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How do you get them to confide in you?

(12 Posts)
greencolorpack Tue 23-Aug-11 09:00:14

My nephew is 11 and lives with my family. I have a ds too who is also 11. Yesterday my ds and I had a long talk about girls and about the girl in his class who he gets all hot and bothered about. We talked about all sorts of things including aspects of puberty, growing up, etc. My ds said that my nephew is going through the same thing, with a girl he sits next to in class.

If I ask nephew who his friends are he won't tell me that and he's never even hinted at noticing girls before. Before he lived with me he lived with my MIL, who as a parent is the kind of person to ridicule and laugh at any growing boy talking about puppy-love, and she filled nephew with all kinds of notions of shame and embarrassment around emotions, sex and fancying people (I know this cos dh was raised by her, and dh just never told her anything.)

I really really wish my dn would trust me enough to have frank discussions with me about emotions the way I can with my ds. My dn often has a tendency towards being passive-aggressive so he will see this whole thing as "I can't trust them - therefore I don't talk to them - therefore I don't have anyone to talk to but my cousin does - poor me - they prefer my cousin to me". So I feel duty bound to treat them both exactly the same. But I can't NOW say "Who do you like at school?" "Noone" "That's not what ds told me." Because ds ought not to have told me.

My dn has myself and dh as parent figures, he has his mum and he has Nana (my MIL) and I fear he might fall between several stools if he doesn't trust us to tell things to. Also I don't want him to keep secrets from us because it doesn't bode well for the future, the upcoming teen years. Also I don't want him slagging off our parenting in his inevitable misery-lit memoir.

So how do you persuade a stepchild to trust you? Any ideas?

brdgrl Tue 23-Aug-11 17:33:24

I think you may have to accept that he may not want to talk about things in the same way that you enjoy with your DS. At that age privacy is so important to some kids, and especially when they're figuring out their social roles, friendships, sexuality....TBH, I don't think I shared much with my own parents, and we had/have a very good relationship nonetheless.

My SS is 13. He tries very hard to keep his dad at arm's length - won't tell him anything. I do think there are limits to this. I think that his dad should insist on knowing the names and parents' numbers (even if he doesn;t use them!) of DSS's friends...I think DH is entitled to complete disclosure around official school things (DSS does not agree!)...I think DH is entitled to know where DSS is and who he is with at all times (I know that DSS is capable of lying about this, I even think a bit of deceit is normal, but the expectation should be there anyway, IYSWIM). But I don't think we have a right to know his feelings about things unless he wants to share. There is a girl he is sort of hitting it off with at the moment. He doesn't want to tell us her name, although I have a pretty good idea from casual comments he has made. He met her at the mall, with some other kids, and when we picked him up, would not say which girl it was. DH kept pressing him about it, which of course just made him clam up!

DSS tells me more than he does his dad. I guess because I don't pressure him - if he brings up a girl's name, I notice and file it away, and I try to keep the names of his friends straight, so that when he tells a story about something that happened at school, I can say "oh, isn't he the one who...?" In turn, I might get rewarded with a piece of information - or I might not - totally depends on his mood that day! Sometimes I will tell him about something that happened to me (stories about old boyfriends if they're not too heavy; friends at school that I fell out with; bad dates I have been on) - i think that has helped build up some trust between us (although i do have to be careful what i say because he remembers forever!). Anyway, I am confident that he is going to tell me about this girl, pretty soon, but I think he wants to make sure he isn't making a fool of himself first. Saving face is very important to him.

But if he were going out someplace with this girl - I'd insist on knowing who she is, her last name, where she lives, etc....He is entitled to some privacy, but secrecy is something else.

Anyway, I've strayed a bit from your question. I don't think there is any way to make a stepkid confide in you. All you can do is be available in case they decide to. Spend enough time talking about other things, and the important bits will come when the kid is ready. Some kids are ready straight away, and some aren't. IMHO.

greencolorpack Thu 25-Aug-11 15:10:10

Thanks for your help.

Mamateur Thu 25-Aug-11 21:55:50

I'm not sure I can help much, but I am in a similar situation. DN (DP's nephew, brought up by his DM till now) lives with us as 'ours' (no parents). The big difference is MIL is still very close to him and he confides so much he doesn't really need to open up to me. Our main battle is MIL is like a child herself and has never imposed any boundaries on him at all, so we are like a boot camp - not very conducive to cosy chats.

I read 'how to talk to teens so they listen and listen so they talk' which has helped a bit. I ask him about stuff then try to avoid commenting or saying why didn't you do x or y, I just sort of make encouraging, sympathetic noises so he can come out with it.

