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they have broken me and I don't know how to carry on

(66 Posts)
exasperatedemma Tue 15-Jan-13 17:17:34

I have two teens - DS 16 and DD 14, who have won. I don't have the strength to carry on. If I hadn't had a glass of wine last night, I would have got in the car and driven. anywhere, checked into a hotel, anything just to run away. At the moment, I still want to go. last night I just went for a walk around the block to calm down. didn't work. luckily my very supportive husband was at home. when I write this is sounds pathetic, but I can't cope with the daily conflict in our house. mostly over the tech - our simple rules are that no phones/ipods etc at mealtimes, or after 9.30pm or during homework. They never comply. this results in daily conflict, every day. We have tried doing zero tolerence, eg if phones etc aren't put down at certain time then they get confiscated for the following day. very hard to do in practice as first I have to get them off them and short of having a wrestling match, I can't get them. they hide them. they are obsessed and addicted. we row about it all the time. I can't see how to change it. last time we tried being firm, my daughter didn't come home and the police had to find her. I know this sounds like they have control over me, and they do. I just don't know how to get it back.

flow4 Sun 20-Jan-13 11:29:37

Blimey cory: "mummy as a piece of equipment that simply doesn't need any servicing." is absolutely chilling... And spot-on. sad

cory Sun 20-Jan-13 10:49:28

slight hijack: thanks for kind messages, marriedinwhite and mathanxiety; dd is now out of hospital and we will pick ourselves up and start again

back to OP:

I do hope you are feeling better now, emma. Flow is absolutely right that you must find time somehow to look after yourself. Is there any way you actually could dump your dds and get away for a few days? Any way you can plan me-time into the week? Even if it's something small. I've just had two days in bed after a minor op and even that small amount of cosseting has made a big difference to my resilience- and also to family dynamics! Somehow we needed to get it established that I am allowed to have needs too- even if our whole world is breaking down around us. It's far too easy for the family to get used to the idea of mummy as a piece of equipment that simply doesn't need any servicing.

ElectricSheep Sat 19-Jan-13 23:17:25

That's very very good advice Math.

Suicidal feelings can stem from serious mental health problems and cannot be addressed by parents on their own.

As math says it can be hard to work out the difference between serious problems and dramatic overstatement with a teen - and it may be that the teen themselves aren't too sure how serious they are. But I too would err on the side of caution and get professional help.

marriedinwhite Sat 19-Jan-13 21:55:58

That's a lovely post Flow4. We all need to keep it and read it when they are driving us to distraction. Mine do all the time although I love them to bits. My DS knew every dodgy shopkeeper who would sell fags and booze to under aged kids South of the Thames. He's 18 now.

I don't think it matters where you are, who you are, or what you do - they find the buttons to press and bells to pull.

mathanxiety Sat 19-Jan-13 21:36:56

Terrific post, Flow. I second every word of it.

Mama -- if anyone threatens suicide, you would be wise to call for an ambulance and let the staff in the A&E decide how to deal with her. Suicide threats that someone has no intention of carrying out are the height of disrespectful and bad behaviour. Suicide threats that are real need sorting out by professionals.

It is very hard for anyone lacking professional training to tell the difference and absolutely unfair for a teen to expect a parent to deal with it, plus unrealistic for a parent to try to deal with it herself or himself. Therefore the ambulance to A&E is the way to go.

flow4 Sat 19-Jan-13 20:20:51

Blimey AnyFucker, I'm flattered! grin

AnyFucker Sat 19-Jan-13 17:50:07

wow, flow you are damn good grin

flow4 Sat 19-Jan-13 17:34:12

You're welcome emma. Glad it's useful. smile

exasperatedemma Sat 19-Jan-13 17:13:51

flow4 - I'm going to print out your post and refer to it when I feel weak! your advice is sound, and yes I do fantasize about booking into a seaside B&B and walking for miles! I think I have allowed myself to get sucked into the drama and certainly do need to learn to detach a bit - I will remember your words when the hysterics occur late at night! I did have about 5 months of counselling last year when I realised that whilst I wouldn't be able to persuade my DD to have counselling (this was during a long period of very irrational behaviour and threats of suicide from her) that perhaps I would benefit. It was very good and I finished it in September, things had been pretty good since then but have deteriorated over the last month. Perhaps I need to go back to counselling. I do have that book - need to re-read it I think! thank you, I really appreciate you taking the time to help.

