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Help with Step Son's eratic behavior
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Help with Step Son's eratic behavior

I am very concerned about my almost 13 year old step son. My husband and I have been married since he was just a year old. His mom has been remarried for the past 5 years. In the past we have went through many manipulative behaviors-telling his mom that he wants to live with us which always results in her buying him things-games,cds, ect... But over the past year he has really seemed to be growing up. We have become very close. Two months ago he asked if he could begin spending every weekend with us. And then switch during the summer-weekdays here/weekends at their house. When he asked his mom I could hear her screaming through the phone (I was in another room of the house). My husband calmed her down and she agreed to the every weekend thing because he wanted to go to confirmation class at our church. This lasted exactly one weekend and then we began going through the exact opposite-he doesn't want to have anything to do with us. He decide that he didn't want to do confirmation class-something he seemed very excited about. He now also wants to quit 4-H -somthing else that his dad and I do with him. My husband stopped last night to talk one on one with him. My stepson told my husband that he wants to spend more time with him-when my husband pointed out that he can't spend more time with him if he refuses to come to our house. The conversation then turned to I want the weekends to just be you and I-he wants myself and our 11 year old daughter (his half sister) to move out every other weekend. This then turned into I want biomom and biodad to remarry-they have not been together since she was pregnant with him. He said this in front of his stepdad. He said that he only comes to our house to see his sister-the one he wants to move out when he is at our house???? As you can see the boy seems very confused and contradictory. He says that he is just to depressed to come to our house-says that the kids at school are calling him names -"fag,gay ect". He is probably going to be held back this year. My husband is playing it off as manipulative behavior--mom bought him a new computer and Wii and quit her job to spend the summer with him after he requested more time with us. But I am not so sure this time--we have become very very close this past year and have had many heart to hearts about his mom's bipolar disorder. I am concerned that if we do not take this seriously that the boy may be headed for real trouble. What do I do???? Would I be overstepping my boundaries as a step parent and wife if I called his school counselor and asked her to talk to him as a third party?? I am really worried.
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Avatar_f_tn
In terms of boundaries, if you personally are not his legal guardian, and it sounds like you aren't, then the school can't act on anything you say UNLESS you state that the child is going to be a danger to himself or someone else-- and he has not indicated he is going to hurt himself and he has not threatened anyone else. You are not his parent/ guardian -- so they can't act on what you say. No one can, really.

Its your husband,/his father, and his mother that have to deal with his problems, and I would hope that they would include you in the solution. If his father is concerned, then his father can make inquiry and pursue things.  Its his responsibility. Unless you are willing to make the accusation that he is being harmed in his current situation, and risk a legal battle, you really have no options.

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Avatar_f_tn
It sounds like the boy's mother has been planting some strange ideas in his head.  Please don't take it personally.  She has probably dug up every conversation you have had with him.  If I were you, I would be very careful not to say anything about his mother that can be taken in a negative way.  You may choose to honor your stepson's wishes without digging in his business.  As for you and your child leaving for the weekend: Your husband needs to let his son know that he is not going to kick you and his other child out of your house.  If wants to come over he is welcome.
Good luck and God bless
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Avatar_n_tn
Thank You for the advice. The school has always been willing to release grades and info to me in the past. In this case I was just hoping that maybe the counselor could talk to him and make sure that he is okay. I have had contact with the counselor in the past and they do understand the situation. I was  a preschool director for well over a decade and am now on the canidacy tract for ordained ministry so I do understand confidentiality laws. I also know that anyone can call and express concern to a school counselor as long as they know that the counselor can not follow up with them or release personal info. For example if I saw that one of my daughter's friends was in danger of hurting themself than I would have every right to call the school counselor and express my concern for the child even if I am not a relation. My step son had indicated to me at one point that his mom is "cutting" herself on purpose and that his step dad just ignores her. I guess that I am not so much concerned about him being hurt but about his home environment and without us having acess (even our phone conversations have been monitored by his mom) to him for over 5 weeks it is hard to tell if he is really okay. I am trying to get my husband to call the school but he is completely convinced that his son is just being manipulative-as I said this has been an on going battle for 12 years. My husband has told his mother and him that he will come this weekend-no matter what-hoping that we can talk to him alone and get to the bottom of this.It could be that it is his mom who we should be concerned over. I do believe that there is more to the story-than just manipulation. I see from your profile that you are an MD. My step son's adhd meds were changed around the same time that these behaviors began. Could this be a cause? His mom refuses to tell us what the meds are-she sends them in an unmarked container and the pills have no markings-she recently switched doctor's and won't tell us who he goes to. It very well be time that we take legal action - we have just tried really hard to make this situation as easy on everyone. And even though we have always worked through situations in the past they have never gotten quite this bad before.
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Avatar_n_tn
Thanks-my husband and I have always tried to be as respectful as possible when it comes to his mom and stepdad. Going as far as to correct the boy if he says something derogatory about either one of them. Unfortuanately, it has not always been recipricated. My husband and his exwife divorced after she took a knife to him. She did seek prof. help and has been under care for her disorder. And even though we have seen the manipulative behaviors and did have to seek legal help at one point when we found out that they had been living in her car (he was two at the time). At that time we ended up working it out by keeping him fulltime until she got back on her feet and received additional pyschiatric help. As long as she is getting the medical help she needs she is a wonderful mom except for the manipulation. I guess that I am just concerned that perhaps she has stopped taking care of herself and that this is causing some major problems for our son. As I said I have been the boys stepmom since he was one-I love him very very much -as a mom I would never want to take a child from his mom if it can be worked out-I am just sincerely worried and don't know what to do. My husband did make it very clear that Aaron's wishes-(re-his sister and I and mom and him being a big happy family) were not going to happen. He also made it very clear that Aaron would come to our house for at least part of his normal visitation this week. We are hoping that we can better judge the situation when we have him here at our house.
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Avatar_f_tn
kairos   please please do not talk to the school counselor about him.(unless it is school related)  most of these people think the are doctors/ psychiatrist they tend to over analyze . last year my son was depressed due to things going on at school and she wanted me to place my 10 yr old son on antidepresants!! i about freaked out on her. believe me i know clinical depression and there is no way i would ever put my child on them. besides  he is fine now that he is in private school happy & loves school

