DSCs so often ill. How to deal with it?(32 Posts)
Just wondering how other step families work when the DSCs are ill. Both mine are very frequently poorly with stomach pain, nausea etc which, despite lots of tests and visits to doctors are so far undiagnosed. It used to be the case that they would come to us anyway and be ill at ours but in the last twelve months or so their mum has started to give them a choice whether to come or not. Having to make this decision is causing them so much anxiety and every school holiday and many weekends, we are getting texts about how upset one or the other is, how they want to see their dad but feel so ill. This is obviously causing everyone concerned a lot of heartache and stress. We hear how they are crying, don't want to upset their dad etc. We don't know what to do for the best. Mostly when they do decide to come they are in much better shape than you'd think from the texts and are eating fine, want to go out etc. Their mum thinks we give the impression that they think we don't believe their symptoms and gee them up to get out and do something. We do think there may be an anxiety component and do think it can sometimes be best to bring them out of themselves and I guess the approach differs at home. Of course the want to be with their mum when they are ill, I get that and we don't put pressure on, yet they feel it anyway. Don't know what to do.Should we just say no, they don't come when they're ill in any way so as to avoid the issue or say they must come unless they are too ill to travel. Either would at least take the decisions out of their hands which would be preferable to the quandary they feel themselves to be in all the time. I've no idea what to say to hubbie over this any more. I'm lucky my own son is rarely ill so always makes contact visits to his dad. My DSS10 has just arrived now after such an incident and has asked to come out for a walk and ice cream and eaten a chocolate bar. I've said , you don't have to, please tell us if you want to stay home etc, it's fine but insists wants to come.
Sounds to me like there is something they are unhappy about that they aren't able to verbalise.
My suggestion would be to arrange for them to have counselling. It worked wonders for my dd when she was feeling conflicted about going to her Dad's, and what the real issue was became clear for her and a load of physical symptoms stopped. I arranged hers through her school.
I think you're right. I have tried to suggest that (through DH) but their mum won't have a bar of it being even partly due to unresolved issues,anxiety or anything like that. It's purely medical/physical to her. She's convinced that at some point they will be diagnosed with something. It must be very hard for her too, having two kids one or the other of whom is almost always ill. I think both could do with counselling, especially DSS at the moment. He asks loads of questions all the time as if constantly worried about what's to come or what could happen. He sleeps with his mum quite a lot still as well. DH and I can't really arrange anything without her consent though. DH once suggested at one of DSD's consultations with a paediatrician that there could be a psychological element. She was furious but had to agree to her seeing CAMHS bit all they did was ask her a few basic questions in front of her mum and dad about whether she was happy or not and when she said yes, they said she was fine!
Have you considered the mum might have Munchhausen's syndrome?
Or that she may be influencing the dc in order to decrease contact?
Is she a drama llama?
Yes it's crossed my mind. I really don't want to contemplate it but yes I have. My DH has said he thinks she's unhinged, even dangerous but I guess I've thought he is exaggerating. She certainly wrecked his mental health during the divorce. Some of the texts he gets are concerning at times. Earlier when DSS was so much better I suggested DSD texted mummy to let her know he was much better as she'd be worried. DSS rushed over and said 'tell her my tummy still hurts though'.
I really think your DH needs to be applying for residency here. It sounds like he's concerned about the wellbeing of his kids but isn't actually doing much about it
There's no real evidence though that she's causing them harm. They have some time off school but not loads. No concerns from school. Both are doing really well. She doesn't live alone with them. They live wth her parents. She works long hours and they're mainly looked after by grandmother. It's so hard. If we go to a solicitor and stir up a hornets nest, we could end up making it worse for them. Neither of them I don't think would want to leave her and their grandmother and live with us and, as DSD is 12 the court would take that into account. I think their mum is possibly using the illness to reduce contact which has always been an issue and I think they may feel that she wants to hear that they feel to ill to come. The munchhausen thing is a hunch, a possibility. May not be. They're both under consultants who, as far as we know, haven't been suspicious. I think especially after today when DSS was right as rain when he got here, DH needs to insist they come even if there's tummy pains, feeling sick etc.
Could you gently ask your DSC whether they find it easier to stay at home when they feel poorly, or if they still like to come? Let them know that the visits are for them and that if they don't feel well and need to stay home it doesn't make anyone cross?
