Avatar universal

How do I handle this??

I need advice.

My fiancee's daughter is nine years old. I absolutely adore her and him and love all of our bond. We have gone through getting her to sleep in her own bed in the past year and its still hard some nights. I took over washing and rinsing her hair when she was 7. She has a tendency to not get all of the conditioner out.

Also, she loves to run around naked, which I told him I was uncomfortable with and he tells her she needs to clothe herself when not in the bathroom, but it is a struggle to this day to enforce.

She only spends every other weekend at our house. Her mom babies her very extensively. Her mom has been married for 3 years this month, and from day one her husband sleeps in another bedroom and the daughter chooses which bed she wants to sleep in while at her moms, her mothers or her stepfathers. This little girl loves to cuddle too. If she lays next to you on the couch or in a chair she wraps both arms around you, holds, your hand, and intertwines fingers and legs. I was very uncomfortable hearing that a 35 year old man who is unrelated is sleeping with a, now, 9 year old little girl that cuddles like that.

When helping her with her hair about a year ago, she asked me if I would bathe her. I told her no and explained that she is at an age where she needs to be doing that on her own. She said, well mom still bathes me and that I was almost her stepmom and that was just like a mom. I replied with my usual response of I love her to the moon and back and am privileged and blessed to have her as part of my family, but you only have one mom and one dad, even though we may feel like extra parents Mom and Dad should always be separate from step mom and stepdad. She continued begging. I asked her what she would do if her mom wasn't home at bedtime. She said her stepdad would bathe her. He was like her dad because he was her stepdad. I told her real dad about this. He didn't do anything. His ex-wife is very aggressive and has a lot of money. Every time he brought situations up tp her in the past she hires a lawyer and they have to go back to court and she keeps threatening to take her from him.

She has gone as far as calling my place of work between undergraduate and graduate school to tell them to fire me or she was not going to refer patients to them any longer. She tells the daughter bad things about her father all the time. The first time I met her she said a negative comment about the father in front of me and the daughter. We had to meet with her because she had "forgotten" to give the daughter something  and than refused to call me demanding that I call her. The father tried reminding her I was bringing their daughter somewhere to assist them, I ended up calling her. I just wanted to give y'all an idea of that relationship to understand part of why I am struggling as to what to do.

About three months after that, she came to our house on a Thursday and I was helping her with her hair and saw she had press on tattoo cupcake on the insides of her iliac crests. Saturday when she was going to take a bath, I saw she still ahd the cupcakes and told her she needed to bathe better. She said she couldn't remove them. When I asked why she said because her stepfather "liked to eat her cupcakes."

I told my fiancee about this. He asked to see her cupcakes and made her show them to him and got upset about it,  I know that was the wrong reaction. I would have waited to tell him until she went to sleep and we could have talked about it if I would have known he was going to act like that. He talked to his ex-wife about it and she brought up and told him it was worse that I had signed the child's test paper when I was doing homework with her one night when my fiancé was getting home late and than went into going back to court.

Not long after this we were at our camp and I had gone to take a shower. About two minutes later the daughter busts into the bathroom and jumps in with me. I was VERY uncomfortable. She still bathes with her mom in the bathtub is what she told me.

Her father and I really like her stepfather and do not imagine sexual activity, but I think it is teaching her very weird things about men and nudity and dependence and I just don't know what to do. I wold not want to put the little girl in a bad situation and also do not want to make the waters between my fiancé and his ex-wife any choppier than they are already.
12 Responses
480448 tn?1426948538
I think the advice you got was fantastic, but your concern about the legality of taking her to someone to be examined, or talked to is absolutely very valid.  If you do those things without her mother's consent and knowledge, you will be in a huge legal battle and your fiancee could end up losing his custody rights.

I strongly advise you to speak to a lawyer.  It may end up that you have to end up getting CYS involved and allow them to do their own investigation.  Sadly, if the mom is as "powerful" as you say she is, that might not go well either.  Chances are, the mom can probably get herself out of most messes she's in. That's extremely unfortunate, because that means the system will not work as it is designed to.

