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Personal space boundaries

(43 Posts)
theredhen Mon 25-Mar-13 06:43:57

Dp is now listening to my concerns regarding dsd2 aged 15 who lives with us.

She's a lovely girl with a nice personality. She's predicted all a/a* for gcse, has friends and a boyfriend at school. all nice people. However, she spends every waking minute being with my ds. She rarely socialises nowadays, doesn't have friends back and has given up any after school activities she used to do. She seems perfectly happy and well adjusted apart from this.

Ds says he finds it odd that she sits next to him the whole time but says he doesn't mind. He says he doesn't really understand why she does it. Ds often has friends over at weekends and she literally sits in between them, only leaving when it's time to go to bed and she's told to.

Ds has an x box and spends his free time playing online with friends. He uses headphones and isn't able to hear much of what is going on around him but she still sits next to him, often for hours on end. She tries to sit and do her homework next to him whilst he's on x box, shouting at the -- game-- chatting with his friends.

Her relationship with her older sister is pretty much non existent now too, despite sharing a room when they are both here.

Both girls have a tv in their room but its been out in the floor and unplugged for months, they say they're not interested in having it. They all have smart phones, so can be on Facebook etc in their rooms (which is girls equivalent to x box) but dsd only seems to want to sleep in her room. She's had new furniture and bed linen recently but her room obviously doesn't have much appeal to her.

We have a rule if no "screens" after 8pm so they can get ready for school the next day. Dsd will have her shower when ds has his bath, will make her sandwiches at the same time as ds and sit next to him in the sofa when he's finished.

I also feel ds doesn't out as much effort in with homework as I'd like and I suspect that's because dsd is by his side.

ATM they go to different schools but I know she will want to change to ds school next year for sixth form meaning she can spend all day and all night by ds side. shock

Now I know it's good they get on and I could be in here talking about the terrible rows they have but I also know this situation isn't good.

Dp says we need to encourage both children to have different interests etc. personally I feel ds is doing enough after school activities, has friends round every week / visits friends. He has interests and hobbies and yes, he likes the x box.

I would like to implement a your room is your space rule. Ie. ds bedroom isn't the communal room that dsd (and other dsd's treat it as when they're here). I feel this would force the situation a bit. Dp says he will "encourage" dsd to go to friends more but I know she will just make excuses. Dp also seems to think the x box is the problem and is hinting that I should let ds play less and this will help with the problem. It won't, ds would just sit on the PC downstairs instead with dsd by his side as sometimes happens anyway.

It would be a BIG thing if I effectively banned her from his room. All the kids are so used to ds room being communal.

We are moving house soon so I thought it might be a good time to adjust to some new rules.

Any suggestions or comments please?

NotaDisneyMum Mon 25-Mar-13 19:08:47

redhen You can't fight all your DS battles for him - if he is unhappy/uncomfortable with the attention he is receiving from his DSSis then he really needs to speak up wink

He's 15 years old, and while he may be placid, and might feel more awkward 'rejecting' his DSSis than he would a peer at school, it's probably better that you put some boundaries in place, and empower him to deal with the situation himself rather than resolve it for him grin

BuiltForComfort Mon 25-Mar-13 19:17:10

Well then it really sounds as though the issue is that you and your DP don't parent your respective children consistently, and that's what you need to go over with (again!) with him. I know you've already tried but that's the big thing here, and you say above that your ds, like you, gets walked over sometimes. Your DP and your dsd are walking over your rules and boundaries and suggestions. Moving house should be the big catalyst but DP has got to sign up otherwise your dsd is going to get more and more stifling, or at some point throw herself at ds and everything is going to get very difficult indeed if things cross a boundary from sibling to boyfriend. Not what your DP wants surely??

theredhen Mon 25-Mar-13 19:22:51

I've just managed to have a little chat with ds and he's said he's quite happy to have a rule where bedrooms are personal spaces.

He told me he doesn't feel comfortable asking her to leave so tells himself it doesn't matter if she stays as she's not really bothering him.

The more I think about it the more I think it's a good thing for dp and i to put a personal space rule in.

Then dsd and ds can spend time together when they both choose rather than when she decides.

I think I need to empower them both. She's not developed an ability to be alone and develop her own interests. She's a very talented young lady who is wasted by sitting around.

I think I need to empower him to feel he has the authority and right to expect his personal space to be respected.

theredhen Mon 25-Mar-13 19:26:27


Dp has said many times that he's happy that dsd is here and not at her mums. He doesn't seem to care she has given up hobbies and doesn't see friends. He says its because she's happy here rather than running away from mums house.

