or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Mom › Parenting › Blended and Step Family Parenting › Anyone have experience with kids in therapy due to divorce?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Anyone have experience with kids in therapy due to divorce?

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
I am stressed to the max...

Relationship troubles with H aside, things with DSD have come to a big tense situation.

H has actually been on his best behavior for a few weeks. And honestly he does try to be a good Dad when DSD is with us, doing art projects with her and taking her to the park, etc...

But over the past year we have noticed she is definitely stressed and anxious coming to our house... crying a lot about missing her Mom, and counting down till when she can go home, and constantly talking about when her Mom and Dad were together.

We have brought up our concerns with her Mom a few times in the past, and she usually brushed it off as DSD being sensitive.

I have mentioned it in my own therapy a few times, as it's something I am dealing with, and I wish I knew why she was so unhappy and I am very concerned for her. We tend to have fun things planned when she visits, or if we don't have anything planned, then we always make sure her Dad does some art with her and that we play some games together.

Anyway, my therapists have always wondered why DSD wasn't seeing a counselor because it sounded to them that she could really benefit talking to someone...

Well this past weekend was another pretty tense weekend with DSD breaking down in tears out of nowhere saying how she missed her Mom and how she knows how much her Mom is missing her and she needs to go home...

H and I have always wondered what conversation takes place before DSD gets here that she knows how much her Mom is going to miss her and that her Mom has to tell her, "you only need to stay there two days." DSD has known since she was three and has told us all weekend long, "my Mommy says I only need to go to sleep and wake up twice here then I can go home."

So H confronted his ex about all of this again this weekend and said that he thinks DSD should really talk to a therapist about it. His ex flipped on us for awhile saying that she doesn't understand what we are talking about because she sees no signs of stress or anything from DSD at home...

Then she proceeded to tell DSD over and over again "it's okay to miss Mommy while you are here. I told you it's okay if you are sad and miss me."

Why is she telling her this?! Doesn't she see that is probably what is adding to DSD's stress?! *sighs*

So anyway, she consented to calling DSD's peditrician to see what he thinks, and she told H to do it since "we must have a different child with us on the weekends that she doesn't know and she wouldn't have any idea what to tell the doctor."

So H calls and the pedi agrees that DSD should talk to someone... so ex has been REALLY unpleasant to talk to the past two days...

Anyway... I guess I really needed to put this somewhere... I'm really stressed about all of this, and worried about DSD... has anyone had young children in therapy? How did they do? Was it very scary for them? Did it help them?


And with all of this... it has me even more terrified to even consider thinking about leaving H... I can't imagine my poor baby dealing with some sort of stress/anxiety disorder at only 5 years of age!!! The peditrician thinks that DSD just hasn't come to terms with the divorce yet and that she is dwelling in the past too much...

How does that happen?! DSD's parents spilt when she was barely 2 years old... Everyone told me that I was lucky to come into DSD's life when I did because she would have no memories of her parents together and she wouldn't know things to be any different than how they are now...

WRONG! Her Mom said she has made DSD scrapbooks of pics of the three of them together and that DSD looks at them all the time and she said she isn't going to lie or keep anything from her so they talk about it.

I'm just in a frustrated stressed out place... any wisdom would be really appreciated. Thanks.
post #2 of 33
I don't know if I have advice to offer, but here is what I think might be happening...

* I think 5 is still young. DSD's parents splitup when she was 2, and I know she still wished for her parents to get back together as late as 11. It's just the way it is.

* If you are going to look for a therapist, look for recommendations, don't pick one out of the book.

* Your house has been tense for the past year, even if your husband is trying to fix things. The very fact that you are debating to leave and thinking of staying for DSD's sake shows those difficulties. Kids sense those things, adn I bet that's adding to the stress of the situation.

* On top of everything, you have a huge change - a baby. I bet DSD wishes that just like her baby sister, she had her mom and dad together. I bet it crosses her mind more than anyone knows, adn every time she sees you hug/nurse/cuddle the baby, she wishes she was with her mom doing the same thing.

* I was the one that had the idea of making DSD a scrapbook of her baby years and we did it together, and we included pictures of both her mom and her dad. So I guess I dont' think that it is a bad idea for a child to have a piece of that and to know that even though her parents are not together they both love her. The scrapbook reminds her of it.