exasperatedemma Sat 19-Jan-13 17:08:10

febel-I share your view, I just know that if I let my DS and DD have their tech in their bedrooms at night, they just don't have the self control to leave it to one side and go to sleep. Given that they have it from about 7am when they wake up, to 9.30pm at night, I think that not having at bedtime is no hardship - they need their sleep. The reason we try and get them to put it down at 9.30pm is to give them enough time to get the stuff out of their heads so that they are calm enough to sleep. but it is SO tough to do.

flow4 Sat 19-Jan-13 12:44:21

Hi emma, thanks for your good wishes. smile It wasn't a big deal with my DS - he was just being an arse!

I've been thinking about you on-and-off all week... I think the 'technology issue' is almost beside the point, to be honest. It sounds to me like you are struggling badly and totally miserable - your title shows me clearly how bad you feel. sad I have been at that point, and I do know how awful it is, and I really feel for you.

You say you "don't know how to carry on", and that's the phrase that's been going round my head, so I'll try to address it, and suggest a possible way forward... smile

I think the key may be to take the focus off your kids for a little while, and prioritise you. I know this sounds shockingly neglectful, and no doubt many people will disagree with me, but it sounds to me like you are exhausted and your self-esteem is rock-bottom, and IMO no-one can parent effectively when they're in that sort of state. Teenagers scent weakness like a pack of hyenas are not generally known for their kindness, empathy and compassionhmm so you can end up feeling like a total failure - and that is what I am hearing from you.

So (if you think I might be right) what I suggest is this...

- Do go away by yourself if you possibly can. You talked about wanting to, so try to make it happen... A visit to a friend, a spa stay, a youth hostel, a B&B by the sea... Whatever takes your fancy grin... Just two or three nights, or even just one if guilt gets the better of you or more if you can get away with it! Everyone needs to recharge their batteries, and yours are almost flat. You owe it to yourself, and (ironically enough) to your kids.

- Whether or not you can get away, start to do things for yourself regularly. A very wise and experienced health visitor once said to me that "Children are happy if their mums are happy" - and I think that's true. Also, looking after teens often takes a huge amount of energy, and can be really horrible, and make you feel rubbish - but you can sort of 'balance out' some of the shit by doing nice things for yourself. Over the years I have come to think that looking after yourself is not a luxury for the parent of a teen, but a survival essential. So do some things you enjoy, that will make you laugh or relax - a swim, a walk, a sauna, a coffee with friends, a comedy club - whatever makes you happy! every day is best; every week is essential. I honestly think that any mother of teenagers who doesn't do something nice for themselves at least once a week will become miserable, and probably ill.

- Find someone to talk to about how you're feeling. I really recommend counselling. You can ask your GP to refer you. Some people see this as a sign of weakness, but personally I see it as a sign of strength to recognise your own limits and get some support when you get near to them.

- There is an old saying: you can't control anyone else's behaviour and reactions, but you can control yours. I have found it incredibly useful to remember that with my own DSes. In emotionally-charged/difficult/conflict situations, teenagers tend to behave so dramatically that all your attention is drawn towards them. As an experiment, try focussing on your own reactions instead. I try to behave in the way I would have chosen to behave even if they weren't screaming or carrying on. I don't always manage it hmm grin but when I do, the results are great! I feel calmer and more in control, and often handle the whole situation better.

- Also, learn to detach from what your kids are saying. It feels incredibly personal, but it isn't. It's aimed at you because you're there, and because they trust you to keep loving you even if they're horrible the little buggers . hmm confused When one of them screams abuse at you, learn to say (as calmly as poss!) "Oh please don't speak to me like that". When your DD gets hysterical at night, learn to say "Oh dear, you're upset. I hope you feel better in the morning darling" and walk away!