Definitely speak to a lawyer, and you could always request a consultation with a pediatrician, child/adolescent psych who is NOT involved with the girl, to get some input.  Like you were told above, you're going to need to be ULTRA prepared, write EVERY little thing down, find out the legalities around perhaps being able to tape record or videotape the girl in casual conversation, and if it is not going to get you guys in trouble, do that ( I would guess that's going to be a huge no-no, just my hunch.)  When you THINK you're prepared and have enough "evidence" to do something about it, prepare yourself some more.  To go against this mother, you're going to need it.

I feel for you and the little girl.  I pray nothing abusive is going on, and it may NOT be, she just may be exhibiting the behaviors she knows and was raised with, but either way, it is not appropriate.  My daughter started her period and was developing breasts at 9!!!  Kids these days develop QUICKLY.  Even if there is no abuse, this little girl needs to learn boundaries, what is appropriate, she needs to learn to be more self sufficient at her age, she needs to be sleeping in her OWN bed, washing HERSELF in the bath, etc etc.

I wish you the best of luck, I hope this gets resolved to everyone's satisfaction, and I hope your stepdaughter gets the help she needs. Even if nothing bad is going on, they are doing her a disservice by "babying" her so much.  Parent(s) need to encourage their children to do things for themselves, including being able to self-soothe.  It's okay to be a little cuddly, but she sounds needy to an extreme.  It's not at all healthy to foster that kind of behavior in a child.   Please update us when you can, it's really nice to know how these situations turned out.
134578 tn?1614729226
You say, "She said she couldn't remove them. When I asked why she said because her stepfather 'liked to eat her cupcakes.'"

Oh, dear, you are in a jam.  Because it sounds like what is going on is very inappropriate, but were you to react as though it is, his powerful ex-wife with lots of money is just going to fight you and say it's all your lies and so on.

I think in your shoes, I'd talk to a lawyer.   If you take this further, you have to absolutely have all your ducks in a row, and probably to gather proof without either the child or her mother knowing you are gathering proof.  The lawyer might be able to advise you about how to get the child to talk to a neutral party about what is really going on vis a vis the eating of the cupcakes and the nudity.  Or you could talk to a children's therapist, and try to make a plan for how to handle the child, without raising the suspicions of the mother.  

I feel for the child so much, she sounds so needy, yet totally conditioned to certain stuff, some of which might be innocent and some of which might be "grooming" her.  I don't trust the situation at all.
Avatar universal
I can say from experience, that if you have a feeling that something is not right... whether you are a step or biological mother, follow your intuition. I have a 6 yr old daughter who my husband and I recently found out was in some inappropriate situations. Since my child has been in therapy, her therapist told me that, children that are often cuddly and have a constant need for physical closeness is a warning sign. If it is a serious concern you need to speak to your fiance, and talk with your step daughters pediatrician as well. I commend you on your efforts, and I pray that all is well for your family.
3140206 tn?1342849783
i would take her to a councellor and a dr. this is concerning and the nicest ppl can do the most harm. i was 8 when my own dad hurt me, this is not right and taking her to these two place will do her no harm, if it is bad parenting it wont hurt her and may help you and your partner settle the situation to be more fair, if its sexual assault you will save the lil girl from heartache and the sooner you act the better for in both accounts
Avatar universal
I was hoping I was over reacting. I really do not want this little girl to be hurting. Her mother is her main practitioner she sees and we are in a small town. She is domiciliary parent, does that make it wrong for us to bring her to a counselor? I really do not know. How do we go about this without her mother jumping all over the father? I appreciate you all responding so quickly and I think getting her to talk to a counselor would be a very good idea.
Avatar universal
No, you're not overreacting. This is a tough situation for you and you really HAVE to do something. There's no way those cupcakes are innocent little tattoos!  Running around the house Naked?That's only cute at 2!

I can't say that there's something specific going on with the stepdad BUT the behaviour just stinks!  Her behaviour stinks and it's really not her fault. She's still quite young and she's not been taught appropriate behaviour it seems.

