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Extra attention for DSS? Insecure. Long, sorry.

(6 Posts)
hannahZ Mon 08-Aug-11 12:08:48

Am really not sure what to do here and would appreciate advice from those who have more years of experience of 'blended families' and step-children.

Basically, we (DH, me, DD and DS) have DSS (5) with us for most alternate weekends and a few weeks holiday a year. DH is brilliant at not being a disney-Dad and all kids live under same rules, expectations etc. However, it's becoming a bit of an issue that DSS only ever wants to do activities with DH, sit next to him at dinner, hold his hand etc. None of it is particularly age-inappropriate, nor do I take it personally that he's not interested in time with me, but it worries me that DSS seems to be getting more insecure (I presume this is what's at the root of this, although happy to hear other suggestions!) as time goes on.

DH does give DSS a lot of attention, kisses, tells him he loves him etc and they have a lot of one-on-one travel time together, but he is also scrupulously fair about giving attention to DD and DS when we are all together too, which I can see DSS is starting to resent enormously. I've noticed glares, stomping off, behaviour calculated to divert attention back to him (either misbehaving or e.g. suddenly demanding cuddles when DH is busy with the youngest), none of which DH panders to but I'm starting to wonder if he should a bit more...

What is the right thing to do in this situation? It doesn't seem fair to DD and DS for them to be treated differently, but things seem to be getting worse with DSS and I'm at a loss. There is no talking to the ex about anything so we have no idea what goes on at his main home, but he is an only child to an overprotective SAHM so obviously will not be used to sharing attention. Does DSS just have to learn about sharing/family life or is there anything we can do that won't also be unfair on the other DC?

Thanks for any thoughts!

Smum99 Mon 08-Aug-11 14:29:40

How old are the DS & DD, are they very much younger? I would say it's attention seeking however my DS is completely attached to his dad, he just adores him and would choose to be with him above everyone else. He is clingy despite seeing him every day. He does fine when dad is away on a business trip (so he's not anxious) but if he's here he has to close to him, exactly as you describe. DH does enjoy the adorationsmile Just a thought - he could be similar to my DS but it's not really an issue for us mostly, if DS is attention seeking when it's not appropriate (i.e if DH is talking to others) then he is corrected but mostly we go with it. DSS (who doesn't live with us) is fine with it but then DH does ensure he has 1-2-1 time with the DCs.

chelen Mon 08-Aug-11 14:36:57

Hi, I'm a stepmum to a boy of 8 plus have a toddler of my own. My SS lives here with us and sees his mum most weekends and half the hols.

I think that your SS does need different treatment from the other kids. We don't treat all kids exactly the same all the time, they are all different ages/genders/personalities let alone domestic situation. This doesn't mean different standards of behaviour (e.g. it isn't ok for one child to get away with hitting when other kids are disciplined) but rather different types of attention or activities for different needs.

Are the other children from your current relationship or a previous one? I wasn't quite clear from your post but I think the answers will be a bit different depending on whether the children are step siblings or half siblings. But either way, I think it is understandable that your SS wants and should get his dad's attention at weekends because the other children get to live with him all the time and he only gets two days.

Your SS is likely to feel competitive with the other kids, might be worried they are preferred etc. these are all normal feelings for any group of siblings.

I wouldn't 'pander', meaning I wouldn't respond every time to attention seeking behaviour but I would put in extra effort to try to stop it happening in the first place by making it clear when there will be 1-1 time each day, so maybe something like 'I've got to do this with jonny but as soon as its over I want me and you to go and do x together, will you come and help me?'. I had to do a lot of this with my SS when I had my baby, he sometimes found it sooo hard when I had to do things for my son. My OH is a bit emotionally retarded (bless him) and he says things like 'you'll have to wait because baby needs me to do x, y, z' - way to go hubby, how to make a 6yo feel like they come 2nd! So we changed this (meaning I b*llocked my husband a lot of times til he learnt it) to 'Can you help me do this as quick as possible so that afterwards we can sit down and look at your school reading book together'. This had better results.

I no longer get too hung up on 'fair' as in exactly the same to each child, I go for a communist model hahaha - from each according to his abilities to each according to his needs. This means sometimes one waits, sometimes the other. Parenting input happens over years, as long as kids are expected to meet the same standards of conduct, we should be able to respond to them individually over the course of their lives. So maybe this is your SS' time to need a bit of extra from his dad. That isn't unfair to the other kids, if it produces a happier family all round it is in everyone's best interests.

With regards to the stomping etc, I would try very very hard not to respond positively to that, as that is basically a tantrum and he mustn't get the idea it works!

So, in essence I would try to give him what he is trying to get by having a tantrum, but in a way that makes it seem as if you thought of it first and it is no way related to his tantrums. Then when he has a tantrum tell him the behaviour is not acceptable.

Sorry for length of post, I do go on a bit.

stabiliser15 Mon 08-Aug-11 15:29:57

At our house, DSD (5) is given special one-on-one time with DH to ensure that she feels secure and because it is important that she is not sharing DH's attention with DD (6 months) all the time she is with us. We found that before we made sure to set aside time for their one-on-one time, DSD would behave a bit as you have described your DSS.

When DD has her nap, DH does something with DSD that only they can do together (eg drawing pictures or cooking) because DD is too little. Sometimes that isnt possible though, and when DD is awake and DH is looking after both girls, DSD has to share the attention (although he is very good at involving DSD in things that have to be done with DD). It is made clear that tantrum like behaviour will not be rewarded with special time with Daddy.

We also make sure that bedtime (about which we have had separate issues) is very special DH/DSD time. He always puts DSD to bed when she stays with us and reads her stories, and effectively ignores DD those nights whereas otherwise he is very involved in DD's bedtime. DH makes a big deal out of DH/DSD special time, and because she now has this, she seems to resent the shared time less.

royaljelly Mon 08-Aug-11 23:28:00

I used to be under the impression that everything should be done as a family and with my DS (12, dif. dad) DD (2) and DSS (8). I think you have to cut them some slack till they reach late teens. DSS is there every weekend and I used to resent the fact that everything turned into a drama.

If you break it down he only has 52 weekends with his Dad so whilst he loves playing with my other 2 kids, I will take them out for a few hours so he can have quality time with his Dad on his own building Lego or painting Warhammer figures etc. I have also relaxed the food rules of 'if I make it, you eat it'. So long as he tries new food besides chips, and chooses two different veg, I am happy. Last week we had paella and he ate the lot! He even answered when I asked where you might find this as a local dish.

I used to be stressed out at everything from lunch to how to entertain him but I think if you just give Step-children a little bit of freedom from house rules, not only does it make their time their go more smoothly but also yours.

hannahZ Tue 09-Aug-11 09:28:44

Oh thank you for these replies. We do get very hung up on treating the children the same and I think lose sight of the fact that they do have different needs sometimes.

To whoever asked about the ages, it is a bit difficult as DD and DSS are just a few weeks apart in age (DD has a diff dad, whom she rarely sees) and do get a bit competitive. DS (half-brother to the other two) is much younger, so less of an issue.

Also, although I make the point to DD that she should let DSS have more time with DH because she is with him the rest of the time, I would say that DSS probably has more quality time with DH overall because DH works longish hours so rarely sees DD during the week for more than a few mins, and tends to be busier with his own stuff on non-contact weekends. I take the point though, that DSS seems to need that time more. I will have a word with DH and make sure we work on making sure all the DC feel secure, loved and important.

Thanks again, some really good insights - communism could be the way to go!

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