It's also a good idea to do something together so it's just chatting not a 'talk' in any way. I try and involve him in the cooking. Driving together is good too.

Good luck

zippy539 Thu 25-Aug-11 22:00:25

I ask him about stuff then try to avoid commenting or saying why didn't you do x or y, I just sort of make encouraging, sympathetic noises so he can come out with it. It's also a good idea to do something together so it's just chatting not a 'talk' in any way. I try and involve him in the cooking. Driving together is good too.

I think that's about as good as it gets - be doing something else, make non-judgemental noises and talk like you're talking to an equal. He may not open up but by doing all that you are giving him every opportunity.

greencolorpack Thu 25-Aug-11 22:42:47

Gosh Mumamateur we have a LOT in common!!!

Today had a constructive chat to MIL, his previous caregiver about his shyness and MIL was helpful. apparently she instilled in him a paranoia about what people think about his house which might explain his lack of willingness to talk about friends coming for playdates.

Mamateur Thu 25-Aug-11 23:35:08

Green yes we do. It's an unusual situation too. With step-children you still have one original parent who naturally deals with this stuff. We've had a bad evening here. DN is recently back from staying with MIL so needs a bit of "retraining". I had to really tell him off about three times today so he absolutely hates me. I don't think he'd talk to me now if it was to tell me he was on fire grin. Still, I have to follow a course and hope in the future he thanks me <slim chance>.

Glad your MIL is helpful. Mine is incredibly nice and kind but cannot help herself when it comes to DN. She has agreed to see a counsellor to discuss her emotionally damaging relationship with DN. I do think we won't have a chance of building a good relationship unless she finds some distance.

Is your DP supportive? Mine finds it all very difficult, not least because he resents the way MIL brought him and his brother and sister up, and sees it all being played out again in DN.

greencolorpack Fri 26-Aug-11 00:20:41

My Dh struggles a lot over the circumstances, MIL was always favoritist towards her daughter dns mum and ignored Dh growing up and Mil still acts like her daughter is the most important person in the family even though her problems and inability to be a mother has impacted us directly. Cos we are raising her son. Dh misses being the family we were - mum dad and two kids. Hope counselling helps your Mil.

Mamateur Fri 26-Aug-11 18:28:01

I think DP feels something similar. The main reason we took him is that sadly the mix of the family genes and MILs absent parenting is the reason DP lost his sister and will lose his brother. When it gets really bad (DN is 13 and how I wish we'd got him at 11 when we first tried) I comfort myself that we can't do worse!

Our biggest struggle is a total lack of respect for adults or authority or the ability to at least fake it. He doesn't think he has to do what he's told. Yet the more boundaries we impose, the happier he is. If we could only get him into a stricter school we would be cruising.

greencolorpack Fri 26-Aug-11 19:22:47

I think the unhappiest children are the ones with the most power. I have a friend with a daughter and she's the most spoilt madam - she decides what they all as a family do at weekends, and she can't talk to parents without a whine in her voice. And she's very unhappy with it. Children need to know there are adults in charge that they can respect. Well done taking on a thirteen year old. I spoke to MIL today and she said she thinks that my dn is a lot like my dh, ie a very practical, sensible boy who will practically raise himself without any big emotional problems. Apparently dh was like that, and never got in trouble never picked bad friends. I think I might try and see dn in that light from now on (rather than thinking he's going to go off the rails and it's only a matter of time). Dn has no impulse control, does what he likes without thinking and it could be a disaster if he gets in with a bad crowd but maybe I should trust in his wisdom until given a reason to think otherwise.

Mamateur Sat 27-Aug-11 11:50:18

I think that's very true. When DN came from Granny to us he asked her if I would 'look after him'. She said from the way he said it he meant would I make sure he was ok, in the broader sense. He knew he was out of control with her (he hadn't been to school for 3 months, age 11). It was quite revealing last term, in an argument about the many sanctions imposed for getting sent out of class he told me I was too strict. I asked him if he would like me to not put consequences on bad behaviour and he said no, he wanted some consequences, he just thought there were too many. Hmmn.. Granny is completely conflict averse. Before he came to us he was called in for a meeting a school once to discuss his bad behaviour with another boy, he refused to get ready to leave to go, said he felt ill, so granny went without him! Nuts!

MorningHasBroken Tue 06-Sep-11 08:34:49

Same as above suggestions really... dss (11) will only approach me to confide when I'm cooking and therefore have my back to him/can't make eye contact. If he thought we were 'having a talk' he'd run in the other direction so it has to feel very casual. Could you talk to both kids together? It may give him more confidence to open up if he sees your son doing it without any embarrassment?

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