* I think it is okay to miss her mom. She doesn't have to feel guilty over it. If my child would be stressed to go some place, I can see myself saying something like "you'll be back in just two days! fall asleep - wake up, fall asleep - wake up." I don't think I would see those particular words as damaging, as my intent to reassure that the separation is manageable, yk? Does DSD ask to call her mom when she misses her? Could you brainstorm with her what would help her through the weekend, or come up with strategies on what to do when she starts missing her mom?

* On a brighter note, I really dont' think it's a sign of an anxiety disoder. It just sounds like a young child processing a lot of change in her family life: divorce, remarriage, baby, difficulties between dad and stepmom. There is nothing out of the norm here - a young child having tough time separating from a parent dealing with divorce and other changes. It is tough, but not unusual.

Here is what I do know - the best help parents can give their children is to take care of themselves. Make sure that YOU are where you want to be and that YOU are doing what you want to do with your life. Make sure you are healthy and have the emotional and physical strength to offer your girls, because if you yourself is struggling, that spills over. Make choices that are good for YOU and those choices will help the children in your life. *more hugs*

Thinking of you a lot these days. Hope you are taking care of yourself.
post #3 of 33
Oriole, can you come and live with me? *ahem* I just really, really love your posts...

Anyway, JSMa that all sounds really tough! I've gone back and forth on counselling for my 6.5 year old dd. Her father and I separated in January, and he moved out in June; she's had some big changes.

I'm in counselling myself, and asked my therapist about bringing in my dd to see the child psychologist/counsellor (same office) and she said that sometimes it can be more traumatic for the child (obviously this is SO subjective) to sit with a stranger and try to come up with feelings on the spot.

Most days I'll lay in bed with dd at bedtime and talk about how she's feeling, but for the most part she just acts like everything is fine. Or she feels 'something' is wrong, but she has no words for it. For example, last week my gf put her hand on my arm to get my attention (we're careful not to be touchy-feely in front of my girls) and my dd lost it. She slapped her hand away and yelled 'You can't have my mommy! She's already married!'

I was stunned. Dd has never exhibited emotion like that regarding our separation. The kicker is this - half an hour later, my gf was reading dd a story on the couch and dd hugged her and said 'Can you live with us and be my other mommy?' So obviously she's trying to work through all the feelings and emotions in her head.

Along the lines of 'it's okay to be sad and miss me' and 'it's only two sleeps'... obviously it depends on the child, but both exdp and I do that for our dd. She is still at the stage where she misses both of us and very much wishes we all lived together (and I don't anticipate that going away for a long time) We talk about how many more sleeps till 'her house with daddy' and that it's okay to draw pictures for daddy and feel sad and missing him... However, we also talk about how it's okay to have fun and keep going on our 'away time'...

So, I hope this wasn't too convoluted, but I noticed your dsd and my dd are close in age and I imagine some of the emotion is similar.
post #4 of 33
The "missing" thing is so tricky, and such a fine balance to find.

My daughter's reality (and the reality for most kids of divorced/separated parents) is that she is always missing one of her parents. When she's with me, she misses her dad. When she's with him, she misses me. That's just the way it is.

Because of that reality, I want her to grow up knowing in her deepest core that (1) it is always OK to miss people you love when you're not with them, (2) missing them is NORMAL and healthy, and (3) even if it's not an emotion one would deliberately chose to feel, it is not "bad" and not the end of the world, and writing letters, calling, video can help (she resists those last because it makes the "missing" feeling stronger in the moment, but as she gets older I hope she does learn how to use them).

As a parent, I never want her to think that either her father or I don't miss her when she's not with us. I want her to know that we do miss her. BUT I also want her to see us both missing her in healthy ways. i.e. We miss her, yeah, of course, but it's OK and we're OK. We still have fun and do other stuff. Life goes on. And so on.

As for your DSD, there is certainly enough going on at your house to make any kid stressed about it. Especially if her mom isn't helping her cope (either because she doesn't know the extent of the tension or because she is unable/unwilling/doesn't know how). And play therapy could certainly help. Perhaps.

Also, I would suggest not putting too much stock in just how much having "fun things to do with dad" can really help. First of all, they are only short, fun activities. They don't make the tension and cloud-o-gloom at your house go away completely.
Second, HE is the source of 99% of the tension within your house. I highly doubt that he can become a non-source-of-tension at the drop of a hat, especially if (since) he has a history of "bad behavior".