I think I'll have to try. DSS10 cries very easily though. We've said similar in the past, we just get 'I don't know' and tears.
One or other of my children wake up most days complaining of a tummy ache. They're always better by 10am or so.
Could it be something as simple as too much bread and pasta? That causes me and my children tummy ache sometimes
Definitely stress related - from mum and dad both it sounds. It's an easier life for the kids to not go, there is probably some anxiety about leaving mum etc. And when they get to dad's it's fine. Counselling for everyone really.
Ime my mum used to use going to dad's as punishment or you can go live with your dad if that's what you really want (guilt trip) I can never not remember a time for this. Then go to dad's and be quizzed on home life, mum etc. Then start to always feel ill because of it , I was tested for all sorts and it was just high levels of stress and Im pretty sure they gave me antidepressants for a while. I was quite young and I remember the tests because they check for abuse. When all it was stress.
Did you get physical symptoms redken? That sound awful. They aren't getting quizzed here...I don't know about there but I do know they have sometimes said things they know she wants to hear which are untrue. I doubt she's making coming here to be a punishment but isn't encouraging them to come when they are ill and is making them decide which obviously means feeling like they're doing the wrong thing by one parent or another. I agree about counselling but mum would never agree. Even the smallest hint from us that there could be any psychological issues with the kids is vehemently denied. I think she's concerned that there could be a suggestion that the way she broke the marriage up has had an impact and she wouldn't accept that at all. Personally I can't see how it wouldn't but there you go!
Mostly abdominal pain! When your a kid anything can seem like a quiz - how's your mum? Have u done this, this week? Seen you the other day, you didn't wave etc. You unfortunately dont know what goes on in their home.
Can you not just take them along to family counselling while there with their dad? Not sure why you would need there mums permission - has your DP/H spoken to teachers to see how things are at school?
I would not let her reduce contact. I'd gently insist they come ill or not. If your dh gives up contact I imagine she could be difficult if you ever try to pick up contact again. Do you have routine times when they're with you?
Even the smallest hint from us that there could be any psychological issues with the kids is vehemently denied
Your dp can go speak to the dc GP and teachers at school about getting them counselling.
Something is affecting their wellbeing and negatively impacting upon their school attendance/education.
Can you imagine the reaction the mother will get when she tells them that she thinks the divorce and subsequent change didn't affect the dc in any way?
Those dc need an adult to step up and sort this stressful situation out for them.
Your dp has parental responsibility and he should be taking it a bit more seriously.
If the worst happens and she cuts contact then he will have to take it through official channels.....and i doubt any court will be sympathetic to a parent who willfully neglects the health and wellbeing of the dc in their care.
He is taking it really seriously it's just deciding what to do for the best so as not to make it worse for them. He worries a lot about it. In general they're happy when not ill. It causes him a lot of stress. He suffered from severe depression as a result of how she ended the marriage and is constantly treading on eggshells trying not to upset the apple cart and I'm worried another big hoo hah with her could push him over the edge again. But as some of you have said; it's the kids wellbeing at stake. He's just been called away to Ireland for a family crisis. DSS immediately developed a headache when he was told his dad was going away. Lots of questions etc.
I think it's hard for both parties to know what to do. On one hand, it's mean to make a sick child travel but on the other it might be the thought of going to contact that's making them ill rather than the actual contact. My ds is 10 and he gets anxious the night before returning to school after a long time off like half term. He's popular with no academic problems so him and I know it's going to be ok but he ends up in a state.
Is there a neutral adult like a relative or teacher who will act like a mediator? When I split from ex, the kids telling us what they thought that we wanted to hear was a major issue. It took a while for them to understand that it's ok to tell me things that might upset me and that it doesn't make me love them less. It's also ok to say nice things about dad because I know that they love me and a positive comment about dad doesn't equal a negative about me. They are all old enough to have gadgets that can message me and they know that it's ok to message me stuff that they can't say face to face or to ask me to talk to them without their siblings around.
Have a read of Jacqueline Wilson's book The Suitcase Kid, if you haven't read it already. If you think it's appropriate, pass it on to the DSCs. I got it for DSD but enjoyed reading it myself.
DH.... Is constantly treading on eggshells trying not to upset the apple cart
That's exactly what the DC will be dong, hence the tummy aches.
I agree wth Msqueen, I would gently insist they come, however they feel. If the expectation is always "come, no matter what" the decision is taken out of the children's hands.
