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Cannot bond with DS - do they pick up on this?

(12 Posts)
cuppaandabiscuit Sat 23-Jun-18 13:10:21

I've been with DP over 4 years, known DS (currently 11) for last 4. I've tried so hard to get even a small bond there but cant.

Firstly, he has absolutely no social skills whatsoever. Not just with me. With anyone. You ask him a question and it's one or two word answers - so 'what did you do on your hols' is met with a shrug and 'not much' or similar reply. He never says Hi or Bye - gets here takes his stuff up to the bedroom and stays there til dinner, comes and eats then goes back to his room. There's no attempt at social niceties or courtesy and any attempts on my part to engage with him just dont work. He's like this at his mums and my IL's too, although can be slightly more chatty - not much though. The only time I hear him chatting is when he's playing on the games console with his friends. (And before anyone suggests social communication disorder such as asd/aspergers - I've thought of that but having worked in SEN for a number of years he doesn't display any of the other markers so it's unlikely)

To combat the issue of him sitting in his room all the time we've tried to engage him in activities - bringing him on trips out with and without my kids (DP also offers to take him out without me so he has 1-2-1 time with Dad) but he either refuses to go or comes along but doesn't get involved or shows his displeasure at being there. Even when the activity has been his choice. E.g on the last bank holiday weekend I asked what he'd like to do, he said paintballing. So I booked paintballing for the kids. On the morning he refused to go. When DP told him he had to, he went along but just walked around sullen and miserable refusing to take part. We've tried doing things at home with him as well - card games, movie nights, water fights etc but he has no interest at all.

So as not to drip feed - I will be clear that in the early days there was some problems with him accepting me. He'd never known his Dad to have a partner (DP and Ex split up when he was 1, we met when he was 7) and I expect that it was difficult adjusting to sharing his Dad. He tried to manipulate things, lying to his mum about things here and refusing to come round - at one point he tried to tell DP that if he didn't split with me he'd never go to his Dads again. His mum thankfully knew what was going on and encouraged DP to not give in to him.

I do wonder whether his attitude here is sometimes a grudging acceptance that his Dad has a partner and there's nothing he can do about it. But then I see how he is elsewhere and realise that (and I'm sorry how this sounds) he is actually just a sullen moody child who unfortunately hasn't yet developed much personality. I dont dislike him, I'm always kind to him, involve him and treat him as I would my kids but there's just no connection there at all. Is it possible one could ever develop? Or if it's always like this, whats the likliehood of it having a long term affect on all our relationships? (Him with his Dad, me with DP etc)

arghhhhhhh Sat 23-Jun-18 13:22:06

I have this with my step child though they are 12. We had a good relationship until recently. Now she doesn't speak to me unless I speak to her first and when I do, it's one word answers.

All I put it down to is age/hormones etc. At the ages of 11/12, we are just at the beginning so I don't imagine it ending any time soon. I just don't let it get to me. It may or may not be anything personal but as long as I try my best, be polite and happy around her, there's not much else I can do

BrownTurkey Sat 23-Jun-18 13:28:02

I don’t think it will cause him harm long term. I would try to find one thing, a small thing, that ‘works’ (in one family I knew, it was that the step parent made a great cup of tea - so whenever the kid wanted a cup of tea, it was that parents pleasure to make it), or a shared joke, anything. Then step back on attempts to bond or please, keep up with the kindnesses and boundaries, and get on with what does work in your family. I always resented my parents partners being around, but as I matured I realised some of them were ok and not actively harmful and I could have been a bit nicer.

swingofthings Sat 23-Jun-18 17:29:38

You could have described my son! It's not that he doesn't have social skills, he actually has a lot of friends, but he is very introverted and most importantly, feels awkward when in a group except for his school friends (many who are like him).

What I've found is that he is a totally different child on a one to one basis, very chatty, outgoing, but most importantly, incredibly insightful, something you would never think when you meet him.

My suggestion would be to encourage his dad to spend as much one to one time with him and for his dad to engage in his life, rather than trying to get him to engage in your life. His life might seem boring and not worth much conversation, but his dad might be surprise as to what he might start talking about once he opens up. Maybe you can then also start spending some one to one time with him too, but really it's his dad who he should be spending most one to one time with.

