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Feel like I can't go on with tensions in my house

(30 Posts)
Fedupwithteens Tue 19-Mar-13 21:08:18

Having been fairly happy with my parenting skills for the last 16 years, I'm now feeling that I am losing my grip on my dds and really feel down about how things are here. I just don't know how to change things though.

Dd1 (16). High achiever, about to sit GCSE's hasn't really pushed the boundaries in terms of drinking, boyfriends, general teenage behaviour etc. however, she has a terrible temper on her, particularly when she's stressed. She has been like this since she was a toddler, and it's basically about control. It's a lot easier now as she can have control over most things in her life, but her flash points tend to be if you ask her to do something she is "just about to do". She basically says "well I was going to do it but now you've asked me, I won't do it". If you overstep her boundaries (move her things, go in her room) she can spin into a total rage. Just shouting & door slamming mainly & then perhaps some sulking, but very wearing. However, she does like spending time with dh & I and willingly does so often.

Dd2 (13), was such a happy, cheeky and loving toddler and child. In the past year she has started to massively withdrawn from us, spending time in different rooms from all of us, often eating in there & mainly on her computer. She doesn't want to spend any time with us, and has made it very clear that she would always choose to be with her friends whenever possible. She does do quite a lot of extra curricular activity - she is in a choir, a small singing group and a weekend drama school which do take up a lot of her time, so her spare time isn't all spent lying around on the PC. She is not doing brilliantly at school, mainly due to the fact she prefers messing around with friends to working. This has really escalated this year (year 9). I also have an inkling she may have been self harming, I don't think it's happened a lot, but I'm pretty sure she's done it more than once.

Dh thinks they are both lazy and messy and spends his time getting annoyed if they've left things lying around, which they do a lot. His way of dealing with it (after I asked him not to shout at them so much, as I felt it was counterproductive) is to sulk. So he just talks to us all in an "off" manner, no matter who he is annoyed with. He (and I) do a lot of running around for both of them, and they are well provided for with activities, holidays etc. he finds it infuriating that they are seemingly so ungrateful for everything we do for them.

I used to be a shouty mum when they were younger, but have trained myself out of that as I found that shouting back at someone only escalates a situation, so remain calm at all times (well, I do shout occasionally!) I absolutely hate conflict and ill-feeling but that's all we seem to have here at the moment.

I've just had a conversation with dd2 and actually asked her why she doesn't want to spend any time with us. She said "because I don't like any of you". I asked her if she knew how hurtful we all find this, because we all love her. She shrugged her shoulders. We talked for a bit longer (well I talked, she endured) & I left the room on the edge of tears.

The problem we have, I think, is that I hate conflict so go for the line of least resistance to avoid dd1's temper or dd2's eye-rolling at "nagging". Dh gets so frustrated at their attitude and wants to take them up on it, but isn't always reasonable & then "punishes" us all by sulking if things don't go as he wants. In the back of my mind, as well, is the fact that if we "get at" dd2 too much she will start self-harming again & I don't want to be the one who causes that, or to alienate her even more than she is.

If you've got this far, well done & thanks. I would just like some pointers on how I start to make things better. I want to be firmer with them, but can never work out in my mind when insisting they do do something I've asked them to do turns into when it's a battle that's not worth having (eg "please move your coat dd" - if she doesn't do I insist, punish if she doesn't or just leave it?)

Help! I am feeling so depressed and like my family is falling apart.

webwiz Tue 19-Mar-13 22:21:41

The thing about children is that nothing stays the same so what is a problem now won't always be like that.

I recognise a lot of what you say from when DD1 was 16 - I felt like I was always getting stuck in the middle between DH and the DCs. When things got too terrible I'd get everyone together and try and sort out some new rules. That would last for a bit and then we'd have to draw them up again. I think it is important to pick your battles though - DH would have a massive standoff about moving a coat whereas I would probably just move the thing!

The lead up to GCSEs can be very stressful and can bring out the worse in siblings who aren't the centre of attention. Are you able to spend any time with the DD's individually?

