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Constructive criticism please, and advice(20 Posts)
I am mum to two young men, 24 and 20, and stepmum to a 14 year old girl who lives with me and my husband, her father. Her mum is an alcoholic who is in the final stages of liver disease, so my SD does have issues on that front which are being dealt with via counselling and specialised psychiatry. She came to live with us 2 years ago now, and when she first moved in and for I guess a year or so afterwards, made loads of new friends and was always out with her mates going places and having fun. Great, we were happy she'd settled in and was making friends, and she was extremely happy, despite what was going on with her mum. However, she would also spend a lot of free time on her laptop and smartphone, and it got to the stage, just before Christmas where she wasn't going out at all and preferred being in her room alone glued to a computer/phone screen. She started to become withdrawn and sullen so we decided to take action and restrict her computer/phone time to encourage her to start going out again or invite mates round. We restricted her to an hour a day of computer/phone time and said if she went out with friends, or invited a friend round for tea/watch a movie then she would get an extra hour on her computer. We told her that when she was actively going out she was noticeably happier, buzzing even and that we wanted to encourage socialising in the flesh rather than encourage socialising in a virtual way.
However, it's not really worked, and just lately she's not been going out for over a week at a time. We decided that perhaps, especially now we have lighter evenings, we should reward her more with computer time if she did go out or have a friend round, but restrict it if she didn't make the effort. We said that we wanted her to go out or have a friend round at least 3 times per week, and if she didn't then she wouldn't get her hour of computer time per day, and would only have it if she went out. Initially she did make some effort, and would come back from seeing friends happy, buzzing and excited, jumping around all over the place - a different child! Then it all stopped again and over the last couple of weeks she's only had computer time on 4 days. Yesterday when she got in from school, as it was sunny and nice I said to her she should get out and enjoy the nice weather. She said she couldn't be bothered and went upstairs and put her pyjama's on. I tried to encourage her to invite a friend round, but she didn't want to, so I told her no computer time. Later, when my husband got home, he went to see her in her room and she was crying, saying that she felt she had to go out to earn computer time and didn't like being pushed into going out or having friends round and said she preferred being in her room, miserable and alone. He then spoke to me and said he thinks I'm being too harsh and strict, and that I should let up on trying to encourage her to go out or have friends round. She told him however, that if her hour a day of computer time was reinstated, she would make an effort to go out more. Of course I felt awful, like my efforts to try and get her out were unappreciated by my husband and by her. I went up to speak to her and said that she was noticeably happier when she'd been out with friends, so why would she choose to sit alone and miserable in her room. She didn't have an answer.
I just don't know what to do. My only previous experience of teens was my boys, and they were out all the time or had friends in, so we didn't have any of these issues. I know girls are different, and I am trying to learn how best to handle her, but it's hard. I suppose if she really does just want to sit in her room, alone and miserable then that's her choice, but when we know she's much happier when she's been out, it's hard to allow her to do that. She does nothing around the house either, and has to be nagged to bathe or tidy her room. She does have loads of friends, so it's not like she hasn't got any.
So, do we reinstate the hour a day of computer time in the hope she makes more effort to go out, or is she just saying she'll make the effort to get the extra computer time? What if we give in and she still doesn't go out?
The thing that strikes me is that she is going through probably one of the most distressing things that she will ever experience (facing losing her mum) at one of the most difficult ages for a girl. They can all need nagging to help, wash and generally just participate in family life. A lot of DC at that age also hibernate in their rooms. Maybe given what is going on in her life would explain why she would rather be alone and I don't think 'forcing' her to socialise isn't the answer. I understand your concern but I would concentrate on being her support and making sure you keep the lines of communication open with her, letting her know she can speak to you and DH when things are troubling her. Personally, I would give her the hour (at least) a day.
I don't think 'forcing' her to socialise * is the answer
I have to say, my kids don't do much socialising during the school week, and I wouldn't encourage it for them - there's homework and stuff to be done at home, and only a limited amount of time.
And honestly, being on her computer is probably a very social thing for her - I remember coming home from school and spending ages on the phone to my school friends, and that's what they do on fb etc now.