Aroundtheworldandback Sat 23-Jun-18 20:02:31

I could have written your post when dh’s children were that age; his children behaved in exactly the same way. I tried and I tried because I loved my husband and wanted it to work. But in the end resentment took hold, compounded by the fact dh was terrified they would cut him off so refused to pull them up when needed.

They are now adults and I have no relationship with them at all. One has cut him off and the other two he sees outside the home.

Sorry this isn’t a more positive post, it does sound though that your dh is trying, and perhaps when your ss is a little older, could sit down with him and explain that he doesn’t have to love you, but needs to behave in a polite, decent way.

Bananasinpyjamas11 Sat 23-Jun-18 23:06:05

Bonding is a two way street. If you don’t get anything back, there’s not a lot you can do.

On the positive side, his Mum sounds very supportive of you, which is fantastic. So it can’t be coming from a loyalty to his Mum.

If he’s like this a lot, then I’d give him a lot of space and not try to bond. Steer away from questioning him. Instead, every now and then, do an activity with him. Whether it’s the garden, basketball, video game, bowling, anything that he might like or be heavily bribed to do! Then let the conversation flow very gradually.

I’d get his Dad to make him join a sports club, so good for exercise and learning to bond and communicate.

@aroundtheworld sorry it ended that way for you. My DSDs don’t come around the house while I’m here either anymore. They were always hard work to talk to really, but it got worse as they got older and eventually there was nothing to say when I gave up. I tried everything and it was a total waste of a few years of my life tbh! I think you’ve got to have kids that are prepared to give us a try, and some just don’t.

swingofthings Sun 24-Jun-18 07:32:38

Bonding is a two way street
No it isn't. My son didn't bond with his dad or SM, and that led to him not wanting anything to do with them. It is awfully sad, but it's his dad who is suffering from it, not my DS. He really doesn' t miss his father at all.

Where we disagree the most Banana is that you put a lot of onus on kids to make things work. You expect them to have an emotional intelligence that I don't believe they have, or should have. I strongly believe that until they become adults themselves, it is 100% the responsibility of the adult to take the lead in making sure that a bond, which is a bond that should happen naturally in the first place, happens. It's the adult responsibility to understand the need of the children and adapt accordingly, not the other way around.

My DS is very different to the other children in our family, mainly because everyone is extroverted when he isn't. When he was 11, he too spent most of his time in his room. Like most parents, I first took it personally until I gave him one to one time and he finally opened up about his feelings. One of the key thing he told me was that not only doesn't he enjoy his own space, but he actually needed it. The latter being most important. My DS can be sociable, but it is an effort for him to be so most of the time, even when he really does enjoy himself, and he will crave his own space afterwards. It's not that he rejects people, it is his needs in the same way that some people crave attention or affection.

This is something that his father refused to understand, let alone accept despite me trying to explain it to him. His father is self-absorbed and took it that he was rejecting his new family. He made it all about him rather than acting like a parent and trying to understand his son. This resulted in the inevitable, that DS refused to go because he felt constantly judged there. DS is also extremely sensitive, so instead of taking a 'I don't care what they think' attitude, it hurt him that they felt that way about it. That's when he decided to stop going there.

Kids shouldn't have to give adults a try, it's the adults who need to use their own maturity to try to understand that children don't come in a convenience box, that just suits the adults in their lives. It's pointless trying to do things when these things don't take into consideration the needs of that person. Very often, it's not talking and doing that makes things better but listening and often, being patient waiting for that person to open up.

WhiteCat1704 Sun 24-Jun-18 08:01:46

Where we disagree the most Banana is that you put a lot of onus on kids to make things work. You expect them to have an emotional intelligence that I don't believe they have, or should have

Children are people..just young..bonding IS a two way street among people and among animals too..interaction is a basis of ALL bonding. If there is none from one side a bond will not be's that simple.
You even bond with a newborn by interaction and they have no emotional intelligence at all..
You bond with a dog by interaction too..interaction doesn't necessarily mean talking.

If a step parents is making all the effort all the time and there is nothing coming back to them they will eventually stop making the effort. The child is clearly communicating they don't want to form a bond.
Example my SD likes my cooking..She eats what I make and tells me she likes it. That makes me want to cook more of her favourite things as I like that she enjoys it. If she never bothered to show any appreciation or was telling me how much she DOESN'T like what I make or is she refused to even try the food I would eventually stop cooking for her altogether. Thats a two way street.

swingofthings Sun 24-Jun-18 08:26:11

We'll agree to disagree. If an adult can't appreciate that a child is still in the process of understanding the emotions they feel and that they should be listened and guided by the adults who care for them to build maturity, rather than expect them to understand and respond to the emotions of adults, then indeed, they have no chance to bond.

