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Need help relating to teenage DSD - before she goes to uni

(8 Posts)
justnotcricket Fri 24-Jun-11 12:10:58

I need some help please! Sorry in advance - this is a bit long!

Some of you have responded to my posts before - I'm finding things very difficult at the moment - I think I need to understand my teenage DSD better?

DSD is 18 and lives with DH and I full time after her mum died suddenly (and in complicated circumstances) last summer. DH and I had been married for a month and lived together less than a year when she moved in with us.

I don't have kids of my own and find it very hard to relate to and talk meaningfully to DSD - and I don't think I know her at all. I find her topics and style of conversation superficial and irritating (e.g. talking over people and interrupting conversations that don't feature her - which I find quite rude) and her constant need to monopolise DH's attention is a real strain every dinner time (DH quite enjoys it though). Over the last month this hasn't been helped by A level exam stress and whilst trying to figure out how to improve the situation, I'm also thinking that moving out is quite appealing (and really am at my wit?s end). The only light at the end of the tunnel is hopefully DSD will go away to uni in September. So how to make the next few months better??

DH doesn't understand why I find DSD irritating. And I don't know any teenagers to figure out what is going on, what is 'normal' and not worth bothering about (can't fix it, she'll eventually figure it out for herself), and what is worrying behaviour that needs to be addressed. DH also doesn't want to upset DSD in any way, so there is not much parenting going on.

DSD has had a very tough time with several years of messy divorce and a poor relationship with DH (which has improved a lot since she moved in). Also she has very complex feelings about her mum and her death last year (but does not want counselling). Considering all this she is doing pretty well. So I do genuinely have sympathy for her situation, but that doesn?t really make it any easier dealing with day to day stresses.

So - trying to be practical, DH and I are seeing a counsellor to try to improve communication between us (not clear yet if this is actually working). I'm also reading a couple of books on how to make our marriage work as I think this is also a key part of our problems. Can anyone recommend any books I can read on how to relate to a teenage DSD? I found a couple of recommendations on 'teenagers' posts, but would like something specific to step parents ('my teenager is an alien' doesn't feel that relevant - she may always have been an alien for all I know!). Any good step parenting books?

Anyone got any suggestions? Is anyone else in a similar situation?

P.S. For those of you who responded to my earlier post about a tutor - it has worked out really well, and we think DSD did ok in her exam. Fingers crossed for the result she needs for the uni place!

glasscompletelybroken Fri 24-Jun-11 12:40:53

I have read several books on step-parenting and the very best one and the most helpful to me is Step-Monster by Wednesday Martin. It's the only one I've read that comes at it from the step-parents point of view and I would recommend it to anyone. If you can get your husband to read it aswell it would really help.

My DSD's are much younger so I don't have the same problems as you. What I would say though is that I have grown-up children of my own - 3 of which are girls - and it is very difficult to get on with girls this age in a home environment whether or not they are your own. They are naturally wanting to break away and make their own nests (emotionally if not physically so usually within your home) - big power struggles! while at the same time clinging on to the security of what's known.

When they are your own though you love them anyway so can survive this. When they aren't yours it's a different story. Your DH is wrong to avoid discussing her behaviour with her because all the problems of the last few years means she needs more help and guidance - not just left to herself for fear of upsetting her.

She is 18 and she needs to be able to get on with people in the real world. Monopolising conversations and wanting to be the centre of attention is not appropriate for her age and other people won't make allowances for her.

I think we all find our DSC irritating at least some of the time and we all find that our DH's mysteriously don't understand this. I think they just don't want to understand it and hope that by burying their heads in the sand it will all be fine.

justnotcricket Fri 24-Jun-11 12:58:58

glasscompletelybroken - thanks so much for your post. I will definitely check out the book you mention.