Mine are 21,19 and 16 now, DD1 and DD2 are at university so we can get a bit of jostling for position when they come home in the holidays (DS just goes off to hide!) but nothing like the door slamming and drama that they used to createsmile

flow4 Tue 19-Mar-13 23:11:20

I'm too tired to give you a fully considered answer Fedup, but you sound so - well, fed up, that I wanted to just pop in and offer a bit of moral support. smile

Phrases I used a lot last year might be useful to you now... I struggled to work out how to handle the fact that I couldn't make DS1 do (or not do) anything he didn't (or did) want to do... Punishment didn't work and seemed to escalate things; and I didn't want to just ignore bad behaviour...

So I kept on giving the 'moral messages', by saying things like "I can't stop you doing X, but it's still wrong", or "I can't make you do Y, but it's still the right thing to do - you have to make yourself"... Basically hoping to influence him even if I couldn't control him.

I think it's working... smile

mindfulmum Tue 19-Mar-13 23:18:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

breadandbutterfly Wed 20-Mar-13 09:11:42

Suspect dd1 is feeling v stressed with GCSESs and taking it out on you as you are a safe target. Maybe gentle support/talking on how she's coping (not telling her off) will help to reduce some of the tension. dd2 sounds like some tlc rather than blaming might also help esp if you think she's self-harming.

Woukd arranging a special day out/mother and daugter time with either of them work/be possible?

It sounds a bit like they see you a 'the enemy' - they need to understand you are there to support them and help them but not be a punchbag. Step away... I have found the phrase 'I expect..' from How to Talk so Your Teenagers will Listen' book quite useful. eg instead of nagging 'why do you always leave your coat on the floor' say 'I expect everyone to put their things away and keep the environment nice'. They can't argue with an expectation - it's just what you expect. If their roles are clarified like this that might help - if they just hear constant low-level nagging they may filter out exactly what specific things they need to do that you want them to do. they may just hear 'moan, moan, nag nag'. Clarifying that the general expectation is that coats are put away to keep the house nice depersonalises the request - it's not stated as a criticism of their behaviour.

Does that make sense?

AGiddyKipperInOneHand Wed 20-Mar-13 09:21:11

My dcs are similar, op, you are not alone, and am reading the advice with interest.

nickstmoritz Wed 20-Mar-13 14:07:34

Poor you OP. It's horrible when things go astray at home. I have similar age DDs and recognise some of your situations with them. Sounds like both you and DH are fed up so firstly why not try and organise something for yourselves - a night out, short break or just a game of badminton. Anything to get a break from the teenage whinging and then you can have a chat about him being off with you because he is fed up with the children. If the two of you feel tense then it does create tension in the home because you are worried about what mood he will be in as well as your DDs so nightmare for you.

Your eldest DD is at that stressful GCSE time and just expect some freaking out. Don't take it personally. Just let her know you are there for her if she needs you. I agree that a bit of bonding time can be good here - sometimes a trip to the theatre or something like that can break the tension because it doesn't involve any pressure to "talk about it" (like going for a meal) but gives you something else to talk about and enjoy. Can really change the mood.

Y8 or Y9 can be a bit notorious for going a bit rubbish at school. Check there is nothing in particular bothering DD2 (esp after what you said about self harming), then suggest to her that you might make an appointment with her tutor or head of year to chat about her behaviour and effort and how you can help, saying that might be enough to make her buck up. Actually meeting teacher/yr head can be helpful for you because you might find she's not as bad as you think or if she is then they will see you are trying to support what they do and they might make some suggestions to help like changing learning groups/sanctions/rewards etc. She will hopefully be dropping subjects she doesn't like and starting GCSE work so it's a good time for a fresh start.

Make it clear that you and DH run her around and pay for all those hobbies and if she cannot be bothered to come to the table and eat with the family or is constantly rude to you then the taxi service stops for a week until it improves.

