DH and I have had a good chat and he's spoken to Mum. The school have a counsellor so they're going to start there. He's back tomorrow. Thank f***. Note to self, never agree to DH going away during the summer holidays again...grin

MythicalKings Fri 31-Jul-15 06:50:44

It's too late now but I would have stopped DSD going to the preferred activity. DS is being "punished" because DSD is behaving badly.

I'd have kept her home for the day and told her why. She's old enough to know exactly what she's doing and has been rewarded by DS not being there any more.

thehook Fri 31-Jul-15 06:58:36

In an ideal world I would have done just that Mythical. But a) DH wasn't here to help deal with the fall-out and b) I had to work and didn't have anything else to do with DSD while I had a workable alternative for DS. I agree completely though; he ended being punished for his sisters' misdemeanors.

MeridianB Fri 31-Jul-15 22:17:09

I was just about to go to sleep when I read this thread and it stirred up such a reaction I had to post.

You are much calmer and more patient than I could manage to be in this situation, OP. You sound so level-headed and it must be especially hard with your DH away.

I feel very sad for your DS but also your other younger children. I'd hit the roof if an 11 year old treated any smaller children this way but the really scary bit is deliberately hurting a one year old -this would be a huge alarm bell that they were in need of some serious help. It sounds like counselling is a good idea.

No advice but just wanted to say hang in there and you sound like you're doing a great job in really hard circs. Just please don't ever leave her alone with your little ones..... sad

Madmum24 Mon 03-Aug-15 11:57:14

Such a difficult situation OP. If it is any consolation I am experiencing this change in behaviour from my eldest and it is affecting the younger children too; no step issues, all children from myself and husband. Growing up is hard and with a mixed/blended family it is even harder.

As a child I experienced similar, us resident children were picked on and my Step dad did very little to curb this. You seem to be doing a great job; keep batting for your son and at the same time explain to him that she is at an awkward age, needs extra help settling etc.

It may be though that she is struggling with the blend herself; I know as a child I wanted it to be just Dad and my brother, I didn't want a "new" family no matter how nice they were. It is very hard to feel a "half" part of two families, unfortunately I don't know the solution but I would be firm with boundaries and equally give her plenty of space to air her thoughts/worries.

thehook Tue 04-Aug-15 06:10:08

Dad did manage to have a reasonable conversation with Mum and they've agreed some ground rules to implement across both homes around things like bedtime, diet, homework, hobbies etc. They've come up with some shared consequences for bad behaviour and some 'treats' for good. No idea if Mum will stick to it....she's pushing for DH to have DSD more in September and I think this would be her preferred solution.

I've been open with DH that I feel our children together, DS in particular but even the little ones to some extent are losing out on happiness, attention and just the general ease and contentment that usually reigns in our house when DSD is around. I did use the word 'bullying' in relation to DS. I admitted to him I feel like DSD is bomb waiting to go off as she fully hits her teenage years. He got upset, not angry but upset but agreed we can't let it go on any longer and is adamant he is going to everything he can to help DSD 'nip it in the bud'. I wish I could be so optimistic.

DSD is going to go to counselling at school from September. She had a brilliant form tutor last year who has been very supportive and seems to understand DSD well so she has spoken to the counsellor for us already.

I'm going to sort out some counselling / parent coaching for myself once the kids are back at school because I really am struggling to see the wood from the trees with my role as a SM atm...and breathe!!!

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