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Sometimes shy dss does not answer questions or respond to simple "hello" - Page 2

post #21 of 27
The issue is not whether stepmom should ignore or suppress her hurt feelings. HOWEVER, it is one thing to acknowledge your feelings; it is another to ask someone else to act on them to protect them. I think that is asking too much of this child from what I can tell. And, it is the case that sometimes understanding why the kid acts the way he does can help to minimize the actual hurt feelings - because if you genuinely understand that it's not personal, it hurts less.

I think it'd be helpful if the discussion were re-framed. You have a dear friend with a child who has these same issues. The friend visits frequently with said child. This child resists attempts to engage at first and does not respond when asked "hi, how are you?". Would you tell your friend that because the child is in your house he needs to respect you and therefore should be forced to say hi? I would hope not.

I get that stepparents have feelings too that should not just be swallowed for the kids' sake. I get that parents should help to support their partners and stand up for their needs with their kids. But when kids are genuinely struggling, as this child seems to be, I think parents have to help them - and step-parents should do the same.
post #22 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by mild_adventurer View Post
Stepmothers who navigate relationships with their stepchildren by never acknowledging their own needs/feelings and acting on them often find themselves in divorce court. Because eventually the tension between stepmother and stepchild spills over into the PRIMARY RELATIONSHIP in the home: the husband-wife relationship.
1) A six year would likely not be diagnosed yet unless they spent a lot of time in preschool settings. No mention is made of whether the mutism is an issue in other settings (school), though likely it is.

2) You have captitalized "primary relationship." Can you explain why the stepchild's relationship with his father, or the op's relationship with her child or the father's relationship with the child he shares with op is not as important as the husband-wife relationship. It seems to me, in a family, all the relationships are important, not just the husband-wife relationship.

3) There's no indication "tension" from a six year old needing some time to warm up before saying hello is "spilling" into the marital relationship.

4) It appears that the father and mother of this child understand the dynamics for this child and the op is striving to understand it. Expecting someone to do something that is that uncomfortable for them is unlikely to lead to a long-lasting, warm and close relationship.

5) Mutism has nothing to do with respect.
post #23 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by chfriend View Post
1) A six year would likely not be diagnosed yet unless they spent a lot of time in preschool settings. No mention is made of whether the mutism is an issue in other settings (school), though likely it is.

2) You have captitalized "primary relationship." Can you explain why the stepchild's relationship with his father, or the op's relationship with her child or the father's relationship with the child he shares with op is not as important as the husband-wife relationship. It seems to me, in a family, all the relationships are important, not just the husband-wife relationship.

3) There's no indication "tension" from a six year old needing some time to warm up before saying hello is "spilling" into the marital relationship.

4) It appears that the father and mother of this child understand the dynamics for this child and the op is striving to understand it. Expecting someone to do something that is that uncomfortable for them is unlikely to lead to a long-lasting, warm and close relationship.

5) Mutism has nothing to do with respect.
1) A parent who is truly concerned that a small child's "shyness" is actually something more worrisome - I believe - would think to have that child evaluated. I could not tell from the OPs post whether or not her DSS has been in pre-school/kindergarten.

2) This is simply my opinion and I mean no disrespect to anyone who feels differently, but I do not think a household should revolve around the children (intact family OR stepfamily). I believe that households should revolve around a primary adult relationship (usually a marriage). A family is only as strong as the marriage is. This is not to negate the importance of the parent-child relationship. I have 2 children and 2 stepchildren and I have rich, complex, loving and mutually fulfilling relationships with all 4 children. But I can tell you that this would not be true if my husband and I were not diligent and intentional about nurturing our own relationship.

3) The OP mentions that neither bio-parent has addressed this behavior in their child and that she's getting frustated about not feeling comfortable in her own house. How could this not spill over into her marriage?

4) I don't think it is our job as parents to make sure our children are "comfortable" 100% of the time. Allowing this child to remain "comfortable" with not acknowleding the people in his life may, in fact, not be the healthiest course for him in the long-run.

5) It was the posters in this thread who diagnosed this child with "mutism." The OP simply said he was very shy. As for the respect issue, children (actually people in general) tend to only rise as high as we hold the bar. If you never expect a child to be kind to or respectful of the adults in his life, why would he ever believe that he has to? I concede that perhaps this has not been a priority for his parents. But, I think we do children a terribly disservice when we don't give them them opportunity to rise to the occassion.

I have never suggested that the OP stop showing her step-child empathy and kindness and patience. I think that those are very important qualities in a good stepmother.

But I don't think that a 6-year old should get a pass on being kind because he's shy.

And I don't think it's unreasonable for the OP to want a reciprocal relationship with her stepson. He's old enough to understand that he plays a role in relationships, too.
post #24 of 27
Quote:
5) It was the posters in this thread who diagnosed this child with "mutism." The OP simply said he was very shy.

Just wanted to share that I wasn't diagnosing him with mutism, I just wanted to show that it might not be a matter of respect or even an issue with stepparenting, as my dd does that same thing, to some extent, with her (birth) father.
post #25 of 27
Regardless of an evaluation and diagnosis, the description of the behavior in the OP is mutism. Did you read the link I posted?

Allowing a child to warm up before insisting on a hello is not giving them a pass. It's respecting that child's differences.

Understanding that difference may help the OP *not* feel uncomfortable in her own home.

This is not a change in this child or this child's behaviors. It is a change in the expectations of an adult, who clearly cares for him, in his environment. Understanding "shyness," here manifesting as mutism, can mean that the OP can realize that it is not about her at all. So, there's no reason for her to feel uncomfortable.

The only reason that would impact any of the other relationships in the family would be if for some reason the OP didn't or wouldn't understand that.
post #26 of 27
A little more:

Most shy children do grow out of it, eventually. For the long term, encourage him toward building technical skills in whatever area interests him, so that his (in)ability to schmooze will be less of a factor in getting hired.

I'm wondering if he has any space of his own in your house? Not necessarily a bedroom, but a special place to put his things, or a corner where he can chill out for a while? He might act more at home (and be more willing to sleep over) if he felt like he had his own little place in it.
post #27 of 27
Thread Starter 

Im back

Well I lost track of this post while on vacation...And I am so gratful for all the care. Well, we had a family meeting and I will be picking him up from school one day a week. So we will see where that goes

Plus, one thing that has made it much easier for dss, is having established family time right off the bat when he arrives at our house. DH, dss, dd and I hang together. dss and dd (five years apart) have a real sweet relationship, she cried when he left today. Anyway, when we all hang, its like he can normalize with us, with our family culture, and feels our natural affinity to having him there with us. From there, it seems he is much more at ease and able to converse freely.
I don't think it is as severe as selctive mutism, although I did consider it for a while.

I did notice his mom, encouraging him to answer someones question the other day, but I think I am still going to have a chat with her about it, as she and I have a pretty good relationship.

In general I would like to explore a gentle approach of encouraging him to respond appropriately, while still focusing on the support he needs to feel comfortable.

As an aside, I am a fan of "Raising our children, raising ourselves" and the whole NVC approach when I am mindful enough to remember to use it.
Thanks again, sincerely, for the empathy and encouragement, it helped me feel that what I am doing is important.
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