Close to breaking point, is it fixable?(25 Posts)
Ok, here goes... The darkest, most honest thing I can say right now is I don't know if I can do this anymore.
My DSS is 12yo. He lives with me and DH full time full stop as of about 2.5years ago. This is due to his grandparents (bio mums parents) calling SS on her and her ditching both her kids (another son from different dad) rather than have to face the problems SS brought up. These range from physical and emotional abuse, to neglect and drug use. Plus her house was an unsafe environment as there is about 3feet of rubbish piled on every single surface.
I've been with my DH for 5.5 years, and Before DSS moved in with us we had him every weekend and about 80-90% of the school holidays. Things were not perfect because his bio mums parenting often rolled over problems to our home, but we were always very positive that our love and stability were enough to combat her negativity (we didn't know about any of the more serious allegations until SS got involved, just thought it was the usual "bad" parenting that often occurs and is difficult to combat in these blended family situations)
So when SS started investigating her and she called us and asked us to take custody of DSS we jumped on board immediately. We protected DSS from the negativity by asking him if he wanted to live with us because we loved him so much and wanted to be with him full time (rather than focusing on his mum being bad/giving him up etc). He was so excited and immediately said yes, he wanted to live with us full time. We were over the moon and moved mountains to make his transition as happy and smooth as possible. We moved towns to live where his mum lives to keep him in his same school. I left a job and started working part time from home instead to be his primary care giver. (DH works a split shift so is gone strange hours and on late shift won't see DSS as he sleeps in the morning and works afternoon/night). So I took this on with an open heart and mind and determined that I would show this boy what a loving family was all about and give him the maternal stability he needed without ever infringing on his mums place (even though she and DH Split while she was pregnant and he has never known them together as a couple)
And for the first year or so it was challenging but rewarding! He started to see huge improvements at his behavior at school (he has a statement for SEN and is diagnosed with ADHD, Tourette's and is currently being tested for ASD) and we were proud that we were able to turn things around for him with all out hard work
But then he started backsliding rapidly at home and now it is like a black cloud of doom has fallen over our household. Some of it is the normal preteen angst but a lot of it is destructive and intentional and mean.
-I regularly find poop smeared on walls and towels throughout the house. He will lie and swear up and down that he didn't do it.
-he took a kitchen knife to our microwave in a tantrum and on two separate occasions took a knife and vandalized our kitchen table (and when asked why after lying about it for hours on end that he didint do it he just shrugged and said "I dunno")
-I have found scratches on my DD (1yo) face after she starts screaming when they are "playing" together and he will insist he doesn't know what happened to her. Or if he knocks her over and I see it he will cry and say he didn't do it rather than just saying it was an accident and helping her up or apologizing
-he will hide our things (keys sunglasses etc) as a "prank" and will lie for DAYS including lots of tears that he didn't do it. When he finally admits it, he will just shrug without remorse and say he "doesn't know" why he did it
-he will steal and hoard food going to the pantry to shovel loads of sweets into his mouth then lie saying he didn't eat them
-he burnt a hole in his bedroom carpet with his lamp which he says was an "accident" but he didn't show any remorse or apologize for it
-when I plan special outtings to make him feel special he will deliberately try and ruin it by only pointing out negatives rather than enjoying himself
-every word we say he immediately argues the opposite. I mean this literally. If I say, what a lovely day it's been with all that sunshine! He will insist it was cloudy in the morning, putting an immediate stop to any attempts at conversation.
-he stole a significant amount of money from me and (as usual) lied about it over and over though he was caught red handed. He never showed remorse or apologized
-we regularly find stuff he has stolen from school, other peoples homes etc hidden in his room but he will insist they were given to him
This is just the beginning. And top it up with the usual absolute lack of empathy, concern for anyone else's feelings, and complete untidiness and refusal to help the family in any chores without it being us "being horrible!" To him (which some of which I would write off as normal 12yo stuff) and I am absolutely spent emotionally.
I have accepted him as "my own" while at the same time never bad mouthing or taking the place of his mum (I specifally say things like "she is your mum! We are supposed to love our mums the most in the world, I know I sure do!") while telling him I am there for him and love him.
