I am new to this group and need some advice, I am at a loss of what to do or where to turn. My 3 1/2yr old stepdaughter refuses to speak when asked a question, baby talks when something does come out of her mouth and pouts/cry's at every situation she doesn't get her way in (including eating).
Here is a little back ground about our family- since I do believe this plays a huge part to the issues we are concerned with:
I met my spouse (husband now) in October 2008, we have known each other from several years prior to us dating. He has a son (now 6yr old) *his mother lost custody for doing drugs and Marcus has full custody and she relinquished her rights Dec 2008* and a daughter (now 3 1/2yr old) *her mother is different, but not any better at being a mother* and I have a son (now 3 1/2yr old) *whose father is not really in the picture at all*.
We got engaged Nov 2008, moved in together Feb 2009 and were married May 2009. When we lived with each other we just had our boys and each of us had a full time job. Originally our boys each went separately to a grandparent during the day or the oldest to school when he was of age. During this time we had his daughter only on visitations every other weekend and some holidays.
Now all things have changed. His daughter the one were having issues with moved in to our home permanently March 2010, she rarely sees her mother (maybe once every 4 weeks). My step-daughter doesn't reply when spoken to- she looks off in to the distance and gets this look on her face that "the lights are on and no one is home". When she doesn't like the looks of a meal, she will cry and bawl or pick it to tiny pieces until she is sent to her room for bed/nap. My son on the other hand is only 2 1/2 months older than her and speaks fluently, can put his clothes/shoes on no trouble and not backwards, when asked to do 3-step things will respond perfectly (i.e. take this toy to your toy box, bring me a book and your blanket to sit down and read together). He speaks full sentences and is very smart, like counting and colors and acknowledging things or memory. He can even watch someone do something and pick it up right away- including sports.
We are very concerned with my step-daughters choices and behaviors. Speaking is one of the hardest ones for us to try and work on but not the only one. She is completely defiant to go to the bathroom, will lie about poopy pants, hates taking showers or baths, puts her shoes on wrong almost every time, clothes on backwards, doesn't count or know colors at all. She has a horrible time sharing something even if its not something from her room. I know there is much more to add.. but this is getting very long and I think I may be running in circles with my self. To top all of this off, here in about 8 weeks we will be bringing home a new baby sister!! I am scared that this too will conflict with her progress or lack there of.
HELP!! Any suggestions or questions.. We need assistance.
Caralea, there are layers and layers of complications to this, but I will try to make it kind of brief and simple.
All these children have had difficult, disrupted lives. Some kids deal with that difficulty by trying their best to soldier on and trying to earn the approval of adults, and frankly some kids aren't as affected by social upheaval as others are.
At 3 1/2 years, if your son can routinely follow 3 step instructions, dress himself without errors consistently, is good at sports and can observe others and learn, and does colors and numbers well, he's the exception.
Don't judge her by his standard, it's not fair.
These two are competing for the same "space" in your family. Imagine two trees growing from the same hole in the ground. The straighter and taller one grows, the more crooked the other has to grow to get sunlight.
Kids are like this in broken/blended homes. They are like trees growing out of the same hole and if one is growing very well and getting a lot of praise and "sunshine" for accomplishments, the other has to bend way over and out to create their identity and try to get their attention, or "sunshine".
Your sons accomplishments and your approval of him have blocked the sun for your stepdaughter - and she's trying a different path to find her way.
Somehow, you will have to fake love and affection for her, and make a big point to smile at her and look admiringly at her when she is doing something acceptable.
And put it out of your mind to compare your son to her in every respect.
Is is possible that there is more to her than just trying for attention? She use to talk and talk lots, infact on weekends she comes home from her mom she blabs baby talk tons- then through the week she goes back to nothing and wont ask for help on anything or even say please in most cases. I dont get it, I refuse to baby talk her or coddle her for bad behaviors or treat her baby like- she is not a baby at all.
I know in my heart it has been a real struggle for me to become "supper step-mom" to these kids, and they know all too well that I am not their actual mom. My step-son at one point told my mother I was his "fake mom" and his real mom was brown, but he doesnt get to see her any more. It saddens me they have had such crappy lives- but I just dont know how to fix it. We tried counseling for a while and got no where.
The last time I had an intense thought about this whole thing all I could do is lay there and cry where no one could hear or see me. I dont know how to love the child I have, prepare for a baby and love two other children who havent excepted or even say they love me in 2 years. How do you fake love? I was never taught.. =/ Maybe I just need to say I love you to them 50x a day until they get it. I dont know.