Your DSD is certainly old enough to have picked up on alot, and be "waiting for the shoe to drop" whenever he's being "good". And it would take a lot more than a few MONTHS (let alone weeks) of consistent, constant "good" behavior to remove the "waiting for the shoe to drop" feeling.

I guess, however, is you really need to find some way of figuring out a few things:
Would play therapy help and more importantly would it help enough to make it worth the fight with mom?
Are her issues at your house coming mostly from your house (even if her mom's behavior makes them worse)? This is entirely possible.
Or, are her issues at your house coming mostly from her mom? (In which case, the question then becomes how to best help DSD cope... That said, and while it is technically possible, I would not be too quick to jump to the conclusion that this last is the case in this specific instance.)

Good luck.
post #5 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ceinwen View Post

I'm in counselling myself, and asked my therapist about bringing in my dd to see the child psychologist/counsellor (same office) and she said that sometimes it can be more traumatic for the child (obviously this is SO subjective) to sit with a stranger and try to come up with feelings on the spot.
Oh my, I cannot believe another therapist would say this!

My 6 year old ds has been in therapy (play therapy) for a little over a year now to help him deal with the abandonment of his father and various anxiety-related issues.

Around 5-7 years old, anxiety-related issues are pretty common for the age group, as they begin to see the world as being more concrete after having lived in a more "imaginary" reality for the earlier years of their little lives.

Anyway, every week he excitedely looks forward to going to his "toy doctor" appointment. She doesn't try to make him "come up with feelings on the spot." They play together and through this playtime, they talk.

As a trained professional, she knows how to bring this conversation around to address something that is bothering him and when he says he doesn't want to talk about it (which he often does in the beginning of the session), she lets it alone. But most of the time, as he settles into the session, he brings it back up with her.

What I also enjoy about the experience is to be able to talk to her myself from time to time about any issues we are having at home. She gives great advice, suggestions and insight to help me be a better, more aware mommy.
post #6 of 33
Thread Starter 
I do think in some ways DSD is suffering from separation anxiety all around because she isn't receiving adequate attention from either of her parents...

She sees her Dad 4 days a month... she knows he has another family. That I'm sure has an affect.

At home... I know her Mom has her Mom (DSD's Grammy) and her brother (DSD's Uncle) watch her A LOT. DSD is always telling us about everything she does with her Grammy and Uncle, and how she eats dinner with her Grammy and Uncle... never Mommy.

So I am sure that she really misses her Mom tons... because I am not certain she actually gets to see her Mom that much, even though she is "with her Mom 90%" of the time... kwim?


Does anyone have that magic wand? This whole thing just breaks my heart.


And I do understand what you mean about the ever looming dark cloud... and DSD probably has picked up on that.

Is there anything I can do to help her in the mean time?
post #7 of 33
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Holland73 View Post
Oh my, I cannot believe another therapist would say this!

My 6 year old ds has been in therapy (play therapy) for a little over a year now to help him deal with the abandonment of his father and various anxiety-related issues.

Around 5-7 years old, anxiety-related issues are pretty common for the age group, as they begin to see the world as being more concrete after having lived in a more "imaginary" reality for the earlier years of their little lives.

Anyway, every week he excitedely looks forward to going to his "toy doctor" appointment. She doesn't try to make him "come up with feelings on the spot." They play together and through this playtime, they talk.

As a trained professional, she knows how to bring this conversation around to address something that is bothering him and when he says he doesn't want to talk about it (which he often does in the beginning of the session), she lets it alone. But most of the time, as he settles into the session, he brings it back up with her.

What I also enjoy about the experience is to be able to talk to her myself from time to time about any issues we are having at home. She gives great advice, suggestions and insight to help me be a better, more aware mommy.

This is really insightful. Thank you!

Can anyone explain a little of how play therapy works? My one therapist mentioned playing with dolls in a dollhouse...

My DSD doesn't really play with toys much... In fact she will throw meltdown temper tantrums if we suggest going to her room to play with her toys. She'd rather watch TV.

I have never seen her use imagination and pretend play with anything at our house.