- Have you come across this book ? If not, I'd recommend it. It doesn't tell you what to do; instead, it tries to explain what goes on inside teenagers' heads! I found it interesting and useful smile

Good luck! And remember, however difficult it feels, it will pass, and one day they'll grow up! grin

febel Fri 18-Jan-13 18:48:29

Can I just put in my half pennyworth..and it's not a solution...but would just say I work with post 16s and we have trouble with some of them because they are used to being on laptops/x-boxes etc and are not regulated at all. Consequence is they are exhausted and can't concetrate in class. One lad was appalling the other day...and i found he'd got up at 3AM to play x-box live until he came in. Can't be right....

exasperatedemma Fri 18-Jan-13 09:39:11

thank you flow 4, hope things resolve with your DS.

flow4 Thu 17-Jan-13 23:38:14

I will come back and answer you again emma, when I can... I have been thinking ... Had a difficult week with my own DS, so haven't quite had the energy to come to any conclusions (wise or otherwise!)

mathanxiety Thu 17-Jan-13 02:08:25

Cory -- wishing you courage and strength.

jessabell Wed 16-Jan-13 19:40:40

Son is fourteen. We take everything off him laptop/xbox/tablet. When we go to bed. he's allowed them on friday/saturday night. Daughter spent hours on it in first year of college. Disappointed with grades. Seen a difference recently. She leaves it downstairs now. Finds facebook boring. Eldest now at uni can not be without phone. Does not go on facebook as much now.

marriedinwhite Wed 16-Jan-13 19:27:59

Cory am so sorry. mathanxiety that would be my approach too.

OP - it's really tough. We do have one other rule though - DS does not go out Monday to Thursday - school work is a priority. He plays for the school's first 11/15, etc., for football, cricket, rugby and can't get too partied out on Fridays and has spend a fair amount of time training. But beyond that, for the past year or so he has been pretty much a free agent - it hasn't been without tears or grey hairs but we are getting there. I think you have to set some priorities and if they meet them let them have some freedom.

We haven't had massive problems with technology but have had a few upsets and they seem to have got over it with a "belt up", "what do you expect", that's a lesson learned type of approach. Fortunately dd tends to avoid trouble and conflict and tends to avoid her bberry - she's scared of losing it due to the trouble she's seen her big brother end up in

RabidCarrot Wed 16-Jan-13 19:15:11

Turn off the internet, cancel phone contracts, wait till they are sleeping and remove their tech.

mathanxiety Wed 16-Jan-13 18:52:06

It has struck me that your teen DD may be addicted to the drama of it all.

You shouldn't be staying up with her as she weeps until 1 am. I think I would have thrown a glass of cold water at her and told her to get a hold of herself after about ten minutes.

Maybe you and she are cut from somewhat the same cloth? -- you were thinking of running away for a few days to make them feel sorry, get their attention, make them think.. She has already done a runner in the past and had the police involved looking for her. It seems she is getting a good deal of attention for aberrant and flaky behaviour and is being rewarded for very poor communication skills (physical fighting about the gadgets, a long and unwarranted crying fit, running away) -- what sort of attention does she get for normal niceness?

colditz Wed 16-Jan-13 18:51:50

You really really cannot treat a sixteen year old girl like a small child. She will walk out and not come back, and nobody will make her. She is old enoh to get married and have a baby, and as sixteen year olds have little concept of how much money they need to live on, she may just do that to get her independence from you.

Now, we know that she would be condemning herself to a life of poverty, but that doesn't mean she does. Tread very lightly. Refuse to cook if they won't show manners. The only behaviour you can control is your own.

cory Wed 16-Jan-13 18:44:23

Excellent post by flow and some very pertinent questions by mathanxiety.

Am in a slightly different position, as my teen is very loving and respectful, but has recently made her second attempt at suicide. Again, an enormous sense of powerlessness and fear of losing control. And consequent desire to grab control with both hands at all costs.

In a sense, the discussions I need to have, with myself and her and the professionals involved, are very similar. How far can I risk letting go, what are the risks to her and us as a family if I cannot let go when I should? There are risks either way, and the risks of not letting go seem equally great.

mathanxiety Wed 16-Jan-13 16:28:17

You need to address the addiction and the hysterical crying element of it professionally. That is not normal and getting rid of one addicting item will only result in the addiction being transferred elsewhere unless the root problem is addressed.