I can see you want her to get outdoors more - maybe that could be for a family activity, and let her socialise however she wants to?
Ditto what amum says. My dd (15) sounds very similar to your sd, she likes to spend a lot of time on her pc or xbox, and doesn't go out very much any more. Although I am a little concerned, I do feel that it is her choice whether to spend time with other people or not. I certainly wouldn't appreciate anyone telling me that I have to socialise in order to earn time doing the things I really enjoy!
But I do try to limit the time she spends in front of a screen.
Your sd would not be normal, IMO, if she was able to go through losing her mother in horrible circumstances and just carry on as if nothing has happened. It is great that she is having counselling, and it is great that she has you and her father who care for her so much. But she needs to be able to deal with it in her own way, with your love and support.
Wishing you and her all the best.
I have a 12 & 13 yo. The 13 yo prefers being in his room playing on his Xbox to anything else. If I let him he would go on the Xbox straight after school and stay on until bedtime. Instead we compromise on him having 2 hours a day in the hope that he'll do something constructive with the test of his time. In reality though he just sits watching the music channel waiting for it to be Xbox time.
My 12 yo will mostly go out after school for up to an hour and see friends. Other than that she's at home, usually in her room, watching TV or messing around in her phone and tablet.
I have tried very hard to encourage both of my kids to do some extra curricular activities or join some clubs or sports, but neither of them has ever done anything like this. They're not shy, they're not lacking in friends, its just what they want to do. Sometimes I think they do it because they know I would rather that were out and about partaking in life. Perhaps if I'd tried to insist they stay home all the time, they'd have done the opposite.
I find it rather hard to understand why you would punish her for not being sociable. It strikes me as inevitably counterproductive to put pressure on her in that way, particularly when she is dealing with some very tough issues with her mother. The offer of computer time as a 'reward' for seeing friends strikes me as frankly bizarre.
I'm also not convinced that you have cause and effect the right way round - it may seem that she is happier etc when she has been out seeing her friends, but it could equally well be the case that she is more inclined to go out and see friends when she is already feeling happy.
For what it's worth, I have a 14yo son, and although sometimes he is very sociable (goes round to friends' houses, hangs out in parks in nice weather), a lot of the time, particularly during the week or in bad weather, his social life is conducted through the computer - facebook, twitter, skype etc - or his mobile phone. That just seems to be the way it works for many teenagers (I accept your sons may have been different, but they are not necessarily the norm), and skulking around indoors is entirely normal. When I was that age, I spent a lot of time alone in my room reading, and rarely saw friends during the week.
I would back off a little in your position and let her be as sociable or unsociable as she needs, let her use the computer a reasonable amount every day, and just be there for her when she needs company.
Thank you everyone. She is having a tough time with her mum, and her friends are a great support to her which I guess is why we would rather encourage her to socialise with them in the flesh rather than FB. But, I can see that rewarding her with computer time is wrong, and I will speak to her about it when she comes home. This is a learning curve for me too! She did have a problem using ask.fm, where she was bullied anonymously but still insisted on going on it to confront her bullies, and that was also a factor in restricting her computer time because it was getting out of hand. She is now banned from using ask.fm.
I worry about the school holidays too, because even during holiday time she doesn't go out much. Both my husband and I work, and she says she's too old to spend the day with nan and says she wants to just be at home, but spending all day every day on her computer is just not healthy!! I have a friend who takes the internet cable to work with her during the day so her 17 year old daughter can't access it and has to go out if she wants to communicate with her friends - it works! What I also worry about is that if she's worrying about her mum (she has decided that she doesn't want to see her for a while, because she looks so unwell & because she was recently admitted to hospital for a week with severe Vitamin B deficiency & had to detox whilst in hospital, but resumed drinking on her discharge), being cooped up in her room is just going to make those worries larger and more real, whereas if she was out having fun with her mates it would take her mind off it. She's been living with this all her life bless her.
