don't know how to help him(29 Posts)
Hi all, new here. Sorry if this gets long - need to vent!
My DP and I have been together coming up to 10 years, we have a DD (7)
At the beginning of the year DP's DS (12) came to live with us as his mum basically kicked him out - she says she can't cope with his behaviour. DSS also said he wanted a fresh start with us. He is a lovely caring boy and my DD was really excited to have him come stay with us. We knew there would be lots of adjustments to be made for all of us. We are over 100 miles away from his mum so it was a long way for a 12yo to move. However we seem to spend every moment dealing with his issues and I feel my DD is suffering - it is 3am now and I just can't sleep thinking about all of this.
He has always had wetting issues. Day and night - no particular pattern. The exw says he has been discharged from the hospital as nothing wrong. We know this is not an uncommon problem especially in boys, but he lies about how and when it happens. The school nurse says we are doing everything right in terms of trying to manage this. He has an alarm to get up in the night (which wakes us all up) but he lets it beep for a long time then switches it off and doesn't get up. So most nights DP has to go get him up. In the day if he is wet, he will most often quite casually tell us he didn't make it in time. However after a chat he will admit that he was doing something and didn't want to stop so waited too long.
He also 'forgets' a lot of things, or makes excuses - how/when his underwear got wet for one, but also when we ask him to do something or ask for info from school - even when we write it in his diary. After a chat he usually admits that he lied about this also.
I really feel sorry for him, and want to help him. His mum has told him straight she doesn't want him back. She also told him that his troubles would follow him wherever he went. His self esteem is so low, he looks like he will cry (and very often does) when we ask a simple question. I think every interaction he had with his mum was her yelling at him for something.
There are other things too, but I think a lack of positive attention/guidance has been the cause of all this. Obviously DP now feels guilty for not being around more, but 100miles isn't a 'just popping round' distance - especially with a full time job.
So, we recognise his problems and know it isn't his fault. He says he wants help, but doesn't seem to understand when we say the lying isn't helping. If we ask him what we talked about last week - he can't remember. We seem to have to control everything he does because he doesn't think to do anything for himself. We are trying to remain positive and encouraging, but all this attention on him is affecting my DD already after only a few months.
Anyone been in similar situation? Does it get better?
I think you have half of the right idea, that his self esteem is zero. So I think he needs reassurance that the choices he makes are OK and won't cause a problem with you/his Dad because you love him unconditionally, right?
If you can tell him he is such a great boy, that you see such good in him.
I'm seeing it that he wets himself because he is afraid: stuck between a negative reaction from you if he wets, and yet if he doesn't it is saying that his mother was wrong about him. When you're 12 and have had a lifetime of "you're shit" from your mum, then providing evidence that you aren't has quite scary implications wrt to her, hasn't it?
BTW I think lying/forgetting/all that stuff is pretty normal for tweens and teenagers so I would not worry too much about it.
Of course he doesn't remember last weeks conversation- then he has to take responsibility for his actions which to date has been horrific for him.
I think if you can provide a calm, loving, no-drama home that he will start to blossom.
I know I am biased, but our DD has been a pure pleasure to bring up, we have had no issues what so ever. She is happy, polite, does well at school and is a quick learner. However understanding we are of DSS needs it has been a shock to the system for us too him moving here. Obviously as the adults we are more equipped to deal with it, and we try to tell him often that we believe in him and we are really happy to have him here. He says he feels he is ruining our 'happy life,' which of course we emphasize is not the case.
Despite him saying he wants a fresh start and help with things, he also gets upset that he thinks we are trying to change him. His dad had a pretty long chat with him about this basically explaining that we don't want to change who he is, we want who he is to be a happy person and to do that we need to help him enhance himself. Something along those lines. We also try to let him just 'be' without overwhelming him with 'chats' and not make issues out of everything. Something he really isn't used to.