I have even tried to get her to open up some with this when we are drawing together. She drew a house with a window and I asked where the window was going to take us... she said a door and drew a door... so I asked where the door would take us. She stared at me blankly. So I tried again, "if you could go anywhere... if this was your magic door that could take you anywhere, where would it take you?"

Again a blank stare...

So I then gave her suggestions of a forest or a mall and asked again where she would like to go...and she said, okay, we will go to those places.

It has always made me wonder... I have never seen small children that did not take their toys and go off playing make beleive. Until DSD... and it has always concerned me...
post #8 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by JSMa View Post
This is really insightful. Thank you!

Can anyone explain a little of how play therapy works? My one therapist mentioned playing with dolls in a dollhouse...

My DSD doesn't really play with toys much... In fact she will throw meltdown temper tantrums if we suggest going to her room to play with her toys. She'd rather watch TV.

I have never seen her use imagination and pretend play with anything at our house.

I have even tried to get her to open up some with this when we are drawing together. She drew a house with a window and I asked where the window was going to take us... she said a door and drew a door... so I asked where the door would take us. She stared at me blankly. So I tried again, "if you could go anywhere... if this was your magic door that could take you anywhere, where would it take you?"

Again a blank stare...

So I then gave her suggestions of a forest or a mall and asked again where she would like to go...and she said, okay, we will go to those places.

It has always made me wonder... I have never seen small children that did not take their toys and go off playing make beleive. Until DSD... and it has always concerned me...
Ds' therapist has an entire room filled with ALL sorts of toys, including a sand art tray and an amazing art setup. Seriously, it is amazing in there! They have even made playdoh together during one of their sessions.

A good therapist will find a way (it might take some time and trust building) to interact with a child.

I bet she is a lot more imaginative than you know, never underestimate the imagination and abilities of a child. I have had many experiences with children both in and out of my 1st grade classroom that most parents cannot believe happened.
post #9 of 33
We have had times like these, although thankfully they were few and far between. I have definitely noticed that the "I (will) miss you so much" phone calls/goodbyes made it a lot harder for dsd to transition to our house and not be upset about missing her mom. I have actually heard her repeat verbatim her mom's sad goodbyes when she was crying for her mom, probably around the same age as your dsd (and her parents have been separated since she was 2/3 as well). There is a difference, IMO, between recognizing that you miss your child and your child misses you and actively encouraging (or feeding them the "lines") of missing you. It does sound like the OPs dsd's mom is feeding into it at least a little bit and making things tougher, although I don't discount the fact that there has been a lot going on at their house as well.

As for how to deal with it, I have had to suck it up in the past and spend a good part of my weekend baking special cupcakes for mom, making cards, pictures, crafts for mom, having mom stop by to visit (although this pretty much always makes it worse, IME) and in general talking about her mom nonstop, plus giving her lots and lots of female attention with cuddling and hugs. NOT trying to replace her mom, but sometimes she seems to be craving that "maternal" interaction and getting it from me while talking about missing her mom is often more effective than time with her dad.
post #10 of 33
That's why I said it was subjective and based on the child. My dd is pretty much past the 'playing with toys' stage, and would very much find it difficult to enter that kind of scenario. I can see art therapy, maybe... Sorry if I offended anyone. Just offering my limited experience...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Holland73 View Post
Oh my, I cannot believe another therapist would say this!

My 6 year old ds has been in therapy (play therapy) for a little over a year now to help him deal with the abandonment of his father and various anxiety-related issues.

Around 5-7 years old, anxiety-related issues are pretty common for the age group, as they begin to see the world as being more concrete after having lived in a more "imaginary" reality for the earlier years of their little lives.

Anyway, every week he excitedely looks forward to going to his "toy doctor" appointment. She doesn't try to make him "come up with feelings on the spot." They play together and through this playtime, they talk.

As a trained professional, she knows how to bring this conversation around to address something that is bothering him and when he says he doesn't want to talk about it (which he often does in the beginning of the session), she lets it alone. But most of the time, as he settles into the session, he brings it back up with her.

What I also enjoy about the experience is to be able to talk to her myself from time to time about any issues we are having at home. She gives great advice, suggestions and insight to help me be a better, more aware mommy.
post #11 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ceinwen View Post
That's why I said it was subjective and based on the child. My dd is pretty much past the 'playing with toys' stage, and would very much find it difficult to enter that kind of scenario. I can see art therapy, maybe... Sorry if I offended anyone. Just offering my limited experience...

