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So many problems - don't know where to start

(22 Posts)
YellowBricks Mon 23-May-16 12:08:53

By way of background: I have been with wonderful BF for almost 2 years. We make a great couple, genuinely he's my best friend and this is by far the happiest I have been in a relationship. He tells me he feels the same. I have 3 DC, 16, 7 & 5. He has one DS, also 7.

Shortly after introducing all the DC (around 18 months ago) my DD(7) started displaying some extreme emotional problems which have gotten worse over this period of time. She has frequent 'meltdowns' where she is violent and destructive. She threatens suicide often and has very low self esteem, believing that nobody likes or loves her. I have tried to seek help from professionals but there is limited support available and as she's generally well behaved at school (odd problem here or there) help is even harder to find. She is absolutely vile to her younger sister, they fight and argue constantly, but it is DD(7) who is the most vicious. I would class it as bullying. DD(7) at one time was regularly violent to DSS and although this has improved, she is still verbally aggressive and generally nasty to him.

BF tries to be supportive of me and help with my DCs. We don't live together but he is frequently at my house, although less so since he got a room in a house share in order to have DSS more often. He doesn't like to be away from me so we often spend contact weekends all together at my house despite it being too small really. We have had to reduce this to just one day and night due to the problems but even so, DD(7) doesn't like DSS, tells me she hates him, is nasty to him and requests to be elsewhere when they are visiting.

BF is understandably getting fed up of this situation (as am I) and we have discussed potentially splitting up, although this thought is distressing to both of us and we want to exhaust all avenues first.

On the face of it, it appears that the issues lie squarely with my DD(7)'s issues. But that isn't the full picture. BF is, I would say, unnaturally competitive and proud of his DS and whilst he gives lip service to the fact that he does misbehave, in reality he believes him to be the perfect child who is exceptionally intelligent, talented, mature, kind, thoughtful, gifted, etc. etc. Even my 16yo recognises and has commented to me on BF's somewhat blinkered beliefs about DSS. He never does direct comparisons between our DC but I know that he has an underlying belief that all the issues between the DC are down to my two youngest. In reality, his DC is hugely competitive, winds up and provokes my two, and acts as co-parent number 3 by parroting any instructions and discipline. I absolutely hate to say it, and I didn't always feel this way, but I've started to find DSS annoying and don't feel I have an emotional connection with him. It's just hard to have this shining beacon of perfection held up against my difficult to parent DC at all times.

BF maintains that he cares very much for my DC but I can see cracks in this facade. At one time, if any argument erupted between the DC, he would shut down as lies, any attempts by my DC if they ever accused his DC of wrongdoing, and by the same logic, it was his DS that was always the 'victim'. I put my foot down about this because he literally wouldn't let them finish talking before he said, 'you're lying'. He told me at the time it's because he absolutely knows his DS doesn't do the things they accuse him of hmm. That has stopped happening since I called him on it though. But other things, like he was mimicking my youngest's tantrum face (not while she was there) in a way that told me that he finds it exceptionally annoying. He thought he was being funny, I wasn't impressed. He's also made assumptions that they are bad at certain activities by expressing surprise when they've done well. I just know that he thinks they pale in comparison to his DS although he doesn't say it in that way so it's difficult to call it out. He does take the time to do nice things with them too though and makes an effort to play with and talk to them. I'm probably not as hands on with his DS because I'm not that kind of person really, even with nephews and nieces, I'm only ever affectionate with my own DC.

So I don't know where to start on improving things. It all feels like this huge mess that I don't know how to start unpicking. To add to the mix, I'm quite ill at the moment (chronic health condition that I'm struggling to stabilise), my fixed term contract is ending so I'm looking for work, I have huge issues with my XH who is difficult in the extreme. BF has issues with his own ex too, although these relate his feeling that she's not a very good parent so he doubly feels that his DS is getting a raw deal. I've suggested they stop coming round for the time being but BF is upset that he will be able to spend less time with me. I've tried in the past to reduce the time we spend as a 'blended' unit but it's still not happened.

Has anyone got any advice for me please? I feel desperate and at breaking point sad.

MeridianB Mon 23-May-16 13:20:08

Sorry you are (all) having such a miserable time.

Your children come first so think about what you can do now to make them happy. How much time alone do you get with each one or just with them (and no one else)?

It sounds as if your DD feels suffocated by the extra people in a small space (and having no choice/no other options). Can you take a break from your BF and his son for a few weekends so that you all get a break and chance to get some perspective or see things when it's calmer?