Re the wetting, take him to the GP and get a referral even if what his mother said is true. I have had years of the same with dd and now she is having medication to help her.
All children are different and your stepson is obviously very needy compared to your dd. He will need a lot of extra care and patience from you. Some of what you describe (the forgetting everything) is completely normal for 12 year old boys. What is he like at school? I would mention your concerns to the school as often they can provide extra support for children who need it eg programmes for self-esteem which might help him.
You sound like a very loving and caring step mum. He sounds like a good kid who is still dealing with the difficult treatment he received from his mum.
It sounds to me that he is not yet sure of his place in the family and may be pushing things a bit to see if you will reject him. He must also be suffering very deeply on one level for the fact that his mum has rejected him... Poor kid.
I think you are going to need to be incredibly patient and loving.
Is he having any counselling for the past? He may very well need some professional help to come to terms with the emotional abuse and rejection he has experienced before he moved to you
I would also return to the GP and ask for a new referral to hospital to ensure that there is no physical reason for the bed wetting. Do you only have his mums word that he was seen previously. I would ask for a 2nd opinion to be sure every avenue has been checked.
I wish you all luck and that he founds peace in his heart.
He went to doctors as soon as his registration came through down here. Doctor said school nurses deal with this, so we contacted school nurse. We had to wait a while but now she is starting to get involved. Nurse said doctor should have referred. He is going back to doctor next week.
We sensitively mentioned to school when he started so he got a pass to go to the toilet whenever.
I am starting to feel guilty/awkward praising DD for things she knows/ does that DSS doesn't if that makes sense.
He is genuinely a lovely, thoughtful boy. He has offered and been selected to be part of the induction process for new year 7s starting in September, despite him starting at the school mid year himself. He also went out of his way to spend time with a boy who is alone inside during break times due to illness - nobody else did this. He is great with DD, he never seems annoyed with her being around which I would expect from a 12yo.
His schoolwork itself he is struggling with atm, but he did miss nearly a whole term because his mum sent him here without us having a school place and having to wait.
There are so many positives about him. It is really the emotional side of things that are hard to cope with, and hard to explain here fully. We decided we wouldn't tell family/friends down here about all his 'issues' unless it became necessary, so he really could have a fresh start and they could get to know 'him.' So I think I am just here to get everything out and into perspective.
There is a fabulous book called siblings without rivalry that will have some helpful insights for
all of us you.
Heart of hearts is the wetting an emotional or a physical problem? Can you afford private play therapy for him? Can he start something new so that he can make progress and get good at it: a sport or hobby or instrument.
I know it's not the same but I'm wondering if you should pop over to the foster/adoption board? The huge factor of first his mum being so far away and then his mum sending him away and not wanting him back is probably something they can advise on. Im
not an expert but it could be he is testing to see if you will equally reject him?
I think you have to work on the self esteem - what's he good at, what's his passion - sports, reading, imagination even if it's playing on the Xbox. What ever it is can you make it more time for his dad or even the whole family to spend time doing what he's good at, letting him being the expert, leader?
I really feel for you and him. It must be so hard to feel settled and to adapt.
Sorry meant to say ... His Dad being so far away, then his mum...
You sound like an absolute fab step mum. The forgetting and lying is normal - I have two boys myself. The bed wetting sounds normal too considering how bad his early life has been poor boy.
Regarding your DD, bringing up one child is very different to having two. Before I had my second child my first was an angel because of the 2:1 adult attention and quality time he had with us. It is harder with two but your SS sounds lovely and can only be a positive addition to your DD life. Your SS is probably terrified that if his dad kicks him out where does he go. This must play on his mind bless him.
Still here, basically been awake since his alarm went off in the night.
Money is tight. And ofc it is a lot tighter since he came to stay with us as we knew it would be. Aside from the food (which is another issue, he barely knows what a vegetable is) the extra washing plus clothes we have had to buy - he went through 3 pairs of trousers in 4 weeks of school. Boys I know will be boys. He has a sports club after school, but we really can't afford much more for him right now. We went through a lot of savings in the term he wasn't at school keeping him occupied, and also all the clothes and bedroom things he needed/didn't have. Savings meant as a deposit for buying a house.
