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DSD in denial about her parent's divorce - how can we help her move on? (Long).

(18 Posts)
PlinkertyPlonk Tue 27-Sep-11 11:48:05

The eldest DSD is in complete denial about her parents' divorce and is causing hell. It's not just the usual pre-teen stuff, and it stirs up the other 2 kids. She shows no respect towards property (her own or others) or to us. So far this weekend there has been:

- the usual punch-up in the back of the car on pick-up (it's an hour on the motorway, so impossible to do anything about at 70mph)
- eldest refusing to wear her seat-belt, slipping it off her shoulder as soon as our backs are turned
- an average 10 fights a day, most resulting in physical injury
- a tantrum in a shoe shop resulting in DSD2 lobbing a shoe across the shop
- toys, games, books are hurled in the corner, trodden on and broken. Likewise the hoover which is now broken as a result
- graffiti all over their bedroom desk and lights
- DP is often hit by whichever child doesn't get whatever it is that they have asked for
- they took the car keys and start mucking about in the car
- the eldest just ignores any cajoling/requests/orders from me and most from DP
- they shout across the house to DP, expecting him to serve their every whim (he doesn't)

And this is ignoring the wet towels left lying around the house/in the garden (12 this weekend), the clothes scrumpled in knots, stuffed behind sofas, the sweet/ice-cream wrappers strewn around the house, and the constant back-chat to get DP's attention in whatever form. Plus the carpets are now ruined because they tread in tree sap on their shoes or tights/socks.

Granny was here for her annual visit from overseas; she spent most of her time cowering in the corner.

We have house rules, but they are next to impossible to enforce and the consequences we can impose are limited. Finding positive things to praise would be limited to 'well done, you're breathing'.

They are out of control.

I know that at the heart of all this is a very angry 12yo who hates that her parents have ruined her life by splitting up (DP's fault in her eyes), who hates my existence and I fear is rapidly hating herself. The problem is she won't talk about this to DP, although he's really good at talking to all the kids and does so frequently.

So the question is, what the hell can DP and I do about this? How can we help DSD move on? I can't take many more weekends of this. It's been building up for a year now, but this weekend took the biscuit.

theredhen Tue 27-Sep-11 12:27:50

Oh my goodness. What a nightmare you have had this weekend! Makes me feel a whole lot better about my DSC.

If your DSC were my kids, I would be putting in boundaries and giving consequences. I would expect things to get a whole lot more difficult before they got better though. I would be making it clear that bad behaviour is not tolerated and that nice things will be taken away or not supplied if the behaviour carries on and be very specific about what and when. Never issue empty threats and always be true to your word. I would start off with the violent behaviour and ignore things like the towels to begin with.

However, I suspect as you only have them for a limited time, they will either a. say they don't want to come anymore as you're horrid to them. b. Go back to Mums and have whatever they want and Mum will not carry on the punishments and consequences at her house, meaning the cycle starts all over again the next time they come to your house.

If your DP is frightened of losing their love, he too will be resistant to giving consequences and the circle continues.

I think parenting a step child "normally" will work and can work but not without the resident parents back up. If Mum is actively wanting the kids to upset you or not willing to work with you, then you are in a difficult place.

Have you considered family counselling?

AmberLeaf Tue 27-Sep-11 12:38:53

How long since the split/divorce?

Sorry to be blunt but, were you the 'other woman'?

chelen Tue 27-Sep-11 13:07:37

Hello, so sorry things are this tough at the moment.

If things have got to this violent stage, then you are entitled to help from either GP or school and the children would have access to counselling or whatever. Agree with redhen about the risks of them not coming back again if you get tough, but I am hopeful their mother is also concerned about it?

If their mum is on side then family counselling would possibly be an option.

I'm sorry I don't have many helpful suggestions but you should not have to take violence - whatever the circumstances of the break up. Violence is totally unacceptable even if the children are justified in having angry feelings.

nenevomito Tue 27-Sep-11 13:12:26

Is there any way that DP could go and see them near where they live instead? I know that when we were living long distance from DSD DH would drive up, stop over somewhere and take her out on her own turf IYSWIM.

Counselling is a good plan, but if the whole visit is fraught from the point of the journey onwards then you maybe need to step back and look at practical ways of making it less fraught.

PlinkertyPlonk Tue 27-Sep-11 13:16:06

redhen, I guess this is could be the 'getting worse before getting better bit'. We started really clamping down a couple of months ago. DP is horrified by their behaviour and it's really getting him down. He doesn't let things slip but unfortunately is usually so wound up by then that he loses the ability to think rationally at the critical moment of dishing out the consequence. And I suspect they subconsciously seek the (wrong) attention because it supports their 'you hate us' thinking.

From what I know about the ex (very little), she's not vindictive. Just probably overwhelmed by 3 very bright and active children. But I do know she doesn't have the same (any?) house rules at her place. In fact it sounds like the kids have had very few boundaries while growing up.

Unfortunately counselling is not an option at this stage for reasons that I can't post here.

Fair question Amber :-) 3 yrs since the split, divorce recently (finally) through. DP and I have been together 2 years, I've known the kids for 1 year. I wasn't the OW.

PlinkertyPlonk Tue 27-Sep-11 14:00:12

I'm a little taken aback by how many of you are suggesting counselling. I know I said they were out of control, but I guess I've been telling myself they are just boisterous children that aren't used to boundaries.