I think there is more to this than just needing attention, you need to get her some help. I wouldn't punish her for not eating, she will eat if hungry. I agree with RockRose who offers excellent advice as to how children develop differently. This little girl appears to be lost, in knowing where she fits in and how to cope with the lousy life she has had. She isn't doing anything on purpose. Make sure she gets plenty of attention and talk a lot to her, but I do think she needs some professional help with all that she has endured. You can't be super mom, but you and your husband need to find out what is going on with this little girl. I don't think punishment is the answer here, love, understanding and encouragement goes a long way. You have to wonder if seeing her mother so rarely isn't confusing her, or what is being said to her when with her mother. It's sounds like once she moved in, she just didn't know how she fit in....show her. I think you are doing a wonderful job in trying to manage all this, but don't punish her. Instead talk to her and reassure her that it's okay if she's not hungry, and she can have it later if need be. You have to whatever is necessary to show her that she is loved and accepted. Let her help a lot with the baby as well. Your son sounds very well adjusted, so stop and think of how you would feel if this were your son and what you would want for him. This little girl is totally dependent on you and your husband to make sure she doesn't fall between the cracks. Encourage the boys to play with her and help her with things. I do wish you all the best, and take care.
Thank you for a different perspective of it... I know that the situation over the last year or so has changed but the rules never have- like with not eating, that goes for all of them. We both feel that we cant spoil her for not eating and beacuse she is newer to the home, then make the boys eat everything. It has always equally been if you dont eat dinner/lunch, you go to bed early/nap. My step son who is 6 adapted well to the change and rules- every now and then he has a mind set of a toddler and acts out. But he eats when he is served and all of it.
I too think she needs more help than what we can offer her- but dont think babying her is the answer. Attention for good behaviors is very different than the attention children get from bad ones. She tends to break down and cry more than anything and we cant seem to get her out of it or even talk to her- so how would a counseler get anything out of her either? I my self have deffinantly been trying in the last week to change the way I have talked with her/to her and try to get her involved with things- but its going to take a long while it seems.
Well, you may need to take a step back and realize that your stepdaughter is just extremely ticked off and depressed by the situation. It may seem to you that she's been living w/ you long enough to adjust, but she hasn't. The fact that she does still see her mom about once a month is going to set her back everytime. And, u don't know what she's being told.
I think being consistent w/ your house rules is a good thing for your blended family. She is going to need those boundaries for a sense of security. But, as you're presenting these rules to her and sending her to bed early, try to be careful w/ your tone. It doesn't need to be presented as a punishment for her misbehavior, rather a choice she is making. Because she is having such a tough time, make sure you talk to her calmly and comfortingly about why she must go to bed early, and what you'd prefer for her to do, in order to feel happy. Extra talking and guidance in a positive direction is not spoiling.
As it sounds as though your having some difficulty bonding w/ the stepkids, I would suggest scheduling one on one time w/ each kid, just for the two of you. This can give you a chance to enjoy their interests and talk openly w/ them. I would also suggest being really honest w/ the kids when you have chats w/ them. Talk to your stepson about why he feels like you're his fake mom, and if the skin color issue bothers him. Tell him your struggles, in a kid edited version, of being a stepmom. Just find things to connect about. At times like these, your affection and bond will naturally strengthen.
With regards to your stepdaughter being developmentally and academically behind, if her mom wasn't working w/ her on number, letter, and concept skills, she is naturally going to be behind. The same goes for hygiene, social, and self-help skills, like dressing. These are all things you can work on during special one on one times. You could go to the dollar store and pick out some princess activity books to make her feel special. Put some kind of reward system in place for skills u want to work on each week and what she can earn if she achieves them. Do the same for the other kids. The skills can range from academics to chores like making your bed everyday. The rewards don't have to be monetary. It could be to stay up an extra 15 minutes past your bedtime to read a book w mom or dad, picking a special dessert, etc. It's always good to have a balance of punishments/negative consequences and rewards/positive consequence in your household.
On a side note, w a beautiful blended family, especially when it's a racially mixed relationship, remember the importance of a family photo. I'm in a mixed relationship w a biracial son, and I just feel strongly about the power of that visual image of family unity.
Caralea, your family will come together in time. But, you are going to really have to make it a point to keep your heart wide open and search for ways to bond w your stepkids. You don't need to strive to be super stepmom. As long as you're focusing on the true needs of all your children, you end up being super stepmom.
Thank you for responding. I really enjoy reading everyones perspective of this situation. Other than me working too much and not having a schedule with my step-son, he and I tend to have a good bond. I actually knew his mother and him when he was a baby- long before my husband even knew he had a son. Odd story to tell, but one day maybe my step-son will understand the life changes and how he has a great home now and two parents that love him, even though we are both white and he is not.
My step-daughter on the flip side, does very much seem sad and depressed- I happen to see it today when leaving for work. She had this horrible sad-depressing look on her face as she waved good-bye to me out her bedroom window, which she has never done before.. Maybe this is a start. Maybe she is still lost on why I leave and dont tuck her into bed each night?