Sometimes teens get very caught up in friendship issues as a way of avoiding facing challenges of an academic nature in school. You need to find out if this is the case here.

Most teens will rebel at micromanagement and the sort of anxiety that lies behind it. I think from what you have said here you could all benefit from family therapy.

When you say she 'cuts off' from you what do you mean exactly?

What sort of communication level about your teens' lives are you expecting?

exasperatedemma Wed 16-Jan-13 11:10:20

thank you ohmergerd, what happened with your DD and social networking is just a breath away from happening here, unfortunately she doesn't use FB anymore, but is addicted to Twitter and other social network forums on her phone, all of which have even less safeguards in place than FB. We have spoken about the safety issue and she has assured me that she doesn't inbox anyone she doesn't know, but teenagers are so secrective (I remember!!). We have made a rod for our own back regarding the age distinction, because foolishly we have tended to treat them the same which didn't particularly matter when they were younger but now there does need to be a distinction and I need to summon up the courage to broach this. Pathetically, I find I am always just trying to keep things on an even keel, without too much confrontation (my DD is a master at this) and to try and keep the communication channels open. We have had many occasions where she just cuts off from us for weeks at a time and I find that very worrying and am terrified of going down that road again.

OhMerGerd Wed 16-Jan-13 08:41:36

Every child is different though and while my DH and I understand that part of growing up is learning to take responsibility we would not sit by and watch either of hours slowly slide into a catastrophe just cos we are light touching our way through their teens/early adulthood ( which what 16 is).
I do think 930 is a bit early for 16 to be off FB and text. Mine usually finishing homework at that time and we notice a late flurry of FB and texting till about 1030 maybe 11ish at weekends.
( phone decided to send lol sorry )

About 18 months ago it all got a bit out if hand though with DD who was then 14. To be honest the more time spent on social networks the greater the chance that they end up in a scrape. It's easier to get caught up in disputes, sexting , and a bit addicted . We found some innappropriate texts gave dd a warning, a spot check resulted in the kind of wrestling for phone/iPod you described. DH took hold found, unacceptable behaviour had continued and smashed her blackberry up into tiny pieces, right there in front of her.I was shocked ( he's v v mild mannered) but more to the point DD was shocked into realising this was serious. She was without a Internet connecting phone for a year. She had the oldest of her dads old phones for emergency calls only. And her FB account was deleted. She was given option of reactivating after 6 months but chose not too and has only a quarter of the hundreds of friends because some of the more spurious never reconnected. She has said she's much happier. Her grades were slipping ( ok from a* to a but that's a big deal if you're an a* pupil) and she now says it was the right thing to do.
So OP you will have to do something now you've made such a stand and I think your right to support your children's continued development with guidance, rules and sanctions. But do think about the distinction between the older and younger DC a little negotiation on the detail may help.

exasperatedemma Wed 16-Jan-13 08:25:22

how did you get to be so wise Flow4? thank you for your excellent post, helps to give me a plan of a way forward when I have felt like I am drowning. thanks to to everyone, you are all so kind to give your help and views. We used to be hardliners on tech, going out etc and then about a year ago, we sat down calmly witht he kids and all agreed that providing homework got done etc, then they could have a lot more freedom, which they do, they frequently go out midweek, both do football and have sociable lives with some nice friends. We had to start the 9.30pm tech down rule because what was happening was that (particularly with DD) something would upset her on the phone and she could not put it down at all. waiting for replies. I have sat up regularly with her till 1am because she was hysterical, crying etc and couldn't go to sleep. So we thought that 9.30pm rule would give them time to wind down for sleep before they go to bed about 10-10.30 on schoolnights. Part of the negotiations about more freedom was that they said if they were given the opportunity to self regulate, they wouldn't be on their tech so much. fool that I am I believed that. it has not worked out like that and they cannot put it down. I know that if they were allowed them in the bedrooms they would not get any sleep at all. But flow4 you're absolutely right, it is about a feeling of powerlessness, I feel that I have absolutely no influence over them at all, they simply treat me as if I'm invisible and with contempt. I used to be a confident, strong person but they have chipped away and I feel pathetic now and hate myself for it. I have the book How to talk so teens with talk.listen, so will re-read it for strength.

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