Sometimes I think he gets so obsessed with "winning" against his ex that he forgets about the welfare of his children. hmm

purpleroses Mon 25-Mar-13 20:04:45

Do you have more than one downstairs room? Eg could you make one downstairs room a place where they want to be if they're feeling sociable - but possibly not the same place that you and DP spend your time? Put a TV in it, or even put the Xbox in there? So then they'd have somewhere to hang out together if they both want to, but still both have their own places to retreat to if they want to be alone? Sounds like your DS needs to learn some ways of being a bit more assertive with telling people what he wants. Not easy if that doesn't come naturally, but a good life skill to work on.

BuiltForComfort Mon 25-Mar-13 20:07:07

That's really sad redhen - you clearly have everyone's best interests at heart whilst your DP seems to lack ambition beyond his dd being happy. Of course she needs to feel settled and secure, but now she's in that safe space there are so many more things she can do. What a shame your DP doesn't recognise this. Your dsd is lucky to have you in her life.

flurp Mon 25-Mar-13 21:23:29

Its about privacy too when they are teenagers. Your DS should be able to have somewhere private where DSD can't just walk in. Same goes for her too.

theredhen Mon 25-Mar-13 22:26:47

Exactly! There is no privacy at all for ds at all. Even if dsd leaves his room, she knows no one will enter her room and if they do they will knock. If I try and have a private conversation with ds, she can walk in at any minute.

It's definitely time for some changes.

I just hope when I turf dsd out of ds room, ds doesn't feel sorry for her and say its ok for her to stay.

I think I'll just say "if you want to be with dsd, then you can both go downstairs"'

We do have plenty of room at the new house and there will be a PC and tv in a "kids" room downstairs.

The x box has been bought by ds out of his pocket money and savings and I'm loathed to put it downstairs for everyone's use.

NotaDisneyMum Mon 25-Mar-13 22:40:27

But redhen he's 15! If he's so inhibited in his own home that he doesn't feel that he can even tell his 15 year old stepsister to "piss off and leave him alone" then I think you have far bigger issues than whether or not she's allowed in his room.

A new house won't change the relationship dynamic - and it sounds as if he has learnt that even in his own home, his needs and wants should come last.

theredhen Mon 25-Mar-13 22:45:06

NADM so what do you suggest?

NotaDisneyMum Mon 25-Mar-13 23:03:58

I don't have any answers - but it really does sound as if you are trying to treat the symptoms, rather than the cause.

If he's an all-round passive person then empowering him to deal with this issue himself (within the protection of his own home) rather than rescuing him will go a long way to teach him life skills. My DSS is a bit like this; (although a lot younger) and DP is already backing off from rescuing him every time he faces a difficult situation. He is having difficulties with a classmate at the moment, and the teacher has asked him to approach her if he is struggling with it. dSS lacks the confidence to do so, but rather than go with him, or do it for him, DP has taken him through, step by step how he 'could' do it. Funnily enough, DSS mum has done exactly the same thing - it's definitely a first that they are parenting on the same page!

If your DS is only inhibited at home with family members and can assert himself in other situations, then perhaps you could suggest he talks to a school counsellor - it must be incredibly frustrating for him!

theredhen Mon 25-Mar-13 23:40:44

In some ways ds is very independent and capable. I've encouraged him to be self sufficient and take responsibility for his own actions.

However he's also guilty of taking on responsibility for others. Feeling that he has to do the organising for his friends and he certainly doesn't like to upset people.

I am proud I have shown him how to be independent. I'm not so proud that he has trouble asserting himself. I'm certainly a lot better at asserting myself than I was but I also know I have a long way to go. I'm therefore not a very good teacher or indeed, role model in that respect.

If ds keeps saying he doesn't mind dsd being in his room, should I just assume he's lying or incapable of knowing what he wants in that particular situation? Maybe he really doesn't care. I would, but then he's not me is he?

Ds has strong interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes in many ways and can back them up with logical reasoning. What he can't do is be firm with people about things like this. He can argue why he thinks re is a rubbish subject or why he thinks x film is good or y game is rubbish.

I have no idea how to change the assertiveness issue for him when obviously it's something I'm struggling with myself.

CouthySaysEatChoccyEggs Mon 25-Mar-13 23:41:46

If he saved up for the Xbox out of pocket money and savings, then it is HIS. It is not joint - if DSD wants to play Xbox, she will need to save pocket money and spend HER savings on her OWN one.