I hope some where in the next few weeks we can start to change our lives and how we function as a family to all help each other out. 6 weeks and 6 days till baby sister MarLea is due to arrive. This last month, current month and next I have tried to set my self a goal to take one on one time with each of them. She has went with me 2x so far, once to a Dr/baby check up appointment and to a baby shower for a friend of mine.. I am trying to taker her to more girly stuff and maybe ease the talking out of her. The Dr appointment I even had her bring a book to read and she talked most of the way there and home- I couldnt understand most of it.. but it was a start. The baby shower was some talking but not as much.
We dont have much time left for them all to be prepared for a new baby- but hopefully even with my time at home on leave, this will help them all adapt and unite as a family. Oh and in reguards to photos- I do photography on the side, so we definantly have been taking photos as a family since the begining. We will be doing another round here soon for the last few pictures of me pregnant with each of the kids and my husband. "Our first baby after marriage and planned". It will be tough to explain to the kids our hopes and dreams for them, as they were all oops pregnancies and from 3 different sets of parents. But with us now devoting to give them a better life- I hope we can make a difference!
It really sounds like what you need is just some emotional support and a sounding board. After reading your post, it is clear that you are doing what you can, and it will probably just take time. I know that time is scarce, especially in your situation, but I commend your effort!
Your stepdaughter could definitely use some counseling, but at her young age, I have a strong feeling that time will heal her heart. Little by little, you will see an increase in happy, talkative moments and a decrease in sad, silent ones. Keep it up with the one on one girlie stuff:)
As for your stepson, assuming from your post, he may be the only person of color in your family, just try to make sure he has plenty of social activities in diverse environments. Not sure where you live, or the demographic makeup of your neighborhood/school district. But if it's not very diverse, try to get him into some Rec programs with other black kids. Always be mindful of his self identity and having him around people he can identify w that look like him. It will help him feel more confident and secure. Make it a point to frequent parks, malls, restaurants etc. w/ diversity.
Last side note, try to refrain from explaining to them that they were "oops" pregnancies. In my family we call them "unplanned blessings." They won't feel unwanted. After all, who wouldn't want an unplanned blessing? Lol!
Thanks for replying back... we definantly dont tell them they were oops's, we dont even mention it or the other parents in front of them. If my hubby and I have a conversation reguarding about another parent of theirs- we keep it private from little ears. We want all of the kids to have their own decision on what they think of their other parent out side the home. We dont enforce that they call me mom or my husband dad- that choice comes from them and them only.
My step-son is actually 1/4 hispanic 1/4 native and 1/2 white- for a while in the begining of my husband and I's relationship he would go to the indian center here locally and see his extended family. How ever after several miss-haps that the family had allowed he has not been able to return with out one of us present. That side of the family never calls to ask how he is doing and so it has been a very touchy subject for both my husband and I. I am very protective of him, since I knew his mother before her drug days.
The family had secretly allowed his bio-mother over and allowed her to spend un-supervised visits with him. Due to her choices and prior court orders she relinquished her rights and has no legality over him. We want his safety to come first and spending time with his drug using mother is not safe- so it has since stopped. I do have friends that are also native, so on occation I may take him there with my supervision or my mother/his grandma. We want him to be safe and to come home to us! Also my nieces are 1/2 hispanic as well... they see each other at least once a week and the school he goes to is also very diverse- so thankfully he has culture all around him.
I am definantly trying to spend time with each of them and give them a cozy home that shows them love and family- we have photos all over the house with us as a family. I also have spent more time/money on wall decor for the boys and girls each in their own room, new matching curtians and toys for each of them seperatly that they can all share or play apart. They each have their own living space and tons of clothes!! I am very thankful that they live with us, cause we know they have clothes, beds, food and baths every day!!
Time will tell and hopefully soon there will be possitive changes to our home that will help all of them adapt. Even with baby sister coming soon. It would be nice if we could just get custody of my step-daughter and guarntee she is not going to have to be tossed around and neglected like her mother has done recently. She has what she needs and more with us- but not "her mother" which is the saddest part of all.
I dont understand how some women can get pregnant on a whim and then after a while give up and not care about them anymore. It's like the pregnancy gives the mom attention and the new baby is exciting, then they turn to toddlers and they are too much to handle? I tried for 9months to have this baby and she is only my second and very fortunate miracle. I was told I had a 2% chance to have kids. I have 1 and this one on the way. There are several thousands of women dying to have their own child and then there are women like my step-kids mothers who dont deserve to have reproductive systems at all- thank god they both got fixed. (sorry a little bias about bad mothers)
Again thanks for replying- just talking about it makes me realize more of what I need to do to help all of the kids and help my self change to be better. I have been very hard on my self about feeling like a bad mom.
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