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Step-parenting struggles. Preteen struggles.

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JanaGreen posted 11/4/2020 10:01 AM

Not me, my guy.

We aren't married, so technically he's not a step-parent. But he's living with us.

So I posted about the stunt my ex pulled over fall break.

Since the kids have been back, my daughter (let's call her K) has been an 11 on a scale of 10 for drama for every little thing. They don't have the Halloween candy she wants at target - sobbing fit. Every homework assignment - sobbing dramatic meltdown (incidentally, she's a straight A student). She tends to be pretty anxious and perfectionistic about school but we are at eleventy.

She's also been increasingly lashing out at my guy (let's call him MG). We've had issues with my son, who's now 5, engaging in power struggles with MG but now they get along great. K and MG have always gotten along fine, but lately she's been really rude and disrespectful to him. He generally cooks, and she sneers at whatever he makes and refuses to eat it. She bites his head off whenever she needs help with something, I'm busy, and he offers to help. I asked her last night if MG had done anything to upset her and she said no, she was stressed out and he was just a convenient target. This past weekend she made a similar comment, "I wanted to be mean to someone and he was there."

I told her that MG is really trying to be nice to her and treat her well. She said, "Yeah, because of you." (As in, he's just trying to win points with me through being nice to my kids). I don't really know how to respond to that. I mean yeah, he's here because of me, obviously, but he's not faking nice to the kids.

I think she's upset about other things (in addition to dealing with online school and her dad's shenanigans, her best friend also just abruptly moved to another town, plus her brother is high needs and takes a lot of my attention due to multiple specialist appointments) and MG is just a convenient target because he's "safe."

But OMG. The level of drama and angst is wearing on all of us. I don't know what to do. I want to help her deal with her emotions and also get MG out of this unfair emotional punching bag position.

Not that it's about me, but Fuck. I'm feeling like a complete and utter failure as a parent.

wildbananas posted 11/4/2020 14:03 PM

Blending families is one of the hardest things ever to do, even under perfect circumstances. My own attempt at it was a colossal failure and well known around these parts. blush

I'm not sure how old K is - I'm guessing preteen-ish? They have a lot going on at that age anyway, let alone with everything she's working through. Is she in IC? If you can swing it, it might be a good idea - give her an outlet, have her learn some ways to help manage her feelings without lashing out. And yes, MG probably IS an easy target... she's mad at her father, MG is there and her father isn't... she probably both resents him and is glad he's there, you know? That's confusing for a kid.

Make sure YOU get some help dealing with all this, too. As the mama and head of household, you get it from all sides and I know how draining and hard that is.

(((Jana)))

wildbananas posted 11/4/2020 14:03 PM

PS: You are NOT a failure.

JanaGreen posted 11/4/2020 21:12 PM

Thank you so much bananas - she's 11, she's amazing, smart, funny, beautiful. Just also mad as fuck. She's dealt with so much loss. She's not in IC but I think she needs to go. She's overwhelmed with emotion and it's too much.

After her grandmother died suddenly in 2018, I asked her if she wanted to go talk to a counselor and she was extremely resistant. So I don't think she'll be happy, but I think she needs to go.

tushnurse posted 11/5/2020 10:27 AM

Couple of thoughts.

1. Is she in involved in anything that keeps her physically active, a sport, or walking regularly, or anything like that? That would be a good place to start to get the anger out.

2. Has she started her periods yet? She may be getting ready to if not, and the hormones are adding into things making life more difficult.

GotTheShaft posted 11/5/2020 11:43 AM

JanaGreen, so sorry you are dealing with this. This was the biggest challenge in my recently failed relationship. My exGF's teenage boys are the most disrespectful kids (towards her) that I have ever seen. Their behavior was the reason why I never proposed - I couldn't expose my daughters to their influence. Blending families is really hard and a big challenge to post-divorce relationships. Don't be so hard on yourself. This isn't easy, and there isn't a playbook to follow. Keep trying. Have MANY conversations with your SO and with your children, together and separately. I'm sending you a virtual hug, as I know this isn't easy.

EvenKeel posted 11/6/2020 09:04 AM

Hi Jana!

When my DD was that age, she was emotionally struggling. Her grandmother (my mom) was able to put it in terms best to me. She said I get this. To me, it is like menopause. You have all these feelings and so much frustrations and no way to let it out. My mom said that she herself was so emotional that she went from literally wanting to kill her husband on many days for no good reason. Really kill him - like plotting it in a binder. She said she would really related to DD because you can just feel the tears at all times and have no understanding of WHY. She said I am an old lady and frustrated...I can't imagine being 11 and dealing with those feelings...

