Some suggestions needed to help DSS cope with his Mum (long, sorry)(7 Posts)
Have been mulling this over for a few days, not knowing quite how (or where) to express it. Thought it might save time to say I am not the OW, am not trying to undermine DSS's mum or sggest that people with MH issues can't be good parents. Have posted about our difficulties before.
So - DSS's mum has MH issues. These include OCD and GAD. There are a number of difficult areas including food, clothes, travelling, numbers, certain words, personal hygiene, medical issues, body issues, 'keepsakes', photographs, 'firsts' and hoarding. (This is not an exhaustive list).
Whilst not underestimating the impact these things have on her life, and that of DSS, I should also mention that psych reports done during the court process have concluded that she is using her MH issues as a weapon against contact, which she hates. Currently she is living with her mum as the property she rents is uninhabitable due to the issues above. In the past she has gone to a support group, but we are not sure if she still does; she hasn't had any other kind of treatment (as far as we know).
DSS (10) has been much more open lately about the difficulties he faces on a day to day basis. We think this may be linked to DH's recent return to court for holiday contact (all contact is court ordered) when DSS was interviewed by Cafcass away from his mum, and was listened to. DH and I want to help him cope with the difficulties he faces. DH has suggested the broken record technique, for example. But neither of us know much about dealing with MH issues so any advice would be helpful.
I wonder if either Sane or Mind might be able to help you? There are helplines and on-line forums detailed on their websites. It really might be worth investigating there from a mental health perspective.
I assume the school are aware of everything? Does the school have access to counsellors? It may be a sympathetic listening ear which is completely independent would also be of great benefit for him if he doesn't have this already.
Other than that the obvious - not being rude about mum but trying to help him understand her conditions and therefore the reasons for her behaviour, explaining it's not her, it's her condition (and therefore not his fault) etc. I am sure will be great help to him even if it feels like it's not enough.
What do you mean by 'dealing with' her MH? (Not having a go at you - just trying to understand). What exactly does dss need help with? Does he need help dealing emotionally or practically? Is it issues with explaining to school friends or more day to day issues (keeping clean, fed, at school on time etc)? Does he worry about her? Is he scared? Does he feel responsible?
Have you asked dss what is difficult about living with her? The concerns of a 10 year old may be very different from what you are concerned about on his behalf.
Have you thought about a Young Carers group, where he could get emotional support and meet other dcs in the same position?
I lived with a man for 4 yrs who had OCD at first he was on medication and things went well for us. When he stopped the medication off his own back and without his doctors advise, living with him became hell on earth. Everything you do then revolves around their condition and that's not healthy for the patient or those who live with them. He used to say he didn't need meds anymore because he had me and I became his crutch. If your DSS is his mums crutch that is very tiring and a huge responsibility. One thing I know is that tackling OCD is hard and unless the person is willing to take medication, listen to advice and do cognital behavioural techniques you might as well give up trying. Overtime his behaviourer became worse, I had to live my life by his OCD rules or he'd get aggressive. I left him in the end because I couldn't cope anymore.
Your DSS will probably just want to relax and be allowed to be himself when with you. Maybe let him have friends round as I suspect an OCD mother may not let him. Try and give him chance to focus on his own wants and needs.
I think the support group ideas is a good one too.
Thankyou all so much. I have reread the thread several times, getting my thoughts in order and having a chat with DH. I think contacting Sane or Mind is a great idea. I'm not sure how ready DSS would be for a young carer's group - he has only just started talking to us about his homelife, and is under strict instructions not to mention anything about it to anyone. When they did live in her rented house, no-one was allowed to visit apart from her mum, DSS's gran.
Stepmooster, your post really resonated - as you say, everything revolves around her condition. Luckily, DSS has an elder brother (different Dad) to share the load - but DSS is becoming increasingly frustrated with brother who apparently does everything Mum's way and is used as 'muscle' to make sure DSS toes the line. And you have it spot on, he's not allowed to have friends round. We have had one friend over, timely reminder to do it more often.
It is hard to separate our own anxieties from DSS's concerns, Slambang, but I do mean emotional help to cope. On the positive side, DSS is kept clean (specially now they are back at Grans), dressed and fed. His basic physical needs are being met, he is doing really well at school, generally is a happy, well-behaved, lovely boy.
He has expressed for the first time that he is scared of her, although she has only been violent towards him once (when he asked us to get his hair cut), but she does get violently angry, lots of shouting etc.
His main concern currently is that she won't let him come with us on holiday this summer. He overheard her talking to his gran, saying she wasn't going to. Another major issue is how to cope when he transgresses any of her rituals. So for example when he was with us earlier in the week we had chips from the local chip shop. This caused a major explosion on the phone later that day because he hadn't asked the people in the chip shop if the chips were vegetarian. (They are, DH has checked, but the rule is that DSS has to ask everywhere we go if food is 'really' vegetarian.) He says she just keeps going on at him about anything that is an issue for her. And finally as he gets older he is finding the restrictions placed on him more difficult. He wants to have his hair cut short, wants to be able to use his mobile phone, that kind of thing.
Phew, sorry for the essay. It help to get it all out.
Erm it's not quite the same thing but I think Al-Anon publish literature specific to children and teens about how to 'distance' themselves from a parents' addictions; not just to alcohol - to gambling, eating disorders, shopping addictions, spending addictions etc - any compulsive behaviour basically. I know with addiction the person's 'illness' tends to become paramount with long-suffering family members walking on eggshells and modifying their behaviour so as not to upset the addict.
I'm guessing some of the coping mechanisms Al-Anon proffer may be applicable to your DSS. I imagine there are similarities between living with a parent with OCD to a parent who compulsively drinks.
Just an idea anyway. Unfortunately unless you live in London I don't think Al-Anon meetings are particularly accessible in the UK but it's a big thing in the States so there's quite a lot of info online.
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