It could be that DSS is not really the problem but just the unfortunate 'outlet' for the unhappiness/anger your DD is feeling. Standing back from it all for a while - just a month? - might give you greater insight into what's behind her feelings and how it can be addressed.

MeridianB Mon 23-May-16 13:28:40

PS Just read your last comment about BF being upset about not spending enough time with you. Tough! It sounds like you all have tons going on and while it's tempting to spend time with somoene who makes you feel good, you have a child literally crying out for help.

coffeeisnectar Mon 23-May-16 13:39:26

This sounds like my situation and I really understand how you feel.

Firstly, please, please please see your GP (without your DD) and ask for a referral to CAMHS. She may need counselling, she may need help with anger management or she may need a referral for assessment but she clearly DOES need to be seen. You will more than likely be fobbed off by being put on a parenting course first but do go ahead and do that, both you and your bf but keep pushing for a referral.

Secondly, I think you need 'house rules'. This may or may not work but it needs to be clear that you sit round and discuss everything, all of you. You and your bf could talk first about the fact that there are only two adults in the house and as such they are the ones who do the telling off and disciplining, not the other dc.

I'd also see if you can allocate your dd a quiet space for when your bf and his ds are over. That way she can go and regroup and escape the noise if it's too much until she feels ready to re-enter the family unit. Also make everyone aware that this is her space and no-one else should be there while she needs to use it.

If there is a problem between the dc, ask them all to write down what happened. Then compare the notes. That way you have time to sit with your bf and decide what action to take without it turning into a full scale riot.

Your bf's ds cannot be excused from bad behaviour just because he's not at home. Explain that the house rules are there for everyone and that includes not mocking others, no winding each other up, taking the responsibility for their own actions and if they can't behave then the group meetings will be drastically reduced.

I'd really suggest finding a group activity they can do either together or something they can do on their own so they are fully occupied and the fighting is less likely to happen.

YellowBricks Mon 23-May-16 16:54:23

Thank you Meridian, I agree with you that some space would be helpful right now because whilst I find DD's behaviour and problems difficult, it's all so much worse when it's directed at somebody else's child and things are 10x worse when they're here. BF is pretty great at offering support so it feels a bit ungrateful to say that I don't want them here for now, it's just that I think he's not in a position to help as he's too emotionally involved (on his Ds's behalf as you'd expect) and therefore part of the problem. I don't get much time alone with them at the moment and as I'm quite ill, I have lost the ability to be patient and find myself shouting a lot which won't be helping.

coffee thank you for your suggestions. I will make another appointment with my GP, but as you've described, I've already been fobbed off by them and CAHMS. I think that a parenting course would benefit me and BF too but neither of us have the time due to work. I might see if there's something available online or try reading a parenting book.

We did actually write house rules once but it's been difficult enforcing them. Part of the problem lies in the fact that BF genuinely doesn't see or believe that his DS misbehaves or is contributing to the problem. He genuinely thinks that he is almost perfect in every respect. I struggle to be honest with him and don't tell him things that happen when I'm there and he's not. Other times, he's sided with his DS and downplayed his role in arguments, saying that he was justified in whatever behaviour it was.

We always try to take them out when we're all together as things tend to be a bit better when we're out but it's still not great because they're all so competitive with each other. The competitiveness is usually instigated by DSS, he cannot walk anywhere, has to race ahead, running down the street to be first. Talks a lot about things he has. Sets hard maths questions and then gets defensive when he gets them wrong too. That sort of thing proving he's 'best'. It's frustrating and pointless and causes more arguments. It happens much more when BF isn't there.

ThumbWitchesAbroad Mon 23-May-16 17:10:14

I think that you need some distance from this situation.Your 7yo is playing up for a reason, and if it coincided with the introduction of your BF's son into her life then I think you need to tread carefully. Your DD should be more important to you than your BF's feelings, and I'm sure she is.

If your BF is unwilling or unable to accept that either he or his son might have any bearing on this state of affairs, then he's not the right guy for you. A decent bloke would try to help you work the situation out, not just lay all the blame on your DD, however it looks on the surface.

You could invest in a nannycam to check that there is nothing else going on when the adulrs aren't around, or you could just say that yiu think the kids are better off apart for now. Either way, I don't think you can let this carry on as is sad

emilybrontescorset Mon 23-May-16 17:25:46

I changed my mind half wAy through reading your post.

I think the cause of your dds poor behaviour is your be and his child.

I would almost guarantee that splitting from him will stop or at least reduce your dds bad behaviour.

I think you should put your children first. End things at least temporarily with your bf.

You really do not know him that well. It takes over 2 years to get to know somebody as they truly are and then you have to be living with them so as to see them in their natural state.