But she (bio mum) is on a pedastle we can't compete with now. Though she is an absolutely awful human being who lies so she won't have to see him and can go party instead, doesn't pay child support (DSS doesn't think she should have to as it isn't "fair") only sees him 4 hours a week on or visit which we had to push for as she didn't seem him at all for the first few months after he moved in with us even after we moved 4 mins down the road from her, she has told us he's "our problem" now and won't parent him in any way never mind just seeing him for a whole weekend (or day for that matter!)
But because she lets him sit in front of the tv and eat unlimited junk food and tells him how much she loves him and how she is so sad about missing him she is on tablets for it, she is the parent that loves him the most and we are evil for making him have family time that's not in front of a screen, or making him shower, brush his teeth, do homework etc. so he is acting out against us (primarily me because I am his main care giver since DH works that funny shift pattern) and has now started being really awful to me making life pure misery to the point I really struggle as every single thing throughout the day is such a battle and filled with such negativity that all of our rewards charts just don't work (he literally says it's too hard to be good so he'd rather not and that's why he doesn't try to earn his rewards!!!!) and we have a strike system of punishments but he has just gotten to the point where he says "I don't care" and won't try to avoid those either no matter HOW MANY heart to heart family talks we have had (and believe me there have been hundreds, after every incident and to just check in or talk about things). And DH and I are on the same page so that isn't the problem at all. We are both killing ourselves to try and positively parent DSS but I'm so tired of SO MUCH effort and seeing no reward whatsoever that I don't know if I can live like this anymore. I keep getting low about it then going NO!! I don't give up!!! And trying again with even more positivity and love but it gets shut down so fast as he doesn't respond to anything but anger and yelling (that's how his mum "parented") and now I'm worried it is affecting me as a human being and my depression levels are mounting and I'm also worried about all the affects this might have on my DD
SO WHAT DO I DO?! I love my husband dearly and have it in me 100% to love and care a stepchild but my particular DSS is making it SO DAMN difficult to keep going sometimes I just think "I don't want to be this miserable for the rest of my life" and seriously consider Getting out.
But then it's just me giving up on him, and my daughter living without her father and me living without my husband who I want to grow old with and I feel like that "solution " doesn't offer happiness either when it is breaking up my family. I'm so sad, exhausted and conflicted I don't know what else to do......
Sorry this is ridiculously long. Thank you for reading if you got this far xx
this sounds so hard for you, I would hardly know where to start. But you sound like you are a wonderful step mum and really want the best for all your family - don't lose sight of that in all the chaos.
Have SS given you any ongoing support? The first thing that springs to mind is that if you were fostering a child who had been abused there would be suppot and training and education about the impact of that history. Just because he's related to your DH doesn't mean you don't need that kind of help.
If SS can't help, start with NSPCC perhaps? They do core information leaflets about the impact of various kinds of abuse. Take a look at their abuse and neglect info for starters?. I don't know, but maybe there would be something in there that helps you recognise what is going on for DSS and perhaps some pointers about how to help him? Or at least something that might give you somewhere to start if you seek help for him? Do you still have a social worker involved with him?
Just wanted to say well done for trying so hard and to send some hugs.
Don't know what to do, the excrement thing is a bit shocking and I have no idea what causes that behaviour.
You've mentioned he has diagnosed behavioural issues, is there any support for those you can use in terms of counselling.
It is possible I suppose that he is realising his mum has just dumped him, and is struggling to deal with that. In some ways this is a cry for help?
And I know trying to respond to that doesn't seem to be working but maybe he wants a negative reaction from you, maybe he wants to be told off, to know where his boundaries are for some sense of security?
Difficult to know how to take the lid of this conversatin and what might come out. Have you talked bout him going back to his mum's? In the context of that not being on the cards unless he desperately wanted that, in the meantime you want him to live with you?
Maybe he needs more time with his mum, has that come up? Maybe he knows a few hours of tv and junk is not how he wants to spend his time with her.
Despite all the wonderful things you've done for him, he has still had a very disrupted upbringig and it might just now be starting to surface as is teen hormones kick in.
Poo smearing rings a lot of alarm bells and is more common than you think. Have you spoken to your go and tried to arrange counselling or campus support for him? He clearly needs a lot of help right now.