One thing which might sound strange that I did when we were all a bit grumpy and tense with each other was to go and buy a load of items to make ice cream puddings - bananas, neopolitan ice cream, fruit salad, (the old fashioned type) squirty cream, chopped nuts and squeezy sauce, sprinkles...the lot. Put it all on the table and let everyone make a knickerbocker glory, banana split or any other crazy pudding. Both teen girls ended up laughing with the family and even DH who was in a crap mood with them cracked a smile and joined in. No-one can be mardy while doing this and it totally worked in lifting the tensions. Follow with funny DVD. Do something unexpected and let them know you are human too and would like a bit of family fun too sometimes.
Teens can be very hurtful sometimes but try and take a deep breath and ignore the smaller stuff. Tell DH that he needs to pick his battles with them too or he will just be constantly peeved.

Fedupwithteens Wed 20-Mar-13 14:22:32

Thanks to all for the support. It's nice to know I'm not the only one to face these things.

Just to pick up on a few points:

I think I'm fairly happy dealing with dd1, mainly because 80% of the time she is happy, good company and getting on with us all. The other 20% isn't out of character for her, it's just more "focussed" at the moment with her exams coming up, so I guess I need to cut her some slack and roll with the punches a little.

Time alone with each of them would be brilliant. I have been considering taking dd1 to afternoon tea at our local "posh" hotel - she would love it, and it would be a nice thing to do before her exams start. As for dd2, at the moment, she has made it clear that she would rather do anything than spend any time with any of her family, so I don't think there is anything I can offer to do with her that she would actually accept. Of course I will offer to do the afternoon tea thing if I do it with dd1, and let her suggest something else if she doesn't fancy that. But I genuinely think she would just rather not be with me sad (see my other thread on holidays for corroboration of that).

I definitely need to read "How to talk..." We have it somewhere in the house, I bought it as part of a set (with the first book) years ago, and dd1 read it and I'm not sure what she's done with it hmm. I may just buy it again for my kindle. I did read "Get out of my life but first take me & Alex into town" earlier this year, and found it really useful - made lots of underlinings on my kindle. Maybe I need to revisit that as well.

We've (dh & I) been mooting a family meeting for a while, so perhaps we need to get on with that. I am just afraid of 1) dd2 refusing to turn up or engage and 2) it descending into an argument or nitpicking over tiny details rather than "bigger picture" stuff.

I could go on, but will leave it for now. Thanks for the support so far, and hoping for more of the same.

nickstmoritz Wed 20-Mar-13 14:54:37

just a thought..if you generally get on better with DD1 atm could DD2 be a little jealous and be acting up more for attention? Try and do something on your own with her. There must be something you can tempt her with. A great piece of advice I read on MN and sorry can't remember who posted it but has stuck with me is ..always look happy to see your DCs when they walk in the room then tackle the less good things after this. Similarly, always try and say good night calmly and kindly (even if they have been a little sh*t! earlier).

IloveJudgeJudy Thu 21-Mar-13 01:30:08

Your DD2 sounds just like our DD. She was (and still is, sometimes) very good at waiting to be offended and saying the nastiest, horriblest things to upset me, but I could never say anything back. I think you just have to keep being "nice" and keep talking to her, no matter what she says. If she says that she doesn't like any of you, just say that it's a shame as you really love her. She'll probably pull a face, but will like it, deep down. She's trying to push your boundaries.

I would definitely offer the hotel thing with DD2. If DD1 has already gone with you, I'm pretty sure that DD2 will want to go, too.

When you have your meeting, make sure that people don't talk over each other (you could even have a talking stick or conch). Also, DD2 has to promise not to storm out and DH and DD1 have to promise not to mock her or try to upset her. Good luck. Things are getting better with DD now, but it's taking a very long time and I was nothing like her when I was young so it's all completely new to me.

mindfulmum Thu 21-Mar-13 07:17:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Samvet Thu 21-Mar-13 07:27:57

As a troubled teen myself I would pay more attention to why dd2 is unhappy. Do you have very good Internet security btw? You say she is in the computer all the time- do you know who she is talking to? Self harming is an indication as another poster said of distress. Your dd1 sounds a standard teenager but I would worry dd2 is unhappy and try to get to the bottom of that. At her age I would have her passwords and be monitoring her Internet use.

bigTillyMint Thu 21-Mar-13 07:44:16

Re: DD2, spending most of her free time in the bedroom seems completely normal - all my friends with DD's that age report the same. They can be stroppy and unpleasant and they all prefer their friends to their parents! It is hard, as a mum, to adjust to though. You need to try to treat her more as an equal, not a child, whilst still being mum. Not easy at all!