I know you said it was subjective and I definitely was not offended by anything you wrote... just VERY surprised that a counseling professional would have such a view or make such a statement.

A good child therapist doesn't just work with children who are in the "playing with toys" stage. Ds' therapist works a lot with teenagers, one of which I have wonderful conversations with while waiting for ds to finish his appointment. She has various rooms and tools in her office to meet the needs/personalities/developmental levels for all the children she serves.
post #12 of 33
I think that play is good for children, and maybe one gift that you and your daughter could give your DSD would be sharing some imaginative play with her: in particular, dress-ups and make believe. I know that Batman/Superman imagery (flawed and fallible, but still strong and superhero) has carried my boys through the last few years.

Six and seven is a tough age anyhow. It may not be that she actually remembers her parents being together, and more that she wishes she did remember, wishes that she had parents who were married to each other like everyone else she knows (because kids have an annoying tendency to exaggerate) and just wishes life was other than it is. I know both my boys were hard work at that age, and they both made life hell for their stepdad.

And seriously, I don't see this as a reason to stay if it's right for you to go. I think your DSD's mom is making her daughter's life more difficult, which is in turn making your life more difficult... at what point do you say "enough is enough" and stop reacting to everyone else? You're a person with needs of your own, and it's OK to get them met.
post #13 of 33
Ceinwen, I think what your therapist said was inappropriate and her phrasing of what therapy for children/tweens consists of demonstrates a serious gap in knowledge. For lack of a better phase, that is a very "old school" view and not one generally accepted anymore.

JSMa, Your DSD is with her father four days out of the month and yet you wrote,
Quote:
...with DSD breaking down in tears out of nowhere saying how she missed her Mom and how she knows how much her Mom is missing her and she needs to go home...
It's not "our of nowhere." Surely you can see that, even if it's painful to acknowledge.


Quote:
Then she proceeded to tell DSD over and over again "it's okay to miss Mommy while you are here. I told you it's okay if you are sad and miss me."

Why is she telling her this?! Doesn't she see that is probably what is adding to DSD's stress?! *sighs*
She is easing her daughters stress by reassuring her that her very normal and natural feelings are okay.

Twice in this thread we have the idea that it is traumatic or not appropriate to help children name their feelings. The idea that children only have these feelings because clingly mothers implant them or because therapists traumatize them into do it has been long disguarded.

Children have every feeling adults do. However, they often lack the language to express them. For too long people have confused that with the child not having the feelings, please, let's put that idea to rest here.
post #14 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thisbirdwillfly View Post



She is easing her daughters stress by reassuring her that her very normal and natural feelings are okay.

Twice in this thread we have the idea that it is traumatic or not appropriate to help children name their feelings. The idea that children only have these feelings because clingly mothers implant them or because therapists traumatize them into do it has been long disguarded.

Children have every feeling adults do. However, they often lack the language to express them. For too long people have confused that with the child not having the feelings, please, let's put that idea to rest here.
A BIG :

ALWAYS acknowledge a child's feelings. They are his/her's and deserve to be validated and treated with respect and understanding. Even, if you (speaking in general terms) do not understand or agree with them.
post #15 of 33
Thread Starter 
I guess I should clarify...

It does appear out of nowhere... we could be in the middle of an art project and laughing, and she will suddnely burst into tears.


And... I have always validated her feelings, because I HATE when mine are not. I always say to her, "I am so sorry you are missing your Mom right now. I know she misses and loves you very much, but I also know she wants you to enjoy and have fun while you are here."

Her Mom never goes into the second part of that... I fully agree a person's feelings should be validated... but shouldn't a child also be comforted/reasssured that she is in fact also allowed to miss her Mom but still relax and have a good time at her Dad's without worrying about how much her Mom is missing her?
post #16 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by JSMa View Post
Her Mom never goes into the second part of that... I fully agree a person's feelings should be validated... but shouldn't a child also be comforted/reasssured that she is in fact also allowed to miss her Mom but still relax and have a good time at her Dad's without worrying about how much her Mom is missing her?
Absolutely. I even go as far as to tell my dd (my older dd, younger dd wouldn't grasp it yet) that while I'll miss her - I'll be out doing fun/busy grown-up things. We even call her dad mid-week (well, we do anyway!) to talk about what kinds of things they have planned for the weekend. For her, even being able to think/talk about going to the park, to visit her paternal grandparents, going grocery shopping, etc. gets her excited for the upcoming weekend. I think the onus is definitely on both parents to 1) validate 2) support and 3) help move on from any moments of sadness, etc.
post #17 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by JSMa View Post
I guess I should clarify...