That helped me a lot because I would try to remember that as DD was struggling.

Combine that with your DD is dealing with stuff she has no control over: special needs brother, father issues, a BF moving into her space, and her BF moving (also my DD had at same age and NEVER got over). Her lashing out at your BF is one of the few things she CAN do as expression.

Is it right or fair....NOPE.

I know she isn't interested in IC. Is there an alterative? Can you work with someone for the entire household to help the blending? Then she won't feel targeted?

Also, my DD wouldn't do counseling but she was willing to participate in a school program called Banana Splits. They paired kids of D with children that already went through it. This was the most helpful for both of my children. They would share with peers where they would not at home.

Lastly, this might just be too much for her (and your poor BF) right now. If so, it is an option to separate the households if needed? I know that is extreme but your R can not thrive when it is competing with issues with your children. Sometimes you need to go backwards for a bit before you can grow ahead.

FirstLoveGone posted 11/6/2020 09:41 AM

I was going to suggest the same as EvenKeel. Can your BF find a place on his own for a while?

Your DD seems to have way too much on her plate right now. She may be lashing out at him because she doesnít want him there during such a tumultuous time in her life. It cannot be easy trying to control your emotions in front of momís BF. She may not feel like she has a safe place to be sad, mad, frustrated, etc. I know my DD struggled with being herself at her dadís house because of her stepmom.

Good luck to you and DD. I hope you two can make it through this storm.

ibonnie posted 11/6/2020 10:48 AM

Also, my DD wouldn't do counseling but she was willing to participate in a school program called Banana Splits. They paired kids of D with children that already went through it. This was the most helpful for both of my children. They would share with peers where they would not at home.

Banana Splits was a huge help for my DS when he was 8yo and his dad moved out. I had no clue his school even had that program, until I talked to his classroom teachers about what was going on at home. It was only one day a week at lunchtime, but he responded MUCH better to that than to me bribing him to try therapt for six months.

EvenKeel posted 11/6/2020 13:02 PM

I had no clue his school even had that program,
Me either! While the school counselor could not tell me what was said, she did tell me that my DS did really open up in sessions. I was so glad he had a place he was comfortable doing so in because IC was a total bust.

JanaGreen posted 11/6/2020 13:26 PM

I had heard great things about that program. She didn't want to do it and I didn't push. With her doing virtual school it's kinda off the table for now, unfortunately.

She went to a birthday party this summer, and a couple of the girls were talking about how their parents were divorced. This one girl (who K had told me she didn't care for previously, but who I'd never met), piped up in a smug tone, "WELL, I feel sorry for all YOU guys whose parents are divorced. MY parents love each other." Dude, never wanted to punch a kid so bad in my life.

She's starting to show signs of development. I think hormones are a factor. Fortunately she's very open and unembarassed about talking about puberty, so we have an ongoing dialogue there.

MG moving out really isn't an option. And my gut instinct is that it would be disruptive - her dad and his fiancee break up and get back together regularly. I'm really focused on keeping things as stable as I can. He's been living with us since March and prior to the last few weeks they have gotten along great.

It's her dad's weekend, but I'm going to steal her for dinner and shoppibg tonight, just us, and hopefully have some good talking time.

Thank you guys so much. 💙💙💙 I really appreciate you taking time to reply.

Carissima posted 11/7/2020 04:58 AM

I could be wrong but to me this screams of a young girl who feels she is no-one's priority.
Your EX has his new life and from what you've posted she's grown up knowing her brother's going to always need more of your time. Now her best friend has moved away so she's feeling that loss too.
You say she bites your BF's head off because he tries to help her because your too busy. I suspect that's the reason right there - he's not you. Logically she may recognise you've got all these demands on your time but she's still young and seeing that when it's her that needs help it's not you that comes.
I'm not trying to make you feel bad, I can feel your struggle through your post.
If possible I would set aside some time for the 2 of you each week, to catch up and talk. It may help.

[This message edited by Carissima at 5:03 AM, November 7th (Saturday)]

childofcheater posted 11/7/2020 08:20 AM

Honestly JG my two girls from 11 to about 13 were a nightmare. Just when one ended the other started. It's totally normal. They are being flooded with hormones and learning to deal is tough. You are NOT a failure!!