That Xbox is HIS. My DS1 saved up all his birthday money for 3 years for a 3DS. (At first he was just saving it...). I would never expect him to put it downstairs for his siblings to use, or make him share it - he saved hard for that and went without presents that his siblings got in order to pay for it.

It's your DS's Xbox. Not a shared Xbox. He IS allowed possessions of his own, even in a blended family. ESPECIALLY if he has paid for it himself!

FrauMoose Tue 26-Mar-13 09:08:21

My daughter is 15. I am very conscious that she is a bright ambitious girl. It is odd to think that in 2 and a half years she could go off to university - or be doing something more independent as part of a gap year.

Maybe a good approach to whatever is going on with the stepson is - given that your stepdaughter will be starting to think about higher education etc - is talking to her about the need to cultivate a) independence and b) the skills that will enable her to make friends when she is in a new environment. So she should get used to doing some private study, not with an X-box. And it is a really good idea she gets involved in some kind of non-family social activity, based on her interests. Also getting her involved in practical stuff like cooking would be a good idea. (Mind you if your son is the same age, the same thing goes for him!)

theredhen Tue 26-Mar-13 09:41:40

FrauMoose, you are absolutely right. But it can't just be down to me to teach her this. I am quite willing to support DP in teaching and supporting her but it's simply not my job to take on the role of parent when she has a parent in the house who isn't supporting me on this. To be honest, I think he likes the fact that DS is "babysitting" his daughter so he doesn't have to take responsibility for her. sad

If I try and get DS to cultivate cooking and other independent skills, DSD is by his side. It seems it's OK for DSC to have one to one time and personal space but not my DS.

DP admitted to me this morning that if things were the other way round, he wouldn't want my DS following DSD around and sitting in her room all the time.

How am I ever supposed to feel that we are a family if he admits that the rules are different depending on which child belongs to who. I know he also has issues with treating boys and girls differently, hence why his son doesn't come anymore.

Sigh, I thought we were doing OK, I'm now wondering if I am just wearing rose tinted glasses.

I think the starting point is for me to put in some boundaries for DS but I also think this is not the be all and end all of the problem.

purpleroses Tue 26-Mar-13 10:16:13

I think if they were full siblings, I would leave it to your DS to decide for himself if he wants his sister in the room all the time, and learn to say no if he doesn't. The difficulty is that they're not, and the possibility of them fancying each other or starting a relationship is therefore much higher. So I think it would be reasonable to say that, as the adult, you are going to impose some rules and that one of those is that bedrooms are private space. It's a good rule to have in place when they do start bringing boyfriends and girlfriend's over anyway.

And if you're moving to a new place, where you've got the option of a "kids' room" downstairs for them to hang out, then I think you've got a great opportunity to instigate that. If the x-box belongs to your DS then it's up to him where he keeps it I guess - though you could give him the option of downstairs at least. But if you can get other things that the kids like doing together (TV, games, computer, etc) and maybe encourage your DS to spend time downstairs at first whilst it becomes established as the sociable place to be, then when he wants to he can retreat to his bedroom.

FrauMoose Tue 26-Mar-13 10:21:00

Gosh yes, I've had that one as a step-parent - two older ones, young adults now. 'They're your children. You need to do something.' (Or, 'We need to do this together.')

I think my suggestions were more around the fact that this seems a practical approach. When the whole emotional dynamic between the two seems such a difficult area...

Maybe the strong attachment to someone who is in a 'brother' role is related to on the one hand wanting to get involved in all the adolescent emotional stuff - but also not wanting to.

So you focus a lot on someone who is 'safe'/out of bounds etc. Understandable, but not good to get stuck there.

Prettyplease21 Tue 26-Mar-13 15:35:04

Role reversal in our house, my ds is a bit besotted by dssis, whose a year older and she relishes the attention!
I admit I've always been a bit overprotective of ds as I was a lp for many years, but subtly encouraged his meeting girls from school when I realized he fancied dsd. She is basically a boobs on legs kind of girl who waltzes through life on her looks. I've bought her a book on feminism for teens for her 16th, I hopes she reads it (she called herself a sexy beast at 15, gave ds a packet of condoms for his 14 th birthday).
It all sounds quite absurd/funny reading this back, but I suppose I'm posting this because I have a weird feeling that its not that innocent at all. Dsd still resents me for marrying her dad, I..e taking him away from her. She once gave ds a cool present he was delighted over (not the condoms... a present given openly) and upon leaving said ds now likes her better than me... Quid pro quo?

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