If your be is right for you he will understand and be prepared to wait.

I can empathise with your dd, as it must be excruciating spending time with this child.

Then see if things settle down.

P1nkP0ppy Mon 23-May-16 17:49:49

It sounds like there are two unhappy 7 year olds, with your dad coming off worse. Bf's DS has to live up to his father thinking the sun shines out his backside and your poor DD's trying to keep up with the impossible where your bf behaves like a total dick because his son is 'perfect' and your dad isn't.
Your BF is adding massively to the problem, but your DD is the most affected, poor kid, no wonder she's behaving like she is. As for him blaming her for everything because his DS is a perfect child he sounds like a first class PITA

P1nkP0ppy Mon 23-May-16 17:51:06

DD not dad for heaven's sake
Incidentally does she see her father at all?

emilybrontescorset Mon 23-May-16 18:47:51

I also think at 7 a child finds it very difficult to vocalise what the real problem is.

There doesn't have to be anything fundamentally wrong with the dss, or bf sometimes the fact that a child just doesn't want to be around them can be enough.

You have a small space and that small space is, in your child's eyes, being invaded by an annoying child and a man who they perhaps don't really want there.

I believe your child is torn between wanting you to be happy, and finding it all a bit too much.

does school have s learning mentor?
If so ask for your dd to see them, alone in an informal way. It's just an unbiased person who can keep an eye out for your dd.

HormonalHeap Mon 23-May-16 21:38:10

I know exactly what this feels like. It's just so, so hard. If you feel even slightly irritated by your dp's son, your dd7 will pick up on this and probably feels the same.

When me & dh (then boyfriend) took all 5 of our kids (similar ages to yours) on a month's road trip round USA, friends thought 'ahh how lovely' but it was the single most stressful experience of my life dealing with jealousy, resentment, dp prioritising his own etc. I waited 5 years to marry him till the kids were older as I knew I couldn't live like that.

Yes you do have to put your children first. I think your dp needs to back off while you get your dd the help she needs, or even better, take responsibility alongside you for ensuring she gets it. I think you know this isn't going to get better unless it's dealt with properly.

Adelecarberry87 Tue 24-May-16 07:23:51

It's a difficult situation when it come to blended families. Children dealing with parents split new partners with their children. Invading their territory. Children do fight but this seems to be really affecting your DD mental well being. Personally if it was me I would call time on the relationship have a couple of weeks break and see how your DD copes. It could be DD is acting out as she feels she doesn't measure to your DSS especially as his DF displays him as a golden boy who can't do any wrong. It must be frustrating for her especially if he's winding her and her DSis and getting away with it.

It sounds as if your blended family are incompatabile he has views on your DC and you have opinions on his DS. Sounds as if he's not open to see how the issue can resolved.

MeridianB Tue 24-May-16 08:42:24

Even setting aside the DD issue, it sounds as if there is SO much going on.

You are bringing up three children (on your own?).
You're unwell.
You're looking for work so probably worried about bills etc
You have a difficult ex.

If your BF came without problems then I could see how he could be a support through all this. But he has a questionable attitude towards your children and your parenting, he refuses to see any bad in his DS and encourages his competitiveness, he has problems with his ex and is putting pressure on you to spend more time with him/altogether although you don't have the room in your house to that comfortably.

Your 16-year-old will probably be getting more independent but it's also a tricky age when they need support/watching and I think seven/eight is also a tricky age when children are often growing (emotionally) faster than they can process. So I'm sure they would love less stress and a mum who can focus on them more clearly.

Try a month without BF at weekends. Presumably you sometimes see each other one to one on a weeknight? It's worth it just for your sanity and as an investment in your children.

Explain to BF that you are doing it for you and your children in an attempt to restore balance. If he is anything other than supportive and understanding then he is probably not long term material.

NoMudNoLotus Tue 24-May-16 08:55:06

Just to say your DD is the symptom of something unhealthy within your blended family unit. flowers
If she is mentioning suicide you need to hammer down the doors of CAMHS - this child is severely distressed. ( I'm a mental health nurse and if this does not get resolved now your DD will have significant mental health difficulties in her teens).

YellowBricks Tue 24-May-16 10:17:19

Thank you so much everyone for taking the time to reply. There is an awful lot going on which is why I'm not sure where to start on improving things.