I try to pick up on when DD is in a good mood/wants to talk (although the mood can swing in an instant) and try to not ask too many questions and avoid unnecessary conflicts. They are VERY sensitive to tone of voicewink
Having a special treat (like going for coffee and cake or going shopping) together is also a good time for bonding. And family holidays work for us ATM (we are now doing more AI stylie as that is what the DC really enjoy!)

The possible self-harming is more worrying though. Would it be worth talking to anyone at her school about your concerns?

Fedupwithteens Thu 21-Mar-13 21:33:41

Am reading all of your input with interest, and really welcome all of your opinions and thoughts.

Something that a lot of people are saying is about spending 1-1 time with dd2. I would love to do that, and would happily compromise and include a friend if I thought it would make it easier for her. However, I am really at a loss as to how I actually do that if she makes it absolutely clear that spending any time with me is the very last thing she would like to do?

The same applies to having fun as a family. To be fair, if she's having a "good" day / week / hour, she will eat with us, chat with us, laugh with us, but I find those times even harder in a way, because it gets my hopes up that things are going to change...and then we go back to ignoring, grunting and general cold shoulder.

I really make an effort to be normal and nice with both of them, even if they have been rude, nasty or incommunicative. So I always give a cheery "morning!" when they get up, make a point of going in to see them and ask them how school / their day has been when I get in from work and saying goodnight and telling them I love them when I / they go to bed (I do speak to them more than that btw!). Dh on the other hand...not so much. He really does find it hard to get past the rudeness, or a particular disagreement that might have happened.

We are due to have a parents evening for dd2 after Easter, so can discuss academic concerns at that point. The self harming makes me feel...paralysed, though. I don't know who I would talk to at the school about it, and tbh I just think I would sit there and weep. I have no idea how to approach it with dd2 either, or even if I should. I found out about it by reading some Facebook messages (she didn't log out when she used my phone once) so she has no idea I know.

I sobbed said to dh last night "I hate living in a house where everyone hates each other", it does feel like that sometimes.

LineRunner Thu 21-Mar-13 21:40:55

Hi OP.

Getting time alone with a teenage DC - I have found the best talks we have had (I have two) is by my saying that we are going to buy something really boring after school, because we actually have to (eg black school jumper) and then strangely we end up being able to chat.

But walk. Don't drive.

mindfulmum Thu 21-Mar-13 22:12:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

nickstmoritz Fri 22-Mar-13 09:40:53

Please don't think I am making light of your DDs (or anyone elses) self harming. I am not but I thought I would ask have you seen physical evidence of it on DD? I do realise it might be somewhere you don't see though. Could it be that she is just being curious about it on the internet?

I thought I would share some ideas and see what you all think.

I had a chat with my 16 yr old DD about self harming because of coming across it so much on here and we had a really interesting talk. It isn't something my DDs have tried (as far as I know of course!) but I knew DD would have more insight than me. She said it is often associated with liking certain bands and there is a "glamour" (for want of a better word) about it. She is aware of it in her school but with some of them it is more a faddish thing than serious emotional disturbance (again PLEASE believe me I am not underestimating those of you facing the serious problems associated with this).

There has always been this sort of thing down the years from "heroin chic" "wasted youth" or a fascination with thinness etc. There has been so much vampire lit/movies/tv etc that it has heightened the whole blood related interest. Internet sites and twitter etc have the effect of egging youngsters on to try this sort of thing and making it seem more of a normal thing to try.

In our (well mine - I am child of the punk generation) day teens might rebel by smoking or even smoking dope/popping a dubious pill but smoking is just more old fashioned and expensive now. Pills are scary because there have been fatalities and schools are more hot on PSHE type lessons that put teens off (obviously not all but certainly some). Yes there is alcohol to try (and we have threads on that) but if you are still quite young you might not necessarily do that yet so scratching /cutting just might be something to try to get the feeling of rebelling or having a secret from the "boring" grownups especially if you like the emo/goth type music or other people have tried it.