DSD1 is also bullying her younger siblings (hence the fighting); you are right, the violence has to stop.

Conversation with the mum would be difficult if not impossible ("you walked out on us, what do you expect" would probably be the response). There may be another way however, so I'll suggest that to DP. In the meantime, the idea of taking DSD out on her own turf (and on her own) is a good one and may make a huge difference. She is quite happy to talk to DP once cornered and would, I'm sure, love some time with him all to herself. The tricky bit will be peeling the other 2 off her - I can hear their cries of "it's not fair!" already.

AmberLeaf Tue 27-Sep-11 14:52:34

Glad you didnt take offence at my question Plinkertplonk!

I also think maybe some 1to1 time for your DP and DSD might be an idea.

She really sounds like a girl pushing limits of your sanity

Silly question maybe but has your DP asked her what its all about?

PlinkertyPlonk Tue 27-Sep-11 15:50:30

He's been gently trying to tease (as in pull, not 'to poke fun at') it out of her. It could be matter of 1 on 1 time and perseverance. She's a big character but is very loving underneath it all.

Away from DP, she's well behaved and good company.

brdgrl Tue 27-Sep-11 16:05:51

Counselling, whether as a family or for the kids individually, certainly seems like a good idea.

Giving eldest DSD time alone with DP is probably a good idea too - but be careful. You do not want to reward bad behaviour with special privileges, and you are right to be concerned about the 'it's not fair!' cries. I'd suggest instead, a system in which each of the kids has one-on-one time with DP. A side-effect of this might be that you have the other kids by yourself while that is happening, and that might be a good thing too. (I always get on a lot better with DSD and find her easier to deal with with DH is not around.)

I'd really stress that the positive measures (more time with DP; talking to DSD and really listening to her feelings) should be half of the process. Limits and consequences should be the other half. The behaviours you describe are not tolerable, and you have to put a stop to them, especially the violent and unsafe behaviours. If she won’t wear a seatbelt (totally not ok, especially when there are other kids around!), then create a related consequence for that – maybe it is that she doesn’t get a ride next time she wants one to see a friend, or even that you pull off at the next exit and sit silently in the car in a parking lot for a ‘time-out’. You might have some inconveniences this way, but I think you have got to be willing to take that in the short-term in order to stop the dangerous behaviour long-term. If their own things are not being respected, take them away…if your and DP things are not being respected, take something away...figure out what currency works with each kid - is it pocket money, or time on the computer, or tv, or the phone - and do it, consistently and completely. It will definitely suck for a while, but I can tell you from experience that it can start to change if you are willing to stick it out.

AmberLeaf Tue 27-Sep-11 16:41:33

Away from DP, she's well behaved and good company

That is very telling.

Counselling would be a good way of getting to the bottom of her anger[?] at her dad.

PlinkertyPlonk Tue 27-Sep-11 17:19:14

It's so helpful getting everyone's views on this, thank you. And nice to know I'm not going totally mad for no reason.

brdgrl, I'd not thought about time with DP as possibly been taken as a reward for bad behaviour, but you are right. They all need more individual time with DP and I'm quite happy to look after just 2 of the DSCs, it's a ride in the park compared to all 3. The tricky thing is separating them - DSD2 sticks to her big sister like glue. I'll have to think of an incentive, like taking them for a walk on the hills - they love that and DSD1 won't walk anywhere unless there's a clothes shop within sight!

PlinkertyPlonk Fri 30-Sep-11 15:59:27

Thought I'd give you all a quick update...

We had the kids last night and... there wasn't a single fight shock.

I even got an unprompted, and cheery, "hello" from DSD1 when she arrived. shockshock That has NEVER happened!!!

DP had to pick DSD1 up from school earlier than the others, so she had DP all to herself for an hour.

We gave them supper as soon as they got home and they started acting up, so I did have to read them the riot act. And DSD2 flounced off when she realised she'd missed time with DP by choosing to stay longer at her friends instead, but after that they were all very well behaved.

Then DP spent 30mins reading them a story. A dodgy choice in hindsight - a very old copy of Enid Byton. Much giggling at the mention of Aunt Fanny and Dick. (Note to self - must bin book). They then went straight to bed without any grumble and we didn't hear a single sound from them again.

I'm gobsmacked. And wondering if DP bribed them all/spiked their drinks with Calpol. hmm

AmberLeaf Fri 30-Sep-11 16:38:47

Oh thats good to hear....long may it continue!

chelen Fri 30-Sep-11 18:34:46

Hi, so pleased that you had a good time - its bliss isn't it when you get to a good bit after a desperate patch? As Amberleaf says, long may it continue x

brdgrl Sat 01-Oct-11 12:01:53

That's really great. grin

We've been on a good streak here, too - I've begun to notice that the bad 'to hell with this i am giving up!' periods are often followed by periods of 'best behaviour'....I think maybe it shows that the kids are testing their limits when they act up. And the periods of 'best behaviour' are getting longer, whilst the 'hell' periods are getting more infrequent. (fingers crossed, touch wood, etc etc)

PlinkertyPlonk Mon 03-Oct-11 10:20:17

So glad your 'bad' weekends are getting better too.

It's made me realise I need to spend more time doing my own thing while they are around, to give both them and me some space.

Here's to peaceful weekends for all of us!

brdgrl Mon 03-Oct-11 20:56:45

thanks. smile

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