I have a new 9-year-old step son that seems to have every behavior quirk and tick in the book. He has a severely self-restricted diet and will often refuse to eat entirely. He has major problems with emotional outbursts; he throws toddler-like tantrums and is sometimes violent. He has a complete lack of regard for other people's space/belongings, which I mostly attribute to being an only child so far and not being taught how to act. He is diagnosed as ADHD and medicated day and night. His meds have been adjusted several times in the past year, and he does seem to be on a dosage that works best for him (for now). He also sees a counselor once every two weeks, and it's difficult to say how helpful those sessions have been.
We have him 50% of the time, and have been working HARD to approach his behavior problems with gentle parenting and some discipline (time outs when he really goes overboard). I've been researching my brains out on child psychology and parenting methods/tools to try on him. Some have helped, others have not. When he's with his mom the other 50% of the time, he is allows to do/eat/watch anything he wants and there is no real parenting at work. She sees him as a "buddy" and lets him stay up too late, eat junk food for dinner every night, and even shows him the dating sites she is on. She is not at all supportive or cooperative in anything we have tried to do with him, and works hard to undermine his relationship with us (by talking bad about his dad and getting mad at him when she found out he had my phone number in his cell phone). Basically, it feels as though all the hard work we do is undone as soon as he goes back to her house. What's worse is that when he gets within a few hours of the hand-off, his behavior tanks severely. If there's a meal, he refuses to eat it because he knows he can have junk food when he goes back to her house, for instance.
I'm at my wit's end with this kid, and so is DH. We are expecting in September and although my step son is pretty thrilled to become a big brother, I worry a LOT about what it's going to be like. As a first-time mom, I want to be able to raise my baby in a loving, calm, healthy environment... and that does not exist while my step son is with us. I do not want to end up with TWO babies in the house, especially when one of them will be a 4th grader this fall. With a complete lack of support from his mom, how can we ever be effective in helping him improve and outgrow these behaviors?
I'd love to hear from anyone in a similar situation (with the other parent being uncooperative or even hostile)... either about how you cope to save your own sanity/blood pressure or practical tools to put into place to work toward a more peaceful household. Right now, it often feels like complete chaos when my step son is here, and it seems like we're all just watching the clock until it's time for him to go back to his mom's house. We try to make our time together a good mix of fun things and regular life stuff (chores, gardening, just hanging out around the house) but it doesn't seem to matter what the activity is. He will find a way to make it stressful, and this mama-to-be is losing it!