I have never been sure what started this all for DD. Initially our DC got on really well and we naively thought this would continue. At the time BF was living with family so preferred to spend his contact at my house as it is more child friendly. In hindsight this was too much too fast and I think my DC definitely suffered as a result. What complicates the issue is that my parents are still together so I have no experience with a blended set up but BF was the unhappy and unwelcome child in two step families, one of which he had a step sibling who was favoured. It's this experience that I think is leading him to always come down on his Ds's side and he's not looking at the situation objectively. I have a huge amount of sympathy with my DC that it must feel like their space is being invaded but I don't think BF gets that. I've tried saying that his DS would feel similar if it was us going to his house all the time but he retorted that his DS has never had an issue with sharing and often has his friends over and willingly shares his things so he doubts it would be a problem. I don't agree but it's a theory we'll never get to test because he doesn't have a house which we can stay at. When there are differences of opinion like this, I don't usually say anything as he's very defensive of his DS and however I phrased it, I believe he would take it as criticism.

The other thing is that, at the most, we see DSS EOW for less than 24 hours. Whilst she's worse when he's at our house, she's still extremely difficult in the interim and absolutely awful to her sister. She complains that she has no friends at school, and doesn't get invited to parties. Its hard to know what's going on here because she's very negative and doesn't necessarily recognise when things are going well. It could be that other DC dislike her because of her issues. I've considered that she may have Aspergers or there is something else going on. She certainly ticks some of the symptom boxes but not all so I don't know. It's clear to me that she's very unhappy and has no self esteem which she's taking out on other people.

If you take his DS and those issues out of the equation, BF is very supportive. Always describes what's going on as 'our' problems that 'we' will get through together. He makes suggestions of how to improve things, but as we have very different parenting styles, I get a little defensive at his suggestion that I'm not strict enough. It's probably true to an extent but I feel he is too strict on his DS in some respects (he pushes him very hard to be the 'best', expects him to clean his plate, expects maturity from him beyond his years, that kind of thing) and I don't want to parent my DC like that. He is pleading with me to change doctors practice because of how they've handled both my illness and that of my DD but it's more hassle when I don't know if any other doctors would be better anyway. He is a huge help to me practically. Last night I had to go to bed with a migraine and he came back from a full day at work, cooked tea, tidied up and put my DC to bed and looked after me all without a mutter of complaint. So he does make my life easier without the pressure of contact weekends.

My DDs do have regular contact with their dad (XH), however, it is rather strained at the moment and they don't particularly like going. XH has had several new girlfriends since we separated which have lasted 6 months at the most. All have been introduced to the DC within two weeks of meeting. Since meeting his latest gf, he has started cancelling a lot of his contact days and become lax at paying maintenance. He was EA to me and continues to be so. He detests my BF despite never having met him and refers to both my BF and DSS as my 'fake family' who he accuses of coming before my own DC. So I believe some of it is coming from his influence as he's not the type to keep quiet in front of the DC.

Having said that, and I'm not sure why this is, but I've found a few people think his DS is a bit much. It's really hard to put my finger on why because for the most part, he's a really lovely DC. The second time I met my BF's sister, we were visiting her house. I got there first so we stood outside chatting and BF pulled up. DSS got out of the car and started running towards the house and BF's dsis said 'here comes the little shit'. I just smiled at her awkwardly as I didn't know what to say. I've never told BF this as he has a strained relationship with her as it is. DSS has also been introduced to my extended family and my nephews have taken a dislike to him so I try not to go round when they're visiting. BF gets very upset if someone doesn't like his DS (which I get) and he's always telling me how much his friends love his DS and think he's such a great kid, blah blah. So I'm not sure what's going on here except that few people like a show off.

I do really appreciate the replies I'm getting as it's hard to see what's going on when you're in the thick of it. I have already told BF that we need a break from spending contact weekends together whist I get on top of DD's problems. My next step is to go back to the GP and see what other help I can get. I worry about her so much and feel torn about how to handle this for the best. When it is just BF here, they get on well and he's sometimes able to get through to her in ways I can't. But when DSS is here she says that he's more important to him and he only cares about him. So perhaps it's a little jealousy as well.

YellowBricks Tue 24-May-16 10:23:03

Forgot to add, DD not only threatens suicide but I actually once found her in her room with a belt tied around her neck which she had attached to some draws. I told the GP this, told CAHMS, told school. CAHMS said it was behavioural (over the phone as I tried to self refer) and referred me to sure start. Sure start said it was outside of their experience. School referred her to play therapy which I have to take her to but we only get 12 sessions and we're half way through already without any signs of improvement. She's done private counselling but I couldn't afford it and she didn't like going anyway. I've spoken to young minds who recommended family therapy with my XH but he's too difficult to deal with.

WannaBe Tue 24-May-16 11:01:57

TBH it sounds as if you have two individual issues here but they are so intertwined that it can be difficult to separate one from the other iyswim.