Op you sound like you are a great step mum and he is lucky to have you. Sometimes a very troubled child can't be fixed by positive parenting and love - they have an inner sadness/mental health issues or something else that needs something else. Can you ask the senco at his school for some support. Who is assessing him for asd? It is really hard being a step mum even without the poo smearing and other dramas so you are doing a fantastic job. I feel for you it is so tough. Make sure you don't break yourself in the process of trying to fix him - remember the oxygen mask on the aeroplane analogy. Hopefully someone more experienced in this than me will be along soon.
Thank you so much for your replies. I cried reading them just cause I didn't feel so alone and terrible. I feel like I'm morphing from Mary poppins to a wicked step monster as I'm out of steam to be positive much longer
As to social services, they dropped the case instantly when we took custody, didn't even come to our home to see if it was safe or appropriate! Since bio mum gave up kids before investigation, they just shut the case as a happy result so not a single resource there.
As to his mental health team, we have BEGGED for counseling services for him since the day we took over custody, and all they offered was a brief meeting with a hold psychologist who said DSS has "parental attachment disorder" and that it would take about 8 years for him to catch up developmentally and to just give him unconditional love through everything to help him leave "survival mode". But it's hard to give a hug when they are stealing land lying etc
With his mum, we have told him 100% he lives with us forever (we even asked him if he wanted to and then went ahead and changed his surname so it could match ours---he didn't even have the same name as bio mum as she married and divorced when he was little---so that he could feel solidly a part of our family and have the same name as all the rest of us to show solidarity) and to be honest she has told is multiple times she will never have him back. She has washed her hands of being a parent full stop. And he has expressed that he wants to see her more and when we told her this she said she sees him as much as she can (4hrs after schoo 1 day a week) and that she thought about it and she couldn't possibly manage to see him any more than that!!!! Oh and she added that she asked him and he's "just fine" with how much she sees him she is an absolute nightmare. She told him she can't see him weekends cause she works. So last weekend we were in town doing Christmas shopping and he asked if he could pop into her work to see her and when he saw it was closed at 4pm Saturday and all day Sunday he insisted WE were wrong when we thought she had said she worked weekends to protect himself. He defended her as he Always does because the feelings hurt too much he just shoves them down.
Which I understand in my head and that these repressed feelings are bubbling up in destructive behavior where he is testing to see if we will abandon him too, but I am not a trained psychologist, I don't know how to help him access those feelings when he won't talk about it no matter what we do.
And when we told the SENCO at the school how much we were struggling lately at home, And when we asked for a CAF they said a CAF probably wouldn't help us anyway and that they didn't know any services really for him to access, at least until he gets his "OFFICIAL" ASD diagnosis as apparently THAT credits counseling services but not any of the other things he's gone through. Basically everyone has just pushed it off onto us as our problem to solve but I feel like I'm drowning under the failure to "fix" him and our once lovely relationship is deteriorating rapidly as he pushes and pushes against my efforts. I don't know HOW to move forward anymore
If he has attachment disorder you could try posting in adoptions. You will get a lot of love there as well as a wealth of experience from adoptive parents whose children may have similar issues. Have you seen your gp?
Op what a sad situation for your dss. You basically have two options here -
1. Admit defeat and walk away
2. Rattle doors, send emails, phone everyone involved until you get some more help - I suspect he should at the very list be seeing someone at camhs - as another poster has said - poo smearing at his age is a big flag that something is wrong. I think you can actually insist on a Caf. Try to get support from everyone involved to push for more interventions for him - have you spoken to your gp about the poo smearing and other concerns?
I know it's hard but you will get through this.
He is being seen by camhs that is where his ADHD, Tourette's and attachment disorder diagnosis come from. At every meeting we have been begging for counseling resources and they just insist there is none available. Instead they offered us some titles of books we might like to read on attachment disorder... It's been very frustrating as I am screaming we (he and us as his parents) need help or this family will break under the strain and all we are getting is NHS no resource available roadblocks. GP just refers us back to camhs
But the school wouldn't do a CAF so I went to my children's centre and broke down saying I needed some help cause I was afraid my family would break apart and the woman there opened one for me a few days ago. So I haven't heard anything yet but I'm hopeful they might have some help for us
Do you claim DLA? (You should you need it)
Please start getting some real world support. Look for local special needs and adhd support groups.