I know here on paper I sound like I know what I'm doing and going in the right direction, and as an outsider I am practical and reasonable, but living it 24/7 I am becoming an emotional wreck myself.
Thank you all so much for your responses. I only joined yesterday. Spent the night reading basically. Writing (not quite) everything down has helped with my thinking.
Well, he's gone off to school so I have a bit more time before I take DD.
Yes, DP is doing his bit. Half my stress is worrying about him. He is obviously really upset that his son has been so miserable whilst also having to deal with me getting stressed. So, it's hard for both of us. Like all parents we try not to show our frustrations to the kids, but end up taking it out on each other.
When we got together I knew he had DS and DD (still with his ex) but like I said, it was such a sudden move it's just really hard to adjust.
So she's also separated him from his other sister?! My god no wonder he's struggling with being rejected like that by his own mum, by the sounds of it you guys are doing a great job it will take time for all of you to adjust and for him to feel confident that you and his dad won't get rid of him like his mum did. Good luck though but by the sounds of you and your other half you will be fine over time xx
Keep interacting with your DD, as much as possible, in the same vein as before DSS arrived. Drop the guilt on praising her in DSS earshot, even tho she is only 7 and your 12 year old DSS isn't as good at doing the same things. It won't harm the boy to hear another praised! This change should ease your feeling of being an emotional wreck a little (been there with DSS myself, know what you mean).
You've done a Good Thing taking in your husband's son, the lifelong half sibling to your daughter.
The two kids are different. I don't like labels but my DSS was happily labelled as different, and still is by birth parents and siblings at 19.
So here, me being a bit guilty of projecting my own experience, I can tell you how I see your situation.
Your boy sounds anxious (and shy with social interactions?), but loyal to friends, and with a sense of right and wrong, but he is driven by fear. I wonder if he has black and white thinking, is very self protective, and doesn't see things from others point of view (he smelly if he wees himself, he makes others tired if his alarm wakes them, loses trust if he lies). Your DSS hates confrontation and goes into internal panic.
With maturity these traits could completely be ironed out. He might be 'different' for years. It might be your DSS will have emotional struggles always, after a very difficult start in life. This will be a heartache even more so for DH. Whatever personality your DSS has, he is unique, he is who he is and can make a great contribution to society now and as an adult. He is full of potential and he is in a good place with family now.
You must be shattered. Emotionally and through lack of sleep, and you feel the worries of the world have dropped into yourr previously smoothe running life. It seems you and hubby need to reform as a team, and talk, smile, cuddle and have some fun.
You need to shift the emotional burden and decision of parenting style and medical help needed, onto your DH. He might be happier feeling he is doing something and admired for it. And then you can wholeheartedly support DH.
I too, lean away from the heavy chats and try far harder just to naturalise casual conversation full of loving support and occasional gentle chastisement, or emotional grounding for my DSS who, I describe it as, can't see 360 degrees. He just has his one angle. However, he is capable of learning if I point things out gently. Any poor tone from anyone leads him to anger (or occasionally tears).
Go gently on yourself and try to absorb you are doing your best. Your husband needs to know you don't judge the boy or hubby as a failure. Tell DH youre happy but tired and let DH gift you sleep/tea out with DD/ time off. Admire your husband's good traits out loud to him and allow DH to be the stronger, more involved parent.
You sound a fab step mum. Get some renewed energy.. Try to give yourself a week long "emotional-holiday" of not fretting so so much. Just Be. Live in the moment.
Treat DD to some mum time.
Gawd knows how you solve the money issues? Get a Saturday job in a nice calm adult only environment (hotel/spa/estate agency??)??
Apologies this is long. Your experience touched me.