Also, just know that you will be opening up a can of worms and it could back fire on you! Just be prepared for accusations from them! You're fine though but she's not and the whole thing needs to be checked into right away.

Everyone else here seems to be on that same page...and you've received great advice!  I think one thing that could happen is an appt with her pediatrician. I'm sure the Dad can legally take her to the doctor if he has a concern involving abuse.  Kissing tattoos, especially where they're located, is abuse. Plain and simple!

Go with your gut and speak to your boyfriend about this in a serious fashion or show him this thread.  It all needs to be addressed very soon.

Good luck and stay in touch with us!
Avatar universal
I took your advice and showed him this post. I am currently living 3 hours away for graduate school, so we are going to have a sit down discussion to decide what the next plan of action should be and how we are going to handle it next time we see each other. Everyone's responses made him and myself realize the situation is something we should take action on, immediately. Even though we do not suspect sexual abuse, the other issues are still inappropriate and should be brought up. And as some of you pointed out, you really do not know who is capable of certain acts of harm. It is by far better to be safe than take a risk of a child slipping through the cracks. And as far as being prepared to open a can of worms, I am glad you brought that up too. It might make it worse for the father and me for a while, but it is (hopefully) better for the daughter. These are all things we will be discussing.

I am still scared the mother will twist this around to the daughter and try to harm the father-daughter bond. Do you think if we bring up counseling for the daughter to talk through some issues with a third party with the mother would be a good idea. She started acting out in school this year. The mother had actually put her on aderrol (sp?) for a greater part of this past year in an attempt to solve her outbursts. One day when I was bringing the daughter to school I had forgotten to give her the medication and she said she didn't like it anyway and she would just be good in class that day so her mom wouldn't get mad at me. My fiancé brought up that he did not think ADD was something you could decide to turn off and be good and that she still got into trouble even on the medication. She did take her off the medicine but said she didn't know how to fix how sassy, rude and disrespectful she had become. and asked him if they were really just bad parents. The daughter also struggles with feeling guilty for loving her mom and dad and her step father and me. The little girl has expressed to all parties she does not understand why she can't love all of us. Which the father and I try to re-enforce that just because you love more people does not mean your love for someone else has to decrease. Would it be appropriate for him to bring up counseling for these situations and he could speak to the counselor on the side about our other concerns? This way the mother might be willing to participate and bring her to sessions during her time as well. It is just an idea and I need to know if it is a good or bad one.

I am asking this because we need an outside opinion. I am terrified to make a wrong decision and make the situation worse.  I just do not want to bring any more confusion for the daughter and would like to give the daughter the greatest chance to get any help she may need.

I will let you all know and keep you up to date as things progress.
480448 tn?1426948538
It's so good to hear that your fiancee is on the same page, recognizing that there is a problem, or multiple problems.  If you can get the mother (AND stepdad) involved in therapy, absolutely that would be FAR better and in the best interest of the child.  If you do this behind Mom's back, it will get ugly, and it may send the wrong message to the girl.

The slippery slope, however, is that often group family therapy in these kinds of situations where there is conflict, tension and power struggles, will turn into a big finger pointing "blame" game from both sides.  Hopefully that won't happen, and if it does, hopefully the therapist is good at mediating.

My honest opinion, besides that her behavior is seriously innapropriate, is that she was basically coddled and spoiled, maybe after the divorce, and now has no boundaries and exhibits poor behavior.  The fact that she said what she did about the medication Adderall, is a huge red flag...and you're right, TRUE ADD is not something that can be turned on or off at will.  ADD/ADHD is so over diagnosed these days, it's sad.  It has become a way of "fixing" any kind with behavioral issues.  Sure, there are children who truly suffer with it, but there are a LARGE amount of kids who pop a pill once a day, rather than their parents trying behavioral modification, and other interventions to deal with bad behavior.  Bad behavior may be exhibited by a child with ADD/ADHD, but a child with bad behavior does not automatically fit the bill for an ADD Dx.  The two get muddied too much.