It is evident that your DD needs some professional intervention, and it's likely that this may have happened regardless of whether your BF was on the scene, but because there have been other issues with blending your families this has become part and parcel of your dd's issues as well, iyswim?

It sounds as if the fact that your BF's ds is being upheld as some kind of child of perfection is making you feel judged because your own dd has behavioural issues which are as yet unquantified, and this in itself is causing problems within your relationship. He can't see that his ds isn't perfect and can misbehave with the best of them, and your dd's behaviour possibly irritates him because he feels that his child is being drawn into something he never foresaw, conversely you know that your DD has problems, but because you are not your DSS' biological parent you can see that he isn't in fact perfect at all, not in a bad way, but in a way that makes him a normal child, and you want others to see past your dd's behaviour to the other child who isn't always perfect either.

The reality is that some blended families just don't work. It's not wrong, it's not bad, it's just how it is. And at a time when your DD needs more individual attention is not the time to bring another child into the equation which is being held up as some kind of yardstick for her to be judged against.

The children here are so young that you're looking at years before you reach any kind of point where they will not be dependent. If your DD already needs intervention at seven there's a high possibility she will continue to need increased support, and if your BF is struggling to provide that support against the backdrop of what he sees as his own perfect setup then I would suggest that you need to take a step back from the relationship with him and concentrate on your DD and her needs.

This doesn't need to be for ever, it may be that in the future you can work things out, but it doesn't sound as if a blended family is compatible with the issues your DD is having at the moment. Nobody is wrong here, it's just an unfortunate turn of events.

Good luck

emilybrontescorset Thu 26-May-16 17:08:49

Have you asked school about a learning mentor?

Go back to your go and tell them things are getting worse.

I'm sorry you are not getting the support you need, I do think it is very hit and miss.
Make sure you also explain to the gp how Ill this is making you feel.

I think some form of counselling would be good for you as well as your dd.

I'm going to reiterate what I wrote earlier.
I think you should separate from your bf, it isn't working.
No matter how good you think you are for each other or is not going to run smoothly. There are too many sticking points for it to flow.

Don't be one of those parents who disregards the feelings of their dc to force everyone to get along.

I know so many adults who had issues with their parents partner and as adults they

emilybrontescorset Thu 26-May-16 17:12:12

Don't forget how bad things were.

It's sad because the relationship would otherwise be good but you can't ignore the facts.
As for your ex he is not helping.

It isn't right to keep introducing endless women into their lives.

dolkapots Thu 26-May-16 21:14:34

OP I have been there as the scapegoat whilst the "golden child" gets away with everything. Please do not put your dd through this. Take a massive step back and get to the bottom of your dd's problems before anything else. A 7 year old threatening suicide is utterly heartbreaking.

Writingdragonfly Tue 31-May-16 16:32:28

Wow, loads of issues here. I work with children with emotional or additional needs and i personally feel you need to take a break when the kids are around from your fella. Keep the kids apart, spend as much time as you can on activities that encourage your kids to communicate how they fell, even without even knowing theyre doing it. My daughter is on the autistic spectrum, sensory processing issues and i find the best way to get her to communicate is to put on music, my girls like classic fm but anything would work, get paints out and ask them to paint how they feel, you do it too, all sit at the table together. You talk about how you feel too (obviously appropriately) and the gentle easiness of painting and music helps to soothe them and focus on feelings. I think you all need some nuclear family time. DP may well be your best friend and soul mate but this may not work the way you want it to, maybe even until the kids are older and less distressed. Show your kids how you take care of yourself, treat yourselves, talk openly with them, lots of affection, lots of reassurance and gentleness. Make new house rules if needed with a goal attached, we use a jar of pasta shells, once a month we count how many they have and they get a treat accordingly. Shells can be added or removed from their jar. I think its fine to have some grown up time if/when you both have no kids, this is probably really important to your emotional well being, but if youre thinking is "we cant do this" then dont hesititate to walk and wait for someone else. What is your gut instinct saying? x

YellowBricks Thu 02-Jun-16 13:24:08

Hi everyone, thank you all so much for taking the time to reply and give me advice.

A bit of an update: I went to the GP to ask for a CAHMS referral for DD and to their credit, they were very quick to get in touch. I was asked a few questions over the phone about our circumstances/DD and was advised that DD has behavioural problems as opposed to any mental health or other conditions such as ASD.

I've been given some approaches to try and a book to read so I'm going to try that. I feel slightly fobbed off but I know CAHMS is over stretched in my area so I'm not surprised. I've agreed with BF that we will not spend any time with the DC all together for now and see if that helps.

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