Yes I think maybe that's what we need to do as well. Trouble is, if their mum says no, and DH turns up anyway and tries to get them in the car, there will be huge confrontation. It got quite nasty on one occasion with DSD and that was what stopped us insisting. We used to always say 'you're coming' until then. We knew that a precedent could easily be set that coming was or not was up to the child and now it's come to pass. Just getting more and more frequent. We've booked a holiday and are already wondering whether one or the other will be ill for it. I remember when we'd not been together for that long and were planning to go to my friend's wedding, taking the kids. DSD got ill just before and I nearly had to go alone. Their mum got DH to say he'd stay home with her if she came to ours. She arrived and was fine! It pretty much happens now most holidays, bank hols or when we've planned something.
My dsd is just like this, we went through a really bad patch with it. It's much better now but at least once every weekend she have a 'tummy ache'. I have noticed patterns with it, she will frequently have one if we are going out (I have learnt its too stay in and get tablet time) she will refuse to eat at mums before coming but then polish off a dinner here when she arrives and she always has something wrong about an hour before going home, she used to refuse dinner here before leaving but I have worked my way round that one so she can't do that now. She also gets ill if she's told off so its def anxiety related.
One thing we do is ignore it which sounds harsh but the only way that works for her, I don't feed it any attention at all. So if she says she's ill at pick up she still comes and wet just carry on around her and she always feels better very quickly and is charging around with my two having fun!
She is having counselling but I do wander if mum panders to it a lot and feeds the cycle?
It's tough and dealing with it is not easy and different children will respond in different ways so ignoring may not be the best for your family but it works here, she had tummy ache last week, we ignored it, went out as planned and despite her telling my daughter she didn't want to go and then telling us she was sick she had a great time!!
Hi yes that's similar to what's happening...and what we've been doing. We do acknowledge the pain/nausea but then just carry on as normal and usually fine. Trouble is, that's what is in a way leading to them saying they don't want to come, they want to stay at home or can't decide (or at least that's what mum is telling us they say). Their mum will say it's because they don't think we believe their symptoms which obviously we've never said. I think at home they're treated as 'ill' whereas we try to get on with it. In some ways we don't have much choice as obviously the child who is well at that time wants to enjoy their time with their dad which they can't do if he's sat on the sofa cuddling the other one all day. Not that there's much you can give a child for a tummy ache other than tlc. They're both on prescription meds which don't seem to do much but I guess their mum//gran is the one that takes them to the doctor/consultant, gets the pills, takes them to the hospital for tests etc which obviously we can't be the ones to do. My DH attends the hospital appointments as often as he can.
Paint a picture for them - figuratively speaking.
They get picked up from mums house in a car, go to dads and get straight into bed/on the couch/whatever they were doing at mums.
If they are genuinely ill then they will be recieving tlc from you and dh.....there is actually no reason for them to not go due to niggles.
Sometimes you need to have a showdown to get things moving....don't let her use arguments as a means of control.
Honestly though, get access formalised.
The dc health will come under closer scrutiny when the agencies hear why the dc miss out on contact.
She won't be able to use excuses again without it backfiring on her in some way.
We do have a court order in place with regard to contact which in theory is being broken. She doesn't say 'they're not coming' though, she says things like 'x has asked if' or 'I think it's best if, is that okay?' 'Can we just see how x is tomorrow?' That kind of thing. DSD will occasionally text herself but usually it's her mum. Often we will be asked what we are planning to do, as a if the decision to come or not depends on what we say. Still not sure if they want to hear that we are doing something interesting or staying at home!
I'm not a legal expert but it does sound like the court order is being breached in more than theory. Do you keep records of how often it has happened over the last 6-12 months, or since the court order began? Have you talked to a solicitor about it?
I would not be entertaining any of what you say above - it's prevarication on her part. Would it be possible to come up with a stock answer and just keep repeating it? "I will be there at x time to collect as arranged". Just repeat, repeat, repeat. Say the same thing to kids and mum. If she insists, you could say "are you saying DS is too ill to travel or do you wish to re-arrange for another time?". If she doesn't offer alternative contact times, that establishes a pattern. Don't respond to questions about plans.
Is there any way pick-up and drop-off could be done somewhere more neutral eg school or activity, so the kids aren't coming straight from one home to the other? It sounds like the plan was set up in the hope of things remaining amicable, which they are not.
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