Kids feelings for adults are not complex, it's usually a case of love, like, dislike and they behave accordingly. If they take a dislike on someone, because they don't make an effort to actually try to understand where they are coming from, they won't bother to make an effort to show appreciation, even if deep inside, they do feel it.

Their relationship with SP are very similar to relationship to teachers. If the teacher makes an effort to understand things at the kids' level and show an interest in them as a person, the kids will like them. If they like them, they will double their efforts to please the teacher, even if that teacher is strict.

However, the teacher who comes in with an expectation that the kids will do exactly as it suits them whilst showing no little interest if their ways works with them, or how their teaching style impacts on them, then the kids will take a dislike in the teacher. A teacher who is liked will get kids to help them after school. A teacher who is dislike won't get a thank you even when they stay late to help.

To be fair, it's not too different to how we behave ourselves towards authority. If my boss makes me feel that he doesn't care one iota about my life at home and how work impacts on it, tells me that he expects me to carry out duties just because it makes his life easier regardless of how it affects me and ultimately, it puts me under pressure and stress, I will grow to not like him. As a result, I won't put any extra efforts to make his work life better and if he does one thing to help me, my thanks will be very guarded rather than genuine.

TooSassy Sun 24-Jun-18 11:44:53

Interesting discussion, and my POV (completely respectfully, and I say that as the typed word can sometimes be misconstrued).
My experience of children; is that their emotional capabilities varies intensely from child to child. Depending on their EQ, their sensitivity, their personality and their environment. All have a part to play.

Childrens emotions can be complex and that can absolutely impact on their ability to bond with people. Following on from my divorce, and then a bereavement, one of my DC's has become far more guarded and finds bonding harder. That DC also favours routine and finds change difficult. So anyone new who comes in and changes that, that DC struggles with and I have to work on that constantly.
My other DC is the polar opposite. Seems to have processed and moved on. Talks about feelings openly and continues as is.

So sometimes it is very little to do with the who and more to do with everything else. I agree that the onus is absolutely on the adults to be the more mature and show the way, through actions, patience and compassion. But up to a point. If you continually try different tacks and nothing comes back, unless you are a complete saint, you will stop trying.

Something has to come back; whether its a hug, a kiss, an unprompted thank you. Fundamentally a bond is about an exchange of energies. But if one party is shut off from positive loving energy because they themselves are struggling with emotional issues (because of a divorce, or a bereavement or because there is a parent causing intense emotional manipulation), you can't achieve a bond.

Children of separated families can have deeply intense and complex emotions. The adults who steer them through without conflict make this journey easier. Sadly there are too many who don't and this fundamentally interferes with basic human interactions.

swingofthings Sun 24-Jun-18 12:39:19

TooSassy I totally agree with you. I do t blame my DS SM for not bonding with him or making mire efforts she probably did her best. I do blame his dad though who expected DS to bond with her and the rest of her family because it suited him but made no efforts to try to understand DS emotional needs. If he had and DS had been happier he would still be going there.

Bananasinpyjamas11 Sun 24-Jun-18 19:54:34

My son didn't bond with his dad or SM, and that led to him not wanting anything to do with them. It is awfully sad, but it's his dad who is suffering from it, not my DS. He really doesn' t miss his father at all.

I think he probably does miss his Dad. There’s a big hole there that will have an affect on him. Something quite sad about that paragraph.

I don’t give kids sophisticated emotional intelligence. However all children are born with an ability and need to bond. If they don’t with at least one adult then they are profoundly damaged. They can bond with people after the early years, bond with new brothers, sisters, friends, and eventually lovers. And they can bond with step parents. However it massively helps this is positively handled by their own parents, if this is allowed by the mother, if there are no ‘loyalty binds’ with the mother, and they have been bought up to be respectful and social. Of course a step parent can muck up bonding too, be unwilling to let the child into their hearts, expect too much too soon or not open.

Works both ways. My step children were in no way willing or open to bonding with me or my sons. Nothing I can do about that but I did make it easy for them to bond with me if they wanted. In the end unfortunately it is a loss for them.

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