Heartbroken about DSS behaviour - long, sorry!(36 Posts)
Hi all, just to explain I have a DSS who is 6.10, I live with my DH (his dad) and we are expecting a baby in 7 weeks. DSS spends every weekend with us and normally lives with his mum and her fiancé. We all have a great relationship, i.e. spend lots of time all together and everything is always very amicable. DSS is an only child and DH and his ex split just after DSS 1st birthday so DSS doesn't remember DH and his mum being together.
Anyway, since we announced my pregnancy, DH's ex and her fiancé have been 100% positive and supportive and DSS has been excited all the way through, until the last few weeks. He's been asking for a brother/sister for years. He's always been exceptionally polite and kind and works well in the routines we have established at both houses. However recently he's started getting tearful when he leaves his mum's house ad telling us he doesn't want to stay for 2 nights, just one. He's also asking to ring his mum constantly - he's called her 3 times since we brought him home yesterday evening.
It turns out that last week he threw a really big strop at the dinner table (with his mum and her fiancé) and said that he hated his stepdad and just wanted his mum and dad to live together. His behaviour has got a lot worse recently and DH, exW's fiancé and I have all been maintaining the boundaries but making sure we really praise good behaviour whereas exW has been getting the brunt of the back chatting and disobeying/refusing etc and (has herself said) that she doesn't know what to do and is so worried about hurting him that she's not telling him off for it at all. We all spoke about it last night and without prompting, she said she felt that she needed to do the same as us 3 so hopefully things will improve on that front.
I just feel so sad because no matter how much we reassure him, I feel that the new baby is really worrying him. He's regressed into watching baby TV programmes and playing with baby toys. DH, exW and DSS all had a 'family meeting' yesterday where they allowed DSS to ask them anything about the situation. However since then, DSS seems to feel that it has opened the floodgates to moan about everything he feels is unfair in his life, i.e. his mum not playing with him 24/7 and having to do household chores instead and the fact he doesn't have a nighttime drink (we're trying to get him dry overnight). He has changed from the mature, happy 6year old who enjoyed spending time with us to a babyish, clingy boy who seems to resent spending one with us and only wants his mum. I feel like I'm part of the cause of this and have messed up his life by getting pregnant. Help!!
By the way the hating the stepdad thing was totally untrue - DSS loves exW's fiancé and had just had a particularly bad night in terms of behaviour (only corrected by exW fiance) which may have brought on the temporary resentment. ExW's fiancé is lovely and treats DSS as if he were his own. He was absolutely gutted when DSS said he wished he wasn't with his mum...
I don't have any advice, but just wanted to say how refreshing to read that you all get along so well. You're all to be congratulated on that, seems to be a rare exception these days, sadly.
With all the love and support I'm sure it's just a phase. I hope someone is able to give you advice on how to endure it/help your DSS. Keep up the good work, I say. And good luck with the new baby.
I don't have much advice but let him watch baby tv and play with baby toys, our dd did this when ds was born, it's like they want to be a baby again. She very quickly got bored of it.
Thanks empross, that makes me feel slightly better although I also think it's part of why I'm worrying about it so much - I know that no situation involving a split with children will ever be ideal but I genuinely think that how we all get along is showing DSS that we have a really healthy relationship and I guess I'd just assumed that it would mean that situations like this would feel easier to deal with (or hopefully not happen). Guess I've been a bit naive on that one...
I think that the four of you need to back off from focusing quite so much attention on how you manage this one little boy. He must be suffocating.
Yeah we've not said anything about the TV and toys...not sure if he's doing it to try and get a reaction but we've not fine him one...hopefully he'll go back to Pokemon and Star Wars soon (NEVER thought I'd hear myself saying that!!) ;)
You shouldn't spend any time together as a foursome, ever - the poor boy is totally outnumbered.
bonsoir would you mind explaining please? Would be v interested in your view on it - I'm happy to explain more if needed. Thanks.
Oops, x-posted. The time spent together is basically a cup of tea together for 20 mins or so when we pick up and drop off DSS from his mum's while he gets his toys together/goes to the loo etc. Just thought that was nicer than doing it all on the doorstep. Only other times are big events like birthdays, his nativity etc.
Think about it - you all four clearly talk all together about your DSS and how he behaves at each home, you talk about him fitting into routines, the four of you spend time together. This is terrible for your DSS - he has four adults controlling his life. He must be desperate! Leave him alone and, especially, stop talking to his other family about what goes on at their house. And don't let him see you all together.
Bonsoir has a point - he's getting a hell of a lot of attention right now, and on some level knows that the attention will be maintained as long as there continue to be "issues".
And I think you all may be overthinking this - his behaviour/worries would be fairly standard for any 6 year old about to have a new sibling, regardless of family set-up, and will pass once the baby arrives and he sees that he's as loved as ever. Get him to help a lot with the baby - fetching nappies, "helping" you etc - make him feel invaluable and that the baby really needs him around.