Teenagers are an anomaly aren't they! We just want her to be as happy as possible, and to live as full a life as possible. We will reinstate the hour a day on her computer, as we do think that's long enough, and then reward her with extra time if she makes an effort to go out or have a friend round. Oh yes, she asked for her room to be decorated back over Easter, and said 'if you decorate my room I'll ask my friends round. At the moment I'm embarassed by it" so I took a week off work and redecorated her room, with wallpaper that she chose, bought all new furniture and soft furnishings, again that she chose, and since then she's had one friend round! Sometimes I wonder if there is a degree of manipulation going on, and then I hate myself for thinking that.
There is no doubt a lot going on in her head with her mum, and she does talk openly about her mum because we've always encouraged her to. She does cry about it sometimes too, which is good because she can let it out. We get on really really well, she is loving and affectionate and is always telling us she loves us, so all in all we have a fantastic relationship with her.
Maybe though if we back off about her going out she might go out more. We will see.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
I think I'm looking at it from a different angle. I can see the logic in wanting her to socialise, especially in person. Perhaps though her need to be alone, to the point of being depressed even, is one of the only ways she can really get through this healthily. The slow death of her mother is obviously traumatic and how often do we hear adults having therapy because of not being allowed to emote about something at the time it was happening. I think as an earlier poster said, it might be a good idea to talk to her mental health specialists.
Also, while depression isn't something we want anybody to go through, it may be a natural way to deal traumatic events in our lives. With the right help and support, which she sounds like she has, both from you and the therapy, she will get through it. Awful to watch and awful to go through, but ultimately a healthy emotional expression of extremely difficult events. Trying to completely avoid it, might cause her more problems in the long run.
On the manipulation front, she might very well be doing that. Not as a reflection of bad feelings towards you or any maliciousness, but in an attempt to control a mother-figure when she is powerless to do anything about situation with her own mother. It might also be worth mentioning that to her care team, to see what they think and if they can suggest a way of dealing with it so that if it continues, you can deal with it before you get angry (which would be totally understandable!).
Your poor DSD has some awful things going on in her life, but sounds really lucky to have you there.
I think it's a good idea to back off for a while. Not all teens are sociable, not all adults are sociable, many people go through different phases in life.
You don't want to give her the idea that it is only acceptable to be one way nor that socialising is some kind of chore, like cleaning your teeth, that you have to perform.
I was a very reclusive teen, partly because I didn't really have that much in common with my friends. I became very sociable when I went to uni and met people more like me.
I don't regret the time I spent in my room with my books and my own thoughts: there are many different ways of leading a full life and pretending that you're enjoying something you're not because other people feel you ought to isn't necessarily one of them.
Keep an eye on her so she isn't getting more depressed than she can handle- but you can't punish somebody out of depression. And liking your own company isn't necessarily a sign of depression.
Probably not any help, but just in case.....
Would she perhaps
skulk sit in a tent in the garden with her ipod/phone etc - at least it would be in the fresh air (sort of).
Disclaimer - my own DD rarely sits in the garden either.
I think you sound well-meaning and very caring, but the thing that leaps out to me from reading your OP is that you are an extrovert raising an introvert.
There is a long running introverts thread on MN that I encourage you to have a look at. We introverts like our own space, actually we thrive in our own space, collecting our thoughts. Personally, being forced to socialise sounds like my worst nightmare!
And as your SD is going through some very heavy issues, she will need that time to process.
Please don't reward her for going out and socializing. For some of us that is really quite an ordeal. We need our quiet time.
But please don't think I'm being harsh on you. I applaud you for posting here and trying to do the right thing by her. And I agree that too much screen time is a major issue for this generation in particular. But I implore you not to force her to go out and be social. Maybe reward her if she just goes out and sits in the sunshine. Or reads a book in a café (or is that not fashionable for teens ?) Or even just goes for a walk.
You can't force someone to be sociable. I'm utterly amazed she
hasn't simply told you to fuck off to the far side of fuck for being so controlling.
No that isn't nice, but I can't believe trying to micromanage my DDs that much when they were 9 let alone 14.