Poo smearing is quite common with asd and sensory seeking behaviour. Cook tea so can post more a little later
You sound like an amazing step mum in a horrendous situation. Can you look into your dh changing his shift pattern or job? I know it might take a while but you can't go on like this, you need your dh's support. He needs to be pro active in helping this situation.
DLA is a gateway benefit. It is used for the benefit of the child. Eg breaking stuff that gets broken, sensory toys.
If you are awarded middle or higher rate you can choose to claim carers allowance which if you want may allow you to reduce your working hours so you have more time to put into your dss. This can give you the time to rebuild your resilience, to rest and recuperate while your dss is at school.
It also gives you the time to attend any courses that may help and link up with any local support groups who will be able to give you a hug and ime are worth their weight in gold.
Chase up that caf report (and any referrals, they often go missing)
And breathe. You are doing a great job in very difficult circumstances. Some days one foot and another is as good as it gets
Thanks for your suggestions coffeeinapapercup. I never would have thought about DLA, it seems like a long shot to convince someone "official" how much more effort and time it takes just to get him dressed and teeth brushed etc because he's 12 these things seem like they would be non-issues but it's the biggest battle of our day.
But I'm going to try because maybe if we did get it we could use that money to get him in more activities outside of school to help him with his social and emotional development because we can really only afford the one club he is in now. Or it might make us a little less stressed when he takes chunks out of the wall as we could have a reserve to handle those situations. Xx
I really also appreciate the emotional support and advice on here. I was sure if I wrote it all out people would jump on the opportunity to tell me how awful I am for wanting to give up on him (because after all he really is just a very troubled little boy) but I feel better today and ready to make some calls and keep things moving with the CAF and ASD assessments etc.
I think that the need to build up those reserves is vastly underestimated. Some of our DLA goes on a family holiday. Getting out and doing stuff as a family is so important. My local support group runs family day trips and family based holiday activities (good for siblings too)
Get help with dla form if you can, you tend to vastly underestimate the amount of help needed. There are guides online and some places offer advocacy services who can help. Just put in EVERYTHING you do on a daily basis You should get it no problems from what you've said here
If "the insiders guide" course is available in your area, it is absolutely worth doing. It's kinda let's equip parents with the skills they need to deal with consultants doctors etc etc and part counselling. It's also a fantastic way to meet other parents.
Don't forget that any techniques you learn to help will take that much longer to show any signs of having an affect. He's had the double whammy of genetics and environment for the best part of 10 years. It's going to take a hell of a long time and energy to undo all that
The primary cause of encopresis is unclear. A variety of explanations have been proposed—psychological, anatomical, physiological and dietary—but the most likely explanation is that the causes of encopresis are multifaceted. Most children with encopresis do not have a physical abnormality that interferes with their ability to gain bowel control. Some children may intentionally withhold for psychological reasons; they may fear using the toilet or the withholding may be due to a pattern of oppositional behavior.
In many cases encopresis occurs when there is a stressful family situation, such as divorce, birth of a sibling or a transition such as starting school. When a child actually smears feces, there is a strong indication that there may be a problem in family relationships. The child who is reluctant to openly express anger may express it by soiling. Soiling may occur in a child who has had a traumatic or frightening experience, such as sexual or physical molestation. When behavior problems occur they are usually due to the social consequences of soiling.
The physiological basis of encopresis is chronic or intermittent retention of feces, resulting in distension of the rectum and colon leading to a lack of sensitivity for the defecation reflex. The stools become large and hard, and attempted passage may result in pain and avoidance of the toilet, which make the situation worse. Rectal impaction may result, and the watery contents of the higher colon are passed around the retained stool, resulting in involuntary soiling.
It must be awful for you all. He sounds like a very unhappy little boy. This behaviour must be making him miserable.
He does need counselling, have you tried the doctor?
I think he probably feels so rejected by his mother that he is testing you and his father to see what he has to do to get you to reject him too. Though probably not on a concious basis.
Not sure what to suggest. Good luck.
Just wanted to say it sounds like you're an amazing step mum! It sounds incredibly tough for you, DP and DSS but you're doing brilliantly!