sounds like your son is maybe just going thru adolescents? i do not mean to trivialize what you are going thur and we have not hit that yet though we are getting much of the moody behavior. he also probably really does want his parents back together but i am sure on another level he knows that won't happen. perhaps he and his dad can go away together just the two of them, maybe camping or the beach foe a week or few days? I know my son loves the days that its just his dad and him. maybe you could also spend some one on one time with him too. actually its a really great idea for each parent to do that w/ each of their kids it helps them feel good and creates a closer relationship.
another thing i would avoid talking about his mother with him even if he brings her up anything you say even if you are saying it with the best of intentions, he could come to resent it and feel as if you are disparaging her . i hope you and your husband will keep letting him know you love him no matter what. try and support him he sounds very confused, also its not going to help if he has to repeat a grade is there anything you can do to prevent this? summer school, tutoring?  good luck i am sure its hard. just keep telling him you love him lots of hugs and praise when he makes good choices. peace
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Avatar_f_tn
In your last post to me you mention that your step son has witnessed his mom cutting herself. If this is the case, then he's in danger, and you should take action.

And I am not an MD -- I live in Maryland. :) I have been wondering why people keep calling me dr... I'll have to make sure that gets fixed -- .I'm just a Mom and previous teacher and a person who has done a lot of work with kids with issues including ADHD.

On that, yes the new meds could seriously be having a bad effect on his emotional well being. It should be part of the consideration in terms of what meds he takes-- could well be a very bad side effect.

Personally, I think it is IRRESPONSIBLE to have a parent send medication with a child and refuse to indicate what it is. That's just dangerous. What if an ambulance had to come? What if your son had to tell someone about this in a medical emergency? Certainly, I think you should press her to tell you the medicine for HIS SAFETY -- again, thats very, very irresponsible.  If she refuses, I believe THAT is grounds for legal action-- it is indicative of a person who is not showing the proper level of concern for their child's well being.

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Avatar_f_tn
You're still in my thoughts.  I was thinking that you could take your son's medication to a pharmacist to find out what he is taking.  It sounds like you may have to take legal action soon.  Hang in there.
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Avatar_f_tn
It is a tight-robe act that us parents walk with our step children -- I too am the step mother of a 15 year old boy, he was absent from his fathers(my husband) for the first 7 years of his tender life(she moved from state to state never revealing where she was), it was at the age of 8 that she decided that he should be a part of his life. At the age of 10 he moved in with us after Biomom called and said she was afraid of him, he was on massive medication that at the end of the day left him like a zombie. My husband is a Physician Assistant and promptly titrated him off all meds and he thrived, he lived with us for 3 years. Biomom then began doing alot of the same things that you describe - buying gifts, derogatory comments etc... and convinced him to move back to live with her since she had relocated to our state. We let him go against better judgment thinking that making a now 13-14 year old a pawn in the legal game was not in his best interest, we knew sooner or later it would all come full circle, and it did. My step son is now back in our home since Feb 08 and it is worse yet. She again called saying that she was either kicking him out or he was going to juvenile hall!  We have learned that his mother allowed him to smoke, bought him pornography and didn't enforce his attendance at school.  We are now dealing with sexuality concerns, impulse control, and utter defiance of any/all rules we have laid down.  In fact he has recently been expelled from school. Here is what we have done to combat this -- First WE DID NOTIFY THE SCHOOL COUNSELOR, they are your eyes and ears when he is away from home, as a step parent the school has been very cooperative. I believe you do have legal rights as his guardian as you need to read the parenting plan, usually there is verbage that gives the bio parent right to designate care to anyone they choose when they are not present, secondly, you have been a part of this childs life for some time now and there is an established bond that both the courts and school will recognize. (Also, medical decision making that is not emergent is usually joint decision making, so any medication that your son may be on that you are not aware of or approved of may be grounds for contempt.)  Secondly, we have started the ball rolling in getting him to see a Psychiatrist who specializes in Adolescent Behaviors.  We have contacted the school district and have a "At Risk Youth Petition" submitted. It became very obvious through the events that my step sons biomom was the problem here, her influence is not only reckless but have serious consequences. We have filed a legal petition for full custody change and obtained a temporary order restricting his involvement with his biomom until there can be a full psych evaluation.  I am never a proponant to isolate any parent from a child but in your case, for the well-being of your step son it may be the only solution.  

Hang in there.

Wifeofpa
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