It does help to get an external perspective - I worry that she is going to find it hard to make new friends at uni if that is how she interracts with everyone. Actually she does seem to have fallen out with most of her friends recently... I am told this is also 'normal' - but not how I remember it as a teenager!

ajandjjmum Fri 24-Jun-11 13:06:31

My DD is the same age as your DSD, and I love her dearly, but she can be very difficult to tolerate at times. It's all about me - and then she can do the most lovely, thoughful things the next minute.

Maybe some planning/shopping trips to try and get her uni stuff together?

Anushka11 Fri 24-Jun-11 14:04:35

I agree, have DDs age 17 and 14, it's all me-me-me a lot of the time, and then suddenly they come and want cuddles and to be little again for a short period.

the monopolizing of your DH- DSD(18) does that a lot. She's very insecure, and I think fears DP won't love her as much now I'm on the scene. Your DSD has just lost her mother, so it's not surprising she regresses a bit and gets a bit clingy with your DH, also she has not had much of a relationship with him before, nor he with her. Add to that the stress of A levels. Patience!

Oh, and trying to talk to teens that age is hit and miss at the best of times, and yes, their topics of conversation are often trivial, and they are sooo irritating!!
Oh, and I would quite like to move out and leave them to it at times, can I do that, pleaseeee??? angry grin

ivykaty44 Fri 24-Jun-11 14:10:41

Do you have soemwhere you cvan go for a little bit of sanity time? I go to the gym for an hour when things are getting to much, this is thought of as noraml by mine at home - but to me it is an escape place to regain sanity and detatch.

I don't have step teens - these are my own blush

I come back feeling refreshed and chilled which helps

Smum99 Fri 24-Jun-11 14:31:56

Difficult one! Poor girl, Not sure about the falling out with friends at this age, I think that's not so common - usually its' earlier so I do wonder if she is having problems relating to friends. I had a similar experience to her when a teen and I recall how devastated I felt - although it didn't show it outwardly except my behaviour changed and I did alter my friendship group (as I felt my world had changed, yet their's was the same and it felt too painful to be around).

Does she talk about the friendship issues? Does she go out, have friends around to study with?

On a practical side I recall seeing a book that listed all the skills teens needed before moving into the big bad world. It might be worthwhile looking for books on this as you could help her with practical items and this will build your relationship and help you relate to her. Also it's assumed teens know how to cope but often we don't show then actually how to manage the basic life skills. Examples are: what are her cooking skills like? Can she cook 3 meals? Can you manage her own washing, knowing the difference between light/dark washes/drying etc. Can you manage money? Does she have her own account, does she know how the finances will work for Uni? Can she travel independently, manage time tables etc?

The reason I mention the practical side is that it's hard for you to parent her at the moment and her dad is unlikely to do it so you can become her advisor which will help her relate to you.Once you have that trust you can gently broach the areas where she might need to emotional develop.

I have had a similar situation with DSS who's home life with his mum is very difficult. I managed to get involved in other areas of his life, like technology and we have now built a relationship where he now can talk about problems, I am then able to coach him on how to deal with situations and this can include his social skills (which today are very poor).

justnotcricket Fri 24-Jun-11 14:46:33

Thanks for the posts - lots of similarities. Not just me who finds teens irritating!!

Good suggestion about the gym ivykaty - I will make an effort to do that this weekend I think and I would like to it seem 'normal' - not a snub on the rest of the household!

DSD won't really discuss the issues with her friends, so I am not sure what is going on really. She talks about a lot of 'best friends' - some of them I only hear about once. She certainly has dropped a few completely this year, and struggles to find friends to go out with, e.g. after exams end.

Smum99 - I've done quite a bit with her over the last 6 months in terms of helping her learn how to cook, encouraging her to do laundry without dying everything grey so I could think about more of that - that is quite practical and shouldn't need to get stressful. Maybe helping her to think about uni, what she'll need etc. I'm not sure I want to touch the money side of it - she does have her own account and hasn't a clue how to manage it (or the value of money, another sore point). She wants her dad to help her with this, but DH hasn't made the time to.

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