The mom saounds like she is quite difficult to reason with, therefore it is hard to say the BEST way to proceed.  I'm SO glad to hear you say that you guys realize that this might make life a bit difficult for you for a while, but that it is okay, as long as the best interests of your step-daughter are kept in mind.   PLEASE keep in mind that the VERY best approach would be to have EVERYONE on board, and really try to achieve that.

Perhaps discuss ways you could approach Mom. You could say to her that there are things that are very concerning to you guys, and maybe put some acknowledgements out there for Mom too, like, "We know she has been giving you a hard time too, and she has those issues at school", then broach the subject of some family therapy.  Be very honest and straightforward (without pointing fingers at ANYONE) that you think, for her age, she lacks boundaries with her physical body, and is not maturing like she should be, emotionally, and that you guys are concerned about long term problems down the road.  It may even help (with the Mom), if you briefly mention that everyone, including yourselves, have ownership in this situation, and that you want to work TOGETHER to come to a solution TOGETHER as to how to best handle this.  Make it clear that you're not pointing fingers, because you DO all have ownership in this.

I just hope and pray that Mom doesn't become defensive and feel backed into a corner.  The better you all can manage to get along and tackle this together, the better the outcome will be.  Some of the girl's comments (about love) reflect that she sees the division of the families, rather than viewing all four of you as her cohesive family unit.  That's leading to her having feelings of guilt when she feels love torward someone on the "other side".  Children from broken homes are always going to feel that way to an extent, but the adults in that situation usually add to that with bitter custody battles, making untoward comments around them about the other parent and their new partner.  And, sadly, anything that is going on around them, will end up, in their mind, THEIR fault.  She's screaming out for approval and for the "okay" that she's allowed to love everyone.  Thats is the biggest red flag.,..IMO.

For certain, you all have a lot of work to do.  I wish you the best of luck.  
Avatar universal
NG and vicki have given some good advice.

Just proceed with caution and THOROUGHLY plan out how to sort this.  There is already a history of this mother taking him to court over "this and that."  Keep in mind what you LEGALLY can and can't do.  

All the best dear.  
Avatar universal
Absolutely Nursegirl.....you said it in a nutshell......bravo!
Avatar universal
Nurse girl was very clear and right on the money. I think some adults could use some therapy here! LOL

I would wait on the therapist for the little girl. I say that from experience. I think if there was conversation,DISCIPLINE,limit setting,etc...you'd see a huge change. She also needs to know it's okay to love the entire family. She will always have Mom and Dad and how rich is she who also has a stepdad and step mom! It just takes some reassurance from all sides that she can love everyone.

I don't envy you that conversation with Mom but it has to take place. Shell get defensive but she can't argue with facts. The kid should not have tattoos on her tummy or lower back or chest that she shows off. She has to take some clothes off to do that! Not good. No one should kiss her there either. No one.

She cannot run around naked or bathe or shower with anyone. She's too old now. She should not do that anywhere.  She's been babied a lot and she's big now. It sounds more like her mothers issue than the kid's.

Good luck to both of you with changing her behaviour and nurse girl is right. You ALL need to be on the same page and of one mind with rearing this child.      xoxo
Avatar universal
I think therapy is a wonderful idea.  Nothing solidified that more than the statement that the daughter is on meds, but still has all of these issues.  Unless you get to the root of the problem, medicine is just a band aide at best.

With therapy, perhaps the group of you can develop more continuity in regards to parenting style.  Same rules or similar rules, both homes.

The mother sounds like a monster, cross bred with a spoiled brat.  It really sounds like she would do just about anything, just to get her way.  I personally think that is a bad policy..... Threatening to "take the daughter away" is an easy way to not address what the problem really is.  

I feel for you and the position you're in.  It is all doable, but it will take a concerted effort.  Importantly, it seems as if your husband and you are on the same page.  It sounds like there is some healthy communication happening, and you guys being unified on this side of the issue is important.
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