Wow that's really interesting bonsoir, thanks for that input. We do make sure we don't discuss anything like that in front of DSS, he is oblivious to it. Normally one of us goes off to get him ready while the other 3 have a quick chat (if needed, only when an issue has come up recently). Do you really believe in not being together for birthdays etc or not attending school events? Xmas is separate, he does Xmas day with mum ad Boxing Day with dad. But for everything else which is big we've deliberately made the effort to have everyone there for him for whatever his special occasion may be...
Right, first off - you haven't ruined anything by becoming pregnant. That's just daft! Congratulations
His reaction to a new sibling is normal. He will feel excited one minute and then confused and worried the next.
What is unique however is that he has two sets of parents to offload onto and this may be magnifying the situation and making it worse for him then it actually is. In other words are you all tripping over yourselves to please him (is he getting a bit spoilt?)
He needs to be shown lots of kindness (which it seems he is getting in spades) but lots of firmness too.
Congratulations to the four of you (adults) for handling the split so amicably. That really is not easy to do.
He needs lots of boundaries though - is this still happening?
Hassled I can totally see your point, I think attention is a big issue here and maybe at the moment he's feeling that he needs it so much that even "negative" attention will do.
Loads of hand wringing and 'plans' and routines and over thinking here. All with the best intentions but it's really not necessary.
Bollock bad behaviour, ignore attention seeking behaviour, give him a quick cuddle and distraction if he is upset.
I'd stop big family meetings immediately though. He must feel suffocated - it's a little odd
Betty the problem recently has been that the boundaries have been consistent with DH, me and ExW fiancé but exW has taken the opposite approach and therefore we're all getting different behaviours displayed towards us as a result. DSS does act totally differently when we take him home because he knows he'll get away with whining/moaning etc but his mum has recognised this and without any input from anyone else, she's said to us all that she's going to try and be more consistent like the other 3. She's getting fed up of being the one who gets all the tears and tantrums. DSS won't do it to the other 3 as he gets a different reaction. But like I said, hopefully this will be sorted soon...
shine there was only 1 family meeting and that was because DSS was asking lots if questions about the divorce and we thought it needed DH and his exW to explain things together. Me and exW fiancé were not involved in that. Everything else is just chit-chat while DSS gets his coat on and goes to the loo when we pick him up. Most times we don't really discuss him anyway as things have been so good for so long, they've only recently changed.
I'd try and just take a step back and let him get on with it. I have a 6 year old boy myself and they can be contrary, that's for sure.
You used the word ' heartbroken' in your OP but really, he's just behaving like a normal little boy. They do get tearful , they do play up and they do sometimes seek attention in a negative way.
Hope it works out for you
At 6, he needs to be spending plenty of time playing football etc with other little boys.
Thanks. I think just knowing that in the last week, he's wished for me (and exW fiancé) not to be part of his life did really upset me. I know he's 6, he'll have said it without thinking of the consequences and our feelings but I guess I just never envisaged anything like that happening. It's done now I guess, so we just need to move on...
Sounds like he's fed up having so many adults on his back...
Thanks bonsoir I have appreciated your point of view too. It's good to see it from others' perspective and I do agree with a lot of what you've said. I totally agree with your last post re the football... We do set up lots of time for him to socialise with friends and maybe at the moment we need to maximise that.
I think you shouldn't take it so personally! It sounds as if you adults are all trying too hard. Little boys (and little girls) need their own space and own friends and own lives.
Bonsoir, what a load of nonsense!! Of course he has 4 adults controlling his life- that's how it works in step families. And it is lovely to hear about such a 'united family' sitution.
OP, I think your situation sounds lovely for your DSS. You sound like a very caring stepmum. It's very normal for an older sibling to act up when there's a new baby on the way, even when bio parents are together. So please don't think this is because you are doing something wrong.
I'd say give DSS lots of attention. Talk to others (in his hearing) about how wonderful it is that your baby will have an older brother. I'd really lay it on thick! "DSS will be an amazing help, I don't know what I'd do without him." "I always wanted a big brother myself so baby will be very lucky".
And let him play with baby toys etc. Lots of love and reassurance that you'll always love him. I have 2 boys and I call them both my 'best boy'. That's because I was using that phrase when I only had 1, and couldn't change it when the other came along! They don't care!
I would probably explain to him that his comments were hurtful and not acceptable and then leave it there and move on to something else.
He has no choice other than to accept the situation. A new baby is on its way whether he likes it or not and there could well be more to follow
So probably best to take a 'business as usual' approach which includes telling him off if he is rude or disrespectful.
It's good that his mum is going to try a more 'consistent' approach - this must be difficult for her actually .
bonsoir he does not have 4 adults on his back - what a stupid thing to say!
Even in very ordinary set ups 6 year olds get a bit wobbly with change.
Keep his routine going, dont go over and over things, just keep things simple. Bonsoir is right about the ratio of 4:1 being very over powering, a bit of benign neglect is no bad thing sometimes.
Good luck with baby.