Poor lad, and his poor sister!
My older sister was taken away from me when I was 7 and I don't think either of us have ever truly recovered from that.
I would suggest you ask the school pastoral team for some counselling for him. I assume your dp isn't paying any maintenance to exw for the other child? If so this can probably stop if he has one and she has one.
Also, have you looked into benefits you can claim, tax credits and child benefit being transferred to you for him? Money isn't the answer but you would be less stressed if it wasn't an issue.
We only have dss who more or less lives with us, though dp still pays £500 cm, but if money were tight for us I don't think I would have been able to cope at all. I only just cope as it is but adding money worries would see me off!
I also think advice to go back to the GP for bed wetting is right - there are medical as well as psychological issues that can cause this so it's important to investigate both and not wait for one to be dismissed without looking into the other, so tell the GP you want to look at potential medical issues as well as the school nurse route.
I wet my bed until I was 15.....see above re sister disappearing when I was 7.....
Does he get a chance to see his sister?
I would definitely seek some therapy for him. He might do well in a talking therapy at his age, but if not, play therapy is an option. This won't get better on its own and he can't help it. Poor little guy.
To the 4 of you that have replied since I was last here - thank you, your comments have given me lots to think about.
I do care about him, and when I am in a good mood/rested/calm etc I can see clearly but when he lies to us over and over in one day I really feel like I've had enough. I fully understand most of his behaviour is not his fault - but it certainly isn't my DDs either and she is suffering here. It's hard to strike a balance between making DSS feel secure but also pointing out the behaviour that really isn't acceptable. He just cries if we even mention something that needs working on. I have never been a 'shouty' parent. Even my 7yo I just talk to her, just have conversations. She is very mature for her age.
Dontmind you are so right about the 360 degrees. One of the times his dad took him away for a few days to see family he had wet the bed, but rather than tell us he left it to me back home to find/smell so he wouldn't have to face it. Never occurred to him that wasn't fair on me. He admitted he didn't want to ruin that day for himself.
Also last weekend we had planned a nice day out. He got up in the morning telling us he had no clean pants. We don't know how many he has exactly but we know he had 3 pairs of new ones. Also should have been 1 in school bag for spare. Found 1 of the new ones in the washing basket, none in school bag. So there's me and DP turning the house upside down looking for at least 2 pairs. Maybe they got mixed up in someone else's? No, turns out he had thrown away 1 pair at school earlier in the week to hide the fact that he had been wet. So, knowing what happened, he let us search. We repeatedly tell him to let us know, it's not a problem. There are still at least 2 pairs missing that he says he has no idea. But, we find it very difficult to believe him. We also say that he has to tell the truth to someone because that will help us all help him. There are many other little things like this. But at the end of the day, most are little things (they are only pants) that don't need to turn into drama for the whole family.
Re his sister. When he lived with her and his mum, DP used to get up there to see them irregularly/but fairly frequent (work shifts) Dp has other family things he is sorting up there but most times they go the mum is too 'busy' to see her son or bring DD to sil's (where they stay) They were up there for a whole week at a time once, she couldn't visit a few miles even that time. My DP is exhausted and as the exw doesn't work at all we think she could make the effort to come down here now that the kids are split. Just another niggle that adds to all this.
Sorry about another long post.
Also Kate we honestly don't know the true reasons - physical/emotional. We do sometimes notice that he goes to the loo several times in an hour so Dp has tried explaining how to make sure he is emptying his bladder. The real difficulty is understanding why sometimes he just sits there and does it. Sometimes he says he knows he needs to go but wants to finish what he is doing, other times he says he didn't know. But he constantly changes the reasons. He told his mum he was doing it because he wanted to come live with us - one of the reasons she sent him when she did.