It does appear out of nowhere... we could be in the middle of an art project and laughing, and she will suddnely burst into tears.
My daughter does this too occasionally. It's perfectly normal. Those feelings are there, and it's not "out of nowhere" for her even though it often seems like it to me. She'll remember something, or just be too tired/hungry/whatever to keep it inside like usual. (She's shy about her feelings--at least the ones she wishes she didn't feel. And has a strong tendency to internalize stuff for a long time before she lets it out. Like me.)

Quote:
And... I have always validated her feelings, because I HATE when mine are not. I always say to her, "I am so sorry you are missing your Mom right now. I know she misses and loves you very much, but I also know she wants you to enjoy and have fun while you are here."

Her Mom never goes into the second part of that...
Perfect response. While I personally always offer to help my DD call her dad or write him an email in those moments if the time difference makes it so she can't really call, I don't think you should given your DSD's mom doesn't seem to be really "getting it" (and won't/isn't saying the second half which is just as important if not more important than the first half).

Quote:
I fully agree a person's feelings should be validated... but shouldn't a child also be comforted/reasssured that she is in fact also allowed to miss her Mom but still relax and have a good time at her Dad's without worrying about how much her Mom is missing her?
Yes, of course. If she says something specific about her mom missing her, you could try adding something along the lines of "I'm sure she does, and it's normal to miss people you love when you're not with them, but she's an adult and will be just fine. It's not the kids' job to worry about their parents." (too wordy, but you get my drift, right?)

Perhaps combined with general talk (in other contexts, unrelated to missing her mom and NOT in the moment) about what kids' jobs are (go to school, follow safety rules, whatever is appropriate for DSD) vs. what adults' jobs are (go to work, make safety rules, etc.) can help because once she grasps that idea (that kids and adults have different responsibilities), then you could begin talking about how it's not her (or any kid's) job to take care of adults.

I don't know if it would help. (However, I do know that I've told my DD that it isn't her job to worry about either her father or I, or about how much time she spends with each of us; that that is a job for her father and I, and that if he and I can't agree we go see another adult (a judge) who'll help us decide. Her job is just to enjoy her time with each of us. It seems to help her to have been told that it is not her responsibility.)

P.S. I've gone so far as to invent fun grown-up activities to tell her I'm going to do/did that day when she asks me what I'm doing and I didn't do anything fun (just work--I often use her time with her dad to get oodles of work done with 18-hour days). Simply so she won't worry and to send the message "you can have fun too" without saying it.
post #18 of 33
Based on what you've said:
* Your husband's ex wants/needs/expects their daughter to panic about being away from her and to mourn the loss of her parents' marriage.
* She (the mom) is saying/doing things to influence the girl to feel this way.
* Left to her own devices, your step-daughter might not have felt this way at all.

If her norm since age 2 has been that her parents are divorced and she has "two homes", she absolutely could have accepted that easily. By now, she could feel just as happy about coming to see her dad as she is about going home to see her mom at the end of "his" weekends. You are right that the adults - with their discomfort and insecurity about their relationships - have communicated to her that she should feel anxious and dissatisfied.

I agree that the Mom's behavior sounds manipulative and detrimental. If the girl is independently expressing anxiety about visiting you guys, the truly supportive response from Mom (the one that actually teaches her daughter to cope positively with her situation) would be something like this: "You'll be just fine. Think of the things you've enjoyed doing with your dad and JSMa. What do you suppose you'll do this weekend? I feel so lucky that I get to spend all week with you. I bet your dad and JSMa have really missed you and can't wait to see you. They love you, too and your time with them is also important." - just like you would try to strengthen a child about going to school or play practice or any other place she claims she doesn't want to go. If instead Mom teaches her to count down until she leaves you guys; focuses on the girl's "sadness"; and burdens her with her own sadness - that is sabotage masquerading as compassion. The same with the albums of pre-divorce family photos. It's one thing to show your kid that she was conceived in love, and not to hide her baby pictures just because they include her dad. But there should be more emphasis on feeling positive and hopeful about her present and her future, than on mourning what has changed since her past. Parents are supposed to teach their kids to cope with change and thrive, not encourage them to get mired in regret and long for what they cannot have. Life isn't perfect, but you can still enjoy it!