99problems posted 11/7/2020 08:21 AM

I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned the stress of being a kid during this pandemic.
My 7 YO has had more problems with covid than with her parents splitting up and her mom moving in a boyfriend 2 months later that she doesn't even like very much.
It's pretty tough on a kid to have had to give up so much for so long. Friends at school, swimming pools, birthday parties (obviously I'm using examples that pertain to my kids age but I'm sure there's just as many for preteens).
I'm so over this stupid virus. I guess it's not over us yet.

JanaGreen posted 11/8/2020 15:43 PM

I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned the stress of being a kid during this pandemic.

It's really awful, I feel so bad for them.

leafields posted 11/8/2020 18:36 PM

I'm finding that mindfulness and self-compassion have helped my anxiety. Maybe it could help her?

Ichthus posted 11/9/2020 06:15 AM

I could be wrong but to me this screams of a young girl who feels she is no-one's priority.
Your EX has his new life and from what you've posted she's grown up knowing her brother's going to always need more of your time. Now her best friend has moved away so she's feeling that loss too.
You say she bites your BF's head off because he tries to help her because your too busy. I suspect that's the reason right there - he's not you. Logically she may recognise you've got all these demands on your time but she's still young and seeing that when it's her that needs help it's not you that comes.
I'm not trying to make you feel bad, I can feel your struggle through your post.
If possible I would set aside some time for the 2 of you each week, to catch up and talk. It may help.

I am a professional therapist who works with teens. And this is right. She has lost her life and and lost the people in her life. She has lost her world.

So what does she do? she lashes out at the guy who will take it. MG needs to stop trying to win her. He needs to stop engaging with her. VERY IMPORTANT.... MG needs to step back and let the child determine the relationship. If she wants help from him, let her initiate. If she hates what he cooks then give her the option to make her own dinner. (do not make it for her, and keep the routine the same. (still eat together)

Your daughter feels like she is losing you, and is lashing out at MG because he is taking up your time. DO NOT NEGLECT MG, but it is very important that you set aside scheduled time every day (30 mins - hour) to connect with your daughter. And also set aside special time with only you and your daughter 1-2 times a week where you guys do (girl time). Watch a movie, paint nails, go get some fun food. MG is not allowed to join during this time. (unless your daughter allows it) She needs to know that she is important to you and that she has some control in her relationship with you.

I told her that MG is really trying to be nice to her and treat her well. She said, "Yeah, because of you." (As in, he's just trying to win points with me through being nice to my kids). I don't really know how to respond to that. I mean yeah, he's here because of me, obviously, but he's not faking nice to the kids.

Your daughter has really great insight here. Praise her when she opens up like this and allow her to process this line of thinking. Stop making the argument between her and MG. She does not have to be nice to him, but she should not be allowed to treat him poorly. Right now, MG is your boyfriend. MG is nothing to your daughter except a man to who taking time away from her and her mother. So you have to be even more intentional about going to her and creating time and space for you and her.

[This message edited by Ichthus at 6:19 AM, November 9th (Monday)]

JanaGreen posted 11/9/2020 07:06 AM

Ok, thank you guys. I'm going to have to try to figure out how to make this happen. I do try to spend one-on-one time with her after B (her brother) goes to bed but I'm usually worn out by then. I picked her up on Friday and took her shopping, just us, and she was thrilled.

I know she doesn't know it but I'm always thinking about her and worrying about her. B has epilepsy and some developmental delays that I am trying to work with him on to get him where he needs to be for kindergarten. K has always been advanced for her age, gifted & talented for math and reading, and just didn't need this kind of intervention. She talks about how unfair it is that B "gets" to go to all these appointments (OT is his favorite thing in the world and he looks forward to it all week) and from my adult perspective it just sounds so bratty - you're an exceptionally bright kid who DOESN'T have seizures or delays and you're mad about it? But I know she's seeing it as he gets to leave daycare and have fun, while she's stuck there doing virtual school on her chromebook wearing a mask all day.

I'm rambling a bit. I'm going to try to figure out how to make it happen for us to have set solo time.

JanaGreen posted 11/9/2020 08:05 AM

Oh, tushnurse, you had asked about sports. Unfortunately the kids (K, B, and my ex's fiancee's daughter) had all started soccer in a new league together in March - they got one practice in before COVID hit.

She'll be in sixth grade next year and Im going to push her to get involved with the band, in addition to starting up soccer again.

tushnurse posted 11/9/2020 09:38 AM

Maybe you both could participate in walks together a few days a week. It would be awesome for both of you.
It also will help her burn off some of that teen energy, and give her a safe space to dicuss things that might be bothering her.

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