I don't have any experience in what you're going through in terms of his behaviour but re counselling could you perhaps look at going private? I'm not sure what options there are for under 18's but perhaps worth looking into? I know it's not ideal and you shouldn't have to pay for it but if you could afford it, it may be worth it just until he can get his official diagnosis and see someone through NHS.
Kooth offer a free online counselling service for young people but it's only available in certain areas. If you are in the area I'd highly recommend it though ideally I think face to face would be more beneficial.
I really hope you manage to find the support you so dearly need and deserve! Good luck!
It might be worth checking this out.
Wow...you're a better woman than anyone I know! What a loving and compassionate soul you are. But God how hard this is!! It must be soul destroying at times. And the poor kid. Who knows what on earth those years with mum were like combined with, as you'd mentioned, genetics. What type of support has your GP offered?
Thanks for the links ladies! I've gone through them and found a few options to try and chase just to see what they have to offer. I've sent some emails so hopefully I'll hear back next week. X
I also chased the CAF and we now have an appointment on Tuesday for our initial interview with the support worker. I feel really nervous that if we are honest about how difficult we are finding everything they will paint us as "bad" parents and blame the behaviors completely on us and we will feel like we can't be open without fear and they will see the good we are trying to do rather than targeting us iyswim?
Coffeeinapapercup did you get help with your dla application? Did you go to the cab or something? Cause from the little I've read online with my DSS being 12 and having a diagnosis of ADHD but not ASD yet I've heard most likely we will be denied? And the idea of being able to use the money for more family outtings seems like it would be so beneficial right now. X
Oh and I spoke to gp again and they just pushed us back to his mental health clinic doctor as it falls under that specialty. And like I said his consultant just gave us a few titles of attachment disorder self help books after we told her how much we were struggling at his 6month review last month
The purpose of a CAF assessment is to highlight the positive as well as pick up any negative areas.
The assessment will allow workers/services to tailor a care package for you and your DSS which will have good out comes for you all.
Please be honest about the difficulties you are having as a family and the emotional/safeguarding of your DD as she is vulnerable due to age etc when DSS kicks off.
Good will come once a full and clear assessment has been completed and a time line of events recoded as these all impact on where your DSS is in regards of emotional well being.
Keep up the good work and keep pushing SS. They do have a budget for respite...this is a cheaper option for them than having to accommodate a young person in the care system. Keep asking them. Get your local MP to support you too.
DLA is based on needs, not diagnosis. My ds1 received DLA long before he received any type of diagnosis. He's 8yo now, has been getting it since he was 4yo.
He has done the poo smearing as well, and I know of a number of others that have children with SNs or disabilities that have done it. For ds1, he did that when he was 3-4yo initially, and I thought it was going to send me around the bend. It finally stopped and then cropped up again within the last year. He did it at home and at school. He honestly seemed shocked himself that it happened and didn't seem to have any idea why he did it. He was upset over it, upset that he got in trouble over it, and was very obviously not in real control of it. It went for a couple weeks and then died down. The best that myself and the school can think is that he was particularly stressed and that's how it came out.
Ds1 has ADHD, ASD, among a few other things. He does often have behaviour that he cannot control or understand himself, which means that sometimes he really does not have any type of "reason" why he's done it and sometimes he seems surprised or shocked at his own behaviour and then he denies it. Other times I genuinely think he does not realise he's done things or he simply cannot stop himself.
I do think that there may be some element of testing you. He may realise his mum left, attribute it to his own behaviour (rather than recognising that it was her behaviour that caused it), and be testing to see if you will stick around before he allows himself to form a closer bond with you IYSWIM.
Mainly I just wanted to post to point out that some of that behaviour is stuff I see with ds1. I imagine some is ramped up by teen issues, as you said he is 12yo. I was told that no matter how smooth things were going, to expect things to erupt a bit when he hits 12 or 13, due to hormonal changes affecting behaviour and such, so I guess there is that possibility as well.
I think it's important to point out that often children with SNs or disabilities will hold things in and let loose at home or around someone that they feel "safe" with. Just something to think about.
That being said, it is good that you are taking the steps to get more support for yourself and for him. Feel free to come over to the children with SNs board. There are a number of parents there that have pre-teens/teens that can offer helpful advice.
Join the discussion
Please login first.