He has always had this problem though, his sister was still wearing a nappy at night also. Although apparently since SS has come to stay with us she has miraculously stopped wetting. I don't want to point fingers. We all have our own parenting styles, I don't know if his mum seemingly not caring is a result of frustration/stress or whether how she has been with him from the start has caused this. Either way, it is us that are now dealing with it. EXw seems pleased that now we are seeing what she had to 'put up with' rather than being concerned about him.
Trying to respond to all your points - literally all of you have been a great help and reassurance. Sorry if I haven't thanked you by name, but I have been taking on board all that has been said.
Why does your DP live so far away from his DD did he move away? 12 year old boys lie. They are selfish. I can remember lying to my mum at that age. Not sure if they even know they are lying as it becomes fact. We have an expression in our house "is that a DS fact or a real fact". Your DD will be fine. Once there is a sibling the dynamics will change. You need to do regular 1:1 days with your DD. I feel so sorry for your DSS as ultimately his problems have been caused by the adults around him. He has had to start a new school, live with a new family. Move 100 miles and be abandoned by his mum. Hopefully things will look brighter for him soon.
A while after DP and the ex split up he moved one way and she moved the other. Resulted in 100ish miles distance (and me and DD)
I know the pants isn't the real issue, just an example. But honestly, he needs spares if he's got a wetting problem. Buy him a dozen pairs. Make losing/throwing away pants a non issue.
It sounds as if being asked about it all the time is making him anxious. He says what he thinks you want to hear.
Maybe stop trying to work it out and just accept it. Do things that make it easier to cope with logistically.
Toastie I sympathize. A lot.
I had kind of a similar issue, my DSD came to live with DP and me about that age, as her mother was finding her 'too difficult' - issues with lying, school, very moody, didn't care for herself.
It is quite a strain on the family - and no matter how much you want to give and support - does your DP acknowledge that? Mine didn't and that was one of our downfalls. A lot of bad behavior was excused rather than dealt with in our case, and my DSD became quite aggressive if any demands were placed on her - to be truthful, to be polite.
Your DSS could suck out a lot of the energy needed for your DD - as your post seemed to be a bit of a call for help on that score. It's like you are noticing that the focus on your DSS cannot just go on and on without some damage to the unit.
I guess you are now dealing with a sudden situation, and are having to get time to catch your breath. I'd say you are so wise to be thinking long term about trying to cope, as no matter how much your DSS needs you all, he sounds defiant in some ways and has barriers up, and could pull you, DP and DD down too - and then no one will be able to help.
But you sound very caring OP, and that you have a good relationship with your DP and your DD - there is security there, that's a huge strength.
What about having a good chat with your DP - writing down the most important issues to tackle with your DSS - you can' tackle them all at one time. Next to each 'issue' - write down anything that could practically just help to minimize the stress in the short term.
Could you just get LOADS of pants from a cheap store. A few bed sheets and a plastic sheet. Don't get up or set the alarm every night - you are all trying to cope with such difficulties - you all need sleep! That's a daily stress you could do without, and it doens't like its' working anyway. So what if for the next month or so there are wet sheets every night - do things in stages.
The lying - that is going to take a while to shift. Again - minimize stress - decide what is the most important things NOT to lie about FIRST - deal with that this month or so, the rest later, then talk with your DSS and explain. Get him on side. Say that you know it's going to take a while to change these habits, tell him he's got time, that you are not going anywhere no matter how much he hides things.
My DSD also got angry/cried whenever we asked her to do anything, but ended up using this not to deal with anything. Your DSS sounds like he is still very caring and compassionate. That means he has the will to cooperate, perhaps it is just too overwhelming.
Take the pressure off DSS - off of you and DP and DD - as much as you can. Become zen about missing items/non organisation unless it is very important - and so many things are not. Explain to the school that he will be very scatty for a few months because of a lot to deal with, and say that to him too, give everyone a breather.
I don't know about bed wetting, but I'd consider going to a different GP, a school nurse isn't going to be able to get to grips with the complexities, and get referrals to psychologists or medics, whatever help you can. Start afresh.
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