The question is, what are you going to do about it? Your husband's ex will not change because you complain about this to her. If she is as manipulative as you describe, she will not want to help you solve the problem. Instead, she will feel vindicated to hear that her daughter acts out only at your house.

When my husband's ex had custody of their son and she did/said manipulative things to try to get the child to feel more attached to her than to his dad, their custodial evaluator said it was important that the child spend more time with his dad, to counteract the messages from his mom. Now my husband has sole custody. Is that what you want? Because frankly, it sounds like the time you already have with your step-daughter causes you a lot of consternation and you're not sure you even want to stay married to her father. So, do you want to pursue more visitation?

If you're not actually in a position to do anything concrete about the mom's problem behavior, what remains is to correct the problems at your house. It's good that you and your husband both make an effort to do enjoyable things with his daughter. And I get the sense that you do care about your step-daughter, enough to wish things were better. But it also sounds like:
* Your marriage is unstable and there's a lot of conflict and some lack of basic respect between you and your husband;
* You feel critical of many of his ex's parenting choices;
* Sometimes you feel burdened by what he expects you to do for your step-daughter, on top of raising your own child and working;
* Sometimes you feel like you don't even like your step-daughter; and
* You yourself seem to feel a lot of anxiety and use words like "terrified" to describe circumstances that warrant concern or second thoughts but not "terror".

It would be blind to believe that fun outings, art projects or board games keep your step-daughter from picking up on these things and, as a result, feeling stressed and anxious in your home. I am not excusing her mother. I'm sure her attitude is a contributing factor. But if you can't do anything about that, work on fixing what you and your husband do to make his daughter feel insecure.

As far as therapy, my step-son did it at that age and I think youngsters are RIPE to be manipulated by whatever parent takes them to therapy or whatever parent they spend more time with. Kids often "forget" things they really should have said to the therapist, because unlike adults, grade-schoolers don't go through life thinking, "Oh! This is something it would be helpful for my therapist to know! I'll make a mental note to tell him at my next session!" I think it's better for the adults to correct their own problems and the kid will often even out as a result. Sometimes adults use putting the kid in therapy as an excuse to stay mired in their own status quo, while obsessing about the kid's therapy and fixing him/her.
post #19 of 33
Thread Starter 
So it sounds like there isn't much else I can do for this little girl...


I am working on me, I'm in two different counseling programs, as well as support groups.

I have accepted that I cannot change my H, nor is it my responsibility. I have accepted I cannot change DSD's Mom.

I guess I now have to face and accept I cannot help DSD in ways I would like either, because when it comes down to it, I have no responsibilty for her either.

I can work as hard as I can to make our house life more pleasant... but until H gets into his own counseling, it won't make much of a difference, the undercurrent will likely stay there till he gets into counseling and starts his road to recovery as well... or I leave...

If I leave... DSD will still be in the same predicament, except she will lose one of her biggest advocates.
post #20 of 33
In your situation, I'd have a conversation with DSD's mom. Your Dh isn't about to win any 'father' of the year' awards, and even if he's being 'good' right now, the pattern is pretty well established in this little girl's mind. Perhaps if you can talk to her mom and the two of you can support dsd, you can ask her to be really positive, and voice concerns you have, as well as vocalize an understanding of why your dsd might be anxious there you may begin to work cohesively to make it easier for her, evenwhen her dad isn't being so 'good'.

Efectively, you know that the stress level in your home is through the roof, think about how tjhat is impacting this little girl. I'm sure her mom is well aware of who her ex is (she had the sense to leave him, right, obviously, she doesn't think he walks on water) and has her own struggles about sending her child to spend time with him.

There's a huge amount of damage to undo here, and you ren't going to fix it alone. A therapist might be a great idea for her, but until her father decides to prove to her, and to everyone else around him that he's willing to be a reasonable adult, she will still be stressed, anxious, and want the respite and relative safety of home and mom.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Mom › Parenting › Blended and Step Family Parenting › Anyone have experience with kids in therapy due to divorce?