DH enabling teen DSD struggles(11 Posts)
My DSD who lives with us seems to be going through depression. She got to school last Thursday morning and broke down sobbing and has been off the rest of the week. She's told her parents that she has a profound sadness and is worried about her grades, although she's on track to get good GCSEs. She has normal teenage stuff going on - dealing with challenging friendships (she's very popular and is always the reconciler). We're starting the adoption process too, and I remind DH that this may be impacting her. The Paris incidents have been on her mind too.
I've written quite positively in the past about my stepfamily set up. DH and exP broke up shortly after DSD's conception so DSD has experienced less of the ruptures associated with family breakdowns, having being brought up by her dad since age 1 (after mum struggled to cope). But she sees her mum daily, who picks her up from school and drops her home with us later. All 3 of us parents are generally respectful, friendly and caring of each other.
Thankfully DSD does have some sense of her own responsibility, but she is up against a mixture of DH's liberalism and coddling; and I think this is playing its part in her wellbeing. She still needs loving guidance, limits and responsibilities. She told me that when a boy invited her to watch a film, she wanted her dad to question her more and be firmer - instead he was cool with letting her go (and he certainly didn't discuss it with me). Knowing DH he was probably thinking, well I can trust her to be responsible.
So I'm concerned that on the one hand he doesn't give her appropriate guidance and responsibilities (e.g. teach her how to handle money, ask her to do a household chore, get her to walk the 100m to the shop to buy something we need - she's never been and has rarely left the house alone). And on the other hand he leaves her to it e.g. allowing her hours alone in her room, not challenging / noticing language and behaviour.
More than anything I'm concerned that in 'over protecting' her he's repeating his own childhood pattern. He didn't know his dad and was raised by his violent stepdad from age 3. His mum and stepdad are still together and have sorted those issues, but it's left its mark on DH and his sister. He doesn't feel that close to his parents, but you wouldn't know it. They've helped him several times financially instead of taught him money management, we rent from them, he jumps at the chance to go on holiday with them without consulting me (we went, never again). I feel like there's a cycle of fear / guilt parenting going on and a lack of balanced parenting (love, limits, freedom). Seems everyone's scared of allowing others to be their own person or of offending them.
DSD's mum plays her part by buying her tons of clothes and sometimes washing them (yes coming to our house where we have a perfectly servicable washing machine, to pick up DSD's excess clothes to wash at her house, because DSD has worn so much she hasn't gotten round to washing all of it! (I've put my foot down about this and DH has now kept DSD on top of doing her own washing)).
DH still occasionally play fights, chases, tickles, give piggy backs to her - I have no issue with this, it's not daily or regressive. But I don't want him to have an inaccurate mindset about her - imagining her as 7 when she's 15. I run youth group and teenagers younger than DSD play games, but also discuss serious topics (bereavement, careers, society, faith, sex, bullying etc). Sometimes DSD will talk to me about some of this when we're alone and whilst I feel privileged, I sense she'd like to be able to get real with her dad too.
DH has admitted that he needs to work on himself emotionally and we're reading some books together, which he's much more open to than when we first got together. I'm not perfect either. But I love my family and am just keen that we keep a united front as a couple and model responsibility and emotional security, so my DSD - and our future children - are as as equipped as they possibly can be to handle and enjoy life.
Meant to add, sorry this has become an essay. I guess it's more of a statement than requesting comments, although comments are welcome.
I have read about this often on here and certainly seen this happening in my own home.
Kids who are "too tired to do chores" according to dp but fine to be waking the whole house at 5am. Kids who are on social media until 2am on a school night but not allowed to walk less than a mile home from school. My dp will ignore bad behaviour and offers no guidance or support for the tough times but tells me "it's what the kids want" when it comes to them making choices way beyond their years, but never allowing them the natural consequences of their actions.
I do really struggle with this. Surely if you truly love your children, you want the best for them? This means helping and supporting, but also giving them rules and structure and boundaries?
In my case, I think dp is partly just plain lazy and partly terrified of losing his kids.
Either way, it is incredibly detrimental to their well being and my step kids have all been diagnosed with depression. I can never prove that it's because of their parents behaviour but I am certain it's a significant factor.
Symathies - I could have written half your post. It's not the day to day stuff I struggle with with step parenting - it's when you have a sense of where the DSC need to be going overall and you can see their actual parents aren't helping them to get there, but you're powerless to do much about it.
I also have an anxious 15 year old DSD - like you're she's not been having a great time lately, and has been referred for counselling at school. I also thiunk it's just typical teenage anxiety - not on top of homework/coursework, unsure of A level options, at a very academic school, which in my opinion doesn't suit her for many reasons, sad that her sister's just left home...
There's so many things about her life that if she was my own child I'd want to sit her down and talk to her about, but I don't feel I can because she's not my DD. I have to leave it for her to bring up, or try to prompt DH to do it. Yet I can see that my DH is so often treating her as the little girl she once was, and DSD clearly wishes she still was his little girl - big hugs for him at bedtime, speaking in a whisper, etc. He tiptoes around the issues that really involve parenting - like making sure she actually does her homework, or getting her to clear up after herself. He even tidied her room for her lately - I queried whether this was really the best way to get her to take responsibility, and he said it was a one off so that she would now keep on top of it, but she hasn't and nothing's been said....