According to DD some girls are identifying with the romantic notion of the lost soul female with emotional problems to be saved by a boy who loves her "even with scars" (this scenario is part of a recent internet thing that DD told me about). Do any of you remember the Betty Blue film? and think of the whole Twilight thing with all that angst. DD said she felt there were less strong female role models atm unless you are the sporty type girl who have the great Olympic women to emulate. Let's face it...the other female type in the media all the time is the TOWIE or slutty pop star look. Yes there is the fab Adele, Emily Sande but they're not really appealing to young teens I don't think.

Having this chat with DD has opened my eyes somewhat and although it doesn't mean I wouldn't be upset or worried if any of my DCs did this, it has just put it into the context of what is going on today for young people because the whole concept of self harm was just so alien to me. I just could not understand why any young person would even think about doing it. I guess now I can but I know that what for some is a fad that they will get over easily for others will lead to or is a sign of much deeper unhappiness that definitely needs proper help. Doesn't life seem so much more pressured for teenagers these days? (or should that be for us parents!)

Hope this hasn't been too much of a waffle I just thought it might be interesting.

Fedupwithteens Sat 23-Mar-13 14:10:16

Just found out (by reading her texts, I know, not really a good thing to do) that dd2 got drunk at a party last weekend (which I suspected), got really upset (about an ex boyfriend I think), and was threatening to kill herself - the boy she was upset about sat with her for 2 hours to keep her away from knives. She then (not sure on the order of events) gave a boy (same age as her) a blow job.

She also says that people keep telling her off for being mean to me, "but no-one knows how she is with me".

I don't know what on earth to do with this information... sad

bigTillyMint Sat 23-Mar-13 15:13:15

Oh fedup sad

I think you need to seek help asap - sounds like she's on a downward spiral. You could start by going to see your GP and getting them to refer you to CAMHS but there could be a long waiting list. I don't know anything about private services for teens, but maybe it's worth asking?

bigTillyMint Sat 23-Mar-13 15:14:56

MaryZ is usually a mine of information on this sort of thing and I think there is a long running thread where you could ask for help - MaryZ's support thread I think

Fedupwithteens Sat 23-Mar-13 15:33:01

I do read Maryz's thread, but feel a bit of a fraud posting on there - the issues we're having with dd2 are (I feel) "normal" teen issues - which is why I think I should be able to deal with them. I just feel like all of my parenting skills have flown out of the window & I'm the worst most ineffective mum around.

bigTillyMint Sat 23-Mar-13 16:07:06

Don't put yourself down - it's really hard to know what to do, especially with teens. I am sure noone will think you are a fraud and someone is bound to have some good advice - go for it!

nickstmoritz Sat 23-Mar-13 16:09:47

oh dear fedupwithteens. Sad to say but what your DD did is a lot more common than you might think. DD same age as yours confided in me about what some girls in her class have done and I was quite shocked. Your DD might have shocked herself and feel bad about it which might make her feel low. DD has had a few comments/name calling for not doing anything with boys yet. I think there is a bit of peer pressure involved sometimes.

If you feel the threat to harm herself was more than just the drink talking then professional support could be the solution. If you can get her to talk to you or her older sister that might be enough to help her out.
She probably needs a massive hug.

mindfulmum Sun 24-Mar-13 02:54:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Fedupwithteens Sun 24-Mar-13 12:45:20

So how do I get her to the GP?

I'm pretty sure if I said to her "I'm worried about you, I think you're self-harming, I want to take you to the GP" she would say "don't be stupid, I'm not, I won't go".

Do I just book the appointment anyway and then hope she will come with me when the time comes?

Of course, you can't get an appointment with the GP quickly here - usually a 3 week wait. If it's an emergency, you have to stand outside in a queue to wait for the doors to open at 8 and then wait til they start seeing people at 8:30. The queue generally starts forming at 7:30am! Luckily we live a 2 minute walk away.

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