(a word of warning, when you have your newborn home with you this 6 year old boy will suddenly seem grown up and you may find yourself thinking he should be all mature as he will seem MASSIVE besides how he seems now. But he will need to be treated as a young boy for anotherr while so try not to lose patience or to expect too much from him. And if you find your seves saying "Now we expected more from you at your age you should be able to help with the baby not make it more difficult" etc etc then just stop. Catch yourself, remember he is only a small boy, and go forth..)
How does a good relationship between step families mean he's not getting his own life? Why would it detract from that? I really really don't understand Bonsoir.
Are you suggesting that the OP tell the boys mother she doesn't have time for a cuppa cos she urgently need to take DSS out to enjoy himself?
I didn't see anywhere in her post that he DSS spends any less than the normal amount of time with other children.
OP, you are doing NOTHING WRONG here. The way the four adults in this situation are behaving is admirable, and should be the ideal for step families.
Op sounds to me like you are all dealing with both the divorce and this very temporary blip for DSS admirably! some for you!
I don't agree about the 4 controlling adults thing - just don't think a 6 year old would see it like that. My close friend is a SM as well and has a similar aged DS. The parents all get together for coffee at drop off and pick up and she was telling me the other week that her DH held his EXDW's new baby on his knee while they all played a board game together with his DS. The DS concerned is thriving in this atmosphere of mutual respect and while of course the adults don't agree on every aspect of the DS's upbringing, they can at least discuss differences calmly as you can.
You need to treat this as a temporary phase and I know it's very hard when you feel very emotional due to pg, but remember 6 is very young still. I'm sure if he were (God forbid) ever to lose you or his mum's fiancé he would actually be devastated. just keep doing the good job you are doing and being a great SM to him and this phase will pass. My ex DP had a much younger DSis from his father's second marriage and adored her.
Sorry - should say my friend has similar aged DSS
Thanks all. I have been trying to prepare DSS for the baby but find it difficult...I don't want him to think the baby is all I go on about but I know he needs reassurance about it!
What I've been doing is highlighting how good his behaviour is with his baby cousin, both to DSS and also to other people so that DSS can hear it, i.e. stuff like "DSS is the best at making baby cousin laugh, he's so much better at it than us grown ups, wow DSS look how much she likes you, you're going to be so good with the new baby etc." DSS also loves feeling the baby kick and I tell him that baby is trying to play with him already and only kicks people they know they love already and DSS is its favourite person. I've also made sure that DSS will be the first person (apart from DH of course) to see the new baby when it's born.
As you can tell I really want this to work for us all!!!!
Ds1 was just short of 3 when Ds2 was born and he regressed, no step family, I was a SAHM and he had had me all to himself up until that point.
He even deliberately stood in front of me and wet his pants whilst I was breastfeeding so that I would prioritise him over his brother. It was heartbreaking for me, I just told him that I was feeding his brother and he would have to wait. Once I had fed Ds2 then I changed Ds1.
I also made sure that if I was doing something with Ds1 and Ds2 started crying I would say outloud, hang on a minute I am just doing X for your brother, so that Ds1 would feel that there were times when he came first.
I think your DSS's behaviour is totally normal, he has been the centre of 4 people's worlds for 6 years and that is going to change. And I have to take my hat off to you for keeping everything so amicable as step-parenting can be a minefield.
Enjoy your pregnancy.
Firstly, congratulations on your pg
dss is bound to be having very mixed emotions. He's excited about having a sibling, but at the same time probably a bit worried or even jealous - after all, six years is a long time and he is used to getting all the attention all the time. We had similar problems because there are five years between our two but, when dd arrived, ds was absolutely smitten and over the moon and everything was fine.
Also, I would agree that around age six is a difficult time for boys anyway - testosterone levels are high and they have mood swings. ds is nearly 15 and has (generally) been very easy going all his life, but even he had a blip at around this age. I have memories of shouting matches and one time when he locked me in the dining room, by holding the door on the outside!! It passed. Good luck, I'm sure your new family will bring you plenty of love and happiness.
OP, I'm very jealous of your situation! Crazy but true! I love the fact that your DH works with his exW to give a happy life for their child which now includes 2 wonderful step parents.
My DH's ex is a complete b***h who will do anything to drive a wedge between hubby and his 3 kids, unfortunately she's worked with one of them :-(
Your step son is showing normal behaviour with a sibling coming and he's just using the situation as ammo. Don't let him away with it, give him his usual time outs/punishments for any bad behaviour and include him in any baby related things. Show him life wont change with the arrival of new baby and continue to show him your love - from all 4 parents. And don't change the little meetings you have, my brothers fiancé is 30 and her parents split and dad has remarried. She has a wonderful relationship with her SM and her SM and real mum are friends and chat to each other at family get togethers! That's priceless!!!
I agree with abbiehodes, lay it on thick about what a wonderful big brother he is going to be!
I could not disagree with Bonsoir more.
Four loving parents all pulling in the same direction? Perfect, wonderful and a fabulous example. He's 6, he's not going to feel smothered, he's going to feel loved.
A pregnancy in that situation is always going to throw up some issues. Continue to praise the good, ignore the bad and things will work themselves out.
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