I try and chip away at the edges, and have managed to get her getting about on her own a bit more - a couple of years ago she wouldn't cross a road on her own. I did feel really proud when she managed - after much support from me - to catch a bus into town for the first time and found her way there and back. DH would just have driven her in at the first hint of uncertainty from her, so I had to bat him away too.
I must admit though, I wouldn't think to question a 15 year old too much about going to the cinema with a boy. I'd kind of think that was fine and healthy at that age - assuming she could get herself there and back. But from what you said it sounds like she's not really ready for that level of independence, which suggests you've got a 15 year old who's 15 in some ways and 10 in other ways, which doesn't make parenting easy.
Thanks both for your posts. When I didn't see any responses initially I thought - am I whingeing too much? SM paranoia. :-)
purple just to say DSD hangs out in a small mixed sex group of school friends and they go to the cinema etc. But this boy who we don't know, nor his parents, had asked her to his house where just them two would watch the film and apparently dad said yes. Her comment to me was "I don't even know this boy". I'm not sure that she was ever intending to go, but perhaps wanted to test her dad to see what he'd say.
I have said to DH that I don't want a 2 tier household where when we adopt, newer children are given responsibility and have growing independence whilst DSD and DH are co-dependent. There could be resentment all round in that case. So I'm glad the process forces us to examine our family relationships.
Yes it's definitely sad to see kids being stunted and grown as bonsais, not great oaks. I had youth group tonight and it's amazing how young people express their thoughts on life.
Purple - I could have written your and OPs post too... it's when you have a sense of where the DSC need to be going overall and you can see their actual parents aren't helping them to get there, but you're powerless to do much about it.
I now have an adult DSD who lived with us most of her teenage life, and needed so much that wasn't being given. ExW sent her to us because she couldn't cope, but undermined me totally. DSD became very vehemently against anything I did, even when I cooked dinner she'd sniff it 'wasn't the same as her mums' or whatever. DP did do wonders with her school work which was great. But there were so many other gaps, her confidence, her ability to just cooperate with others.
It's so hard not to care isn't it? I tried so many ways to do this, trying to go at her pace, trying to tread carefully and not take over being a parent, making a fuss of her when needed, being calm but fair, picking some fundamentals e.g. not ignoring me or my DS, hopefully giving her the tools for life - yet most of it got literally thrown back in my face. She is still incredibly immature, get a lift from DP to Uni, but at least with his help she did get to Uni, and now has some friends. Those friends are probably teaching her more about cooperation and sociability, and boundaries than her parents which she still treats pretty poorly because she has no respect for them.
bananas - your post makes me anxious - as I'm trying all those same things and quite aware that it could all get thrown back at me. DSD's not a straightforward child. She broods, and gets it into her head that certain people don't like her - teachers mainly but also her mum currently. I'm currently liked, but all too aware that this is fragile. It could easily break it if I try to parent her, but if I don't then half the time no one else does either.
OP - I see what you mean about the boy and the film - I'd thought you meant the cinema which is a much more public and therefore safer environment in many ways. Can see why she was nervous of being round his house if she didn't know him well. Still think that at 15 though she ought to be able to make these kinds of decisions for herself - if she's needing a parent to lay down rules because she's not sure of how to say no for herself that's a bit worrying.
Sounds like your youth group is really good for you to be reminded what other young people are like. It's so hard though to encourage your partner to take the blinkers off and get a sense of where his children still have a lot of growing up to do, without appearing to be critisizing them.
purple I do hope it works out for you - I was liked by DSD until she decided that she didn't because I asked her not to ignore my son. I've seen other children like that too, who are more dependent than others, but who 'teach' their parents to back off by being distressed/difficult when their parents try. My DSD used to bite my DPs head off all the time, it's why her own mum backed off completely. And so they don't learn how to grow up, because they live in a 'child world' with parents just coddling them, a vicious circle.
Kids are going to kick off, so purple or OP - I'd concentrate on the main behaviours that are negative on your household - and don't be afraid to lay down some rules. I had to give up in the end but protect my own kids and sanity. It still saddens me that I wasn't let truly help, but you can't.
Purple and Green
My sentiments exactly.
I'm very much in the camp that you're training your teen to be an adult, DP doesn't see it that way and wants to be the Parent of the younger version of DSC for ever.
And when the two worlds collide there's no backing off.
Thanks guys. It's been a tough couple days. I snapped at DH last night about mobile phones in bed and today stuff about my feeling unimportant came out too, especially after I went up to say hi a couple of times to DSD and she didn't even turn around.
I won't let fear stop me but I will need to get it all out soon to DH about agreeing the fundamentals in our marriage and presenting a united front - we never did this (DH resisted) and we're paying for it now 3 years later.
Feeling quite overwhelmed, the adoption process is moving at pace and I have already told DH I'm reluctant to bring a child (who needs stability and security) into our family if we're not emotionally sound. So I'll probably get my thoughts out in a letter to DH.
Re the film purple sorry to labour it, but she had already made the decision not to hang with the boy, I think she kind of wanted her dad to show he cared.
Need to sleep.
Re. the film, I was a bit too lax with my dd in her early teens and my default button was to say yes. I still remember the time I finally said "No" to her going out somewhere, she was on the phone boasting that I wouldn't let her go.
They do like the security of knowing that their parent is assessing the dangers on a case by case basis, not just automatically saying yes or no. Your DP only showed her that he isn't really paying attention or looking out for her best interests.
You sound like such a thoughtful caring person, OP. I have no solutions to offer you, but hope you work it out.
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