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Help needed - coping with a teenager in difficult circumstances

(4 Posts)
zoev Wed 15-Jul-09 22:01:12

Hi all

I've been thrown into being a "mum" to a teenager, with absolutely no previous experience.

I've known my partner's daughter from a previous relationship since she was 9, she is now 13. Her mother died suddenly in March this year and she will be moving in with her dad and I in the middle of August.

Clearly it's been a difficult time for everyone but we thought she'd been handling it fairly well. The catalyst was always going to be having to leave her friends and current school (we live 50 minutes away) and we're at that point now - it's the last week she'll spend at her current school.

She is absolutely distraught at having to move away from everything she knows, she is a really quiet child and I know her main worry is around making new friends. She's already spent a transition day at her new school which was successful but now I feel like we're back to square one.

She won't open up to her dad, and I desperately need some advice on how I can build that relationship with her to help her get through this awful time. I'm struggling - I've gone from 0 child experience to having a teenager in only 4 months...!

cakefaced Wed 15-Jul-09 22:43:50

Your step-daughter will be stricken with grief, not just for loosing her mother but loosing her previous life. She has also lost her friends, home and school as well as her mum. She will need lime to adjust. Its an awful age to have such a great loss.

There are organizations that offer bereavement counselling to children who have lost parents (such as the Candle Project for St Christophers), and there may be something local to you that can offer help. Be proactive and organise the first appointment, support her attending eg offer to help her attend if she wants to, but she may not be ready to talk so soon after the event. She may need some time to settle before accepting help.

You will be important to her but because she hasn't lived with you before, it is a relationship that builds with time. If you listen to her and try to be sensitive it will go a long way. Acknowledge her views but establish firm boundaries (which you have discussed with her) to get off to a good start. You may need to consider practical things like bed-times, who gets to control the remote, what she likes (and dislikes to eat) and how you will manage computer access.

Allow her to bring as much stuff with her as she can, so that she can keep some of her old life with her. Make sure that she gets to keep some of her mothers things like family photos and jewellry if that was important to her. You could help her make albums or scrap books to keep. Don't forget that she may want to make time to visit her mothers grave or go back and catch up with friends and arranging this might all help. She may be able to keep in touch with some friends via computer chats etc.

She will need help with settling in and making friends outside school too. It may help to keep up interests she already has eg dance classes, Guides etc or to offer extra activities like this once she has arrived.

Be aware that those who are grieving also get angry, as well as sad, it all seems unfair and because you are closest she may take this out on you or you dh. So you may need to be prepared for fireworks.

The girl who arrives will be grieving, and you should give her time to recover and grow into the young adult she has the potential to become. I hope all goes well, my heart goes out to her and your family.

CarGirl Wed 15-Jul-09 22:46:06

All I can add to the above post is has she got a few particular friends that individually could come for sleepovers once a month or so to help her until she has made new friends?

Lemonylemon Fri 17-Jul-09 15:02:11

Sorry this is a very late reply, but you might be able to get some information from Winston's Wish who are a charity that deal with bereaved children.

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