Seriously, she may be happier in a bubbly superficial way when she's been out, but her real support may be on FB from one friend she doesn't see ion their own.
Perhaps like my not very sociable DC she simply reads, watches games of throne on Utube and reads kindred spirits blogs. I know DD follows LOTR and teen book review blogs.
Given her circumstances she is having to look cheerful 6 hours at school . If she doesn't want to see anyone when she gets home why should she.
We live in the middle of no where, except after school things my DDs don't socialise much at all.
Sorry OP I understand you are trying to do your best, but their lap tops are my DDs pride and joy.
It worries me that your DSD lets you control her computer/free time so much. I'd expect far more spirit, stubbornness and fight and that worries me.
If my two started meekly doing as they were told and accepting removal of privileges without a huge amount of nagging and strop DD2 or simply finding they'd quietly had their own way anyhow, DD1 I'd really worry.
I can see youre really caring. Like the other people here I think you should not pressure her to socialise as much as you are doing. Your SD may be a different personality from your sons? If being with other kids makes her "buzz" it might be a bit much for her to do it often. If shes going to school and doing her homework, eating and sleeping and being reasonably helpful and not too grumpy, then youre winning! Agree about you spending time with her doing constructive stuff -- choosing wallpaper (etc) with you might be a big part of why she wanted her room done up.
If its bad for her to spend too much time online then dont use extra computer time as a reward, that's such a mixed message. Do something else with her instead.
My DS doesnt spend any time socialising now hes at secondary school though he had a roaring social life at primary school. So long as hes not obviously moping or grumpy, and he gets a bit of regular exercise each week (he swims and is willing to go out for walks) and goes out once a week for an hour or so to a youth club or Duke of Edinburgh meeting, I try not worry whether he sees other kids or stays home writing his novel and watching YouTube videos instead! Im pleased if he does socialise, but sometimes he doesnt for weeks on end.
I agree school holidays are a problem. Im not fully on top of it myself. I mostly work at home and so far DS has been happy to keep himself occupied. The youth club does some holiday outings and I insist DS goes to one or two a week otherwise he wouldnt see another soul all summer!
Good luck with your SD. Sounds like you're really trying to make things right for her.
OP, I assume that you feel (I would think, correctly) that it's healthier to get outside or have a change of scene rather than be sitting in a bedroom most evenings. In other words, it's not just about the socialising.
If I'm right, might she be agreeable to going for a walk with you sometimes?
Does she get much/any exercise? Would you have space for an exercise bike or something. Would she do dance/exercise games on a wii?
I'm sorry if this is all irrelevant.
Startail, she's very well behaved, and has never even shouted at me or my husband, and we have never shouted at her. She had enough of that with her mother. However, I do take your point about trying to micromanage, and perhaps, subconsciously that's what I was trying to do. We live on a large estate, and she has loads of friends on the estate, some of which call on her and she just refuses to go out. Then they stop calling and she posts on Facebook that she's a 'social reject' and 'no-one likes me'. So, it's a difficult situation because on the one hand she's not taking up offers of going out, and then she's complaining that her friends have stopped calling round for her. We have sat her down and explained that eventually her friends will get fed up of calling for her if she never goes out and she says she isn't bothered about it, but clearly she is. She has one very good friend, who only lives round the corner, and this girl has issues of her own so SD has always said they have a lot in common, and this poor girl comes round almost every evening to call on her and she just won't go out with her! But, that's up to her I guess, and we can't force her to go out. She did go out today with a boy for an hour however, and we're hoping that it is more than a friendship (she really likes him, says he's 'hot') and then she'll want to go out and meet up with him. Hopefully!
We have discussed the screen time, and she's having her hour a day again, which we do think is plenty because she has other things to do like homework. She's happy with this. She does go out on walks with us, sometimes, but it's getting less and less (I remember not wanting to go on walks with my parents at her age - but I preferred to spend time with my mates instead).
I think we just have to take each day as it comes from now on. I told her I thought I had been too controlling, but she just gave me a hug and said it's okay, so we're good.
This parenting lark eh?!!!
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