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#1 of 6 Old 06-27-2012, 07:23 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi everyone,

 

There's a lot of background here, and it's some complicated so bear with me.  We recently obtained custody of my fiance's (J) 12 year old daughter (M).  M is a great kid, but she's been through a lot.  At 5, she (along with the family) were stranded in New Orleans following Katrina for a week until they were airlifted out.  Her real mother (J's ex) is an alcoholic, drank openly around the children, and developed Cirrhosis.  After J split up with the ex (she cheated on him), the ex moved around the country, living with whatever boyfriend she could find.  In the meantime, she told M vicious lies about her father so she wouldn't want to speak with him.

 

Things got worse when they settled in Michigan.  The alcoholic mom ceased taking care of the children, leaving basic care to her boyfriend and the boyfriend's parents.  M was either sharing an inflatable mattress with her mother (who smoked, drank and stayed up all night), or sleeping in the dog bed.  M had repeated bouts of lice, and was told to "comb them out herself".  Eventually, the mother's Cirrhosis progressed to full on Terminal Liver failure with Hepatic Encephalopathy.  There's plenty more to tell, but you get the picture.

 

We finally had enough evidence against her, and enough for a lawyer, stepped in, and won full custody in February of this year.  The mother had her other children removed from the household, and split to Hawaii, where she subsequently went on a giant drinking binge.  We have since learned (through solid sources) that her drinking has completely destroyed any chance she may have of extending her life.  She's in Hospice care there, doesn't know her name some days, and requires full time care.  The doctors have given her 3 months at the most.

 

We're lucky, because she's a great, well mannered, bright kid, and her and I have developed a close relationship.  She's adjusted well to her new school, and is getting mostly As, and has made some friends.  We've been very open with her about her mother's prognosis and what was making her sick (drinking).  We knew we had to keep it age-appropriate, but both J and I agreed that we had to tell her.

 

Now- since she has been here, she has not asked about her mother, nor has she spoken of her, even casual references.  I had a talk with her and asked her if she was ok with everything that was going on, her reply was "I'm fine with it.  She did it to herself."  I would expect a kid to have some emotion towards the news that a parent were critically ill, but then again, I've never been neglected the way she was.  Her mother called her a b***h, told her she was "so much like her father that she was a cancer to her"... I can't imagine saying these things to a child... I mean, really?

 

Here's what I need help with-  Since coming to live with us in January, she has been spending an unhealthy amount of time on the computer.  We've limited her to breaks between 11-1pm and 6-8pm.  Unfortunately, we do not have a lot of money for activities because we're still paying off the lawyer.  I tried coming up with some free activities, but she doesn't want to do any of them, even when given a choice.  She doesn't want any extracurricular activities from school, or elsewhere.  When she's on "break" from the computer, she goes up to her room, lies on the bed, and waits until the next time she's allowed on.

 

Her old household allowed this, mainly because she was undersupervised.  We know that it is not healthy, but her mother had her for 6 years, and she's had a lot of changes in her life... we want to take this one slowly as you can't change 6 years of built up habits in a day.

 

Personally, even though she says nothing is wrong, I think the amount of time spent on the computer is her trying to escape. (BTW, her online activities are Role Playing)  She makes a point of telling us she's tough and she never cries.... I think it's a show so she doesn't have to face reality.

 

How do I approach this?  I'll take any suggestions, insight, or comments.  I really love this little girl, and I just want her to be happy and healthy.  I volunteered for the position, but it's difficult to be a first time mom.... of a 12 year old, especially one with a rocky past.  I'm doing the best I can.

 

Thanks.

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#2 of 6 Old 06-28-2012, 06:24 AM
 
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I would give some serious thought to getting her into therapy. so that she has an univolved adult to speak with. It may be hard for her to open up to you for any number of reasons.

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#3 of 6 Old 06-28-2012, 07:13 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for your response.  We have thought about that, but there may be more harm than good going that route (at least right now- I do think therapy would be a good option for her)

 

Dad is Bipolar, and Ex-Wife used to tell the child all the time that she was "messed up like her dad", and that if she didn't behave, she'd be sent to "a shrink".  Ex-wife ingrained the threat of therapy as punishment.  (BTW, Dad is very stable)

 

It would take some time to convince her otherwise, but right now she sees any kind of intervention as punishment.  I don't know how to approach this- we've been very open with educating her that they're doctors, just like any other doctor, and that her dad has seen therapists, and I've seen therapists, and it doesn't mean that you're "bad", just that you need a little help.

 

Right now, she is opening up to me (which is good), but I'm not a therapist, and I've only been a mom for 5 months.  I'm afraid that if we send her to therapy, she'll see it as punishment for whatever she told me, and then she'll close off to everyone.  She's a very insular kid, slow to trust, and slow to open up.

 

Any thoughts on that, given the additional information?

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#4 of 6 Old 06-28-2012, 01:43 PM
 
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I imagine that if you give the therapist a heads-up about your concerns (how you believe DSD perceives therapy), the therapist could offer some ideas for preparing her for a session or ways to make the session more comfortable. Perhaps they could meet somewhere other than her office--maybe a couple of informal sessions at the food court at the mall to get to know each other and build trust, for example? OR on Skype since DSD is so comfortable with the computer? My DSD's therapist does Skype! Perhaps you could also start by having you and DH attend a therapy session with someone who can help you guys learn strategies for helping DSD adapt to your home.


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#5 of 6 Old 06-28-2012, 03:27 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Ladygardener View Post

Here's what I need help with-  Since coming to live with us in January, she has been spending an unhealthy amount of time on the computer.  We've limited her to breaks between 11-1pm and 6-8pm.  Unfortunately, we do not have a lot of money for activities because we're still paying off the lawyer.  I tried coming up with some free activities, but she doesn't want to do any of them, even when given a choice.  She doesn't want any extracurricular activities from school, or elsewhere.  When she's on "break" from the computer, she goes up to her room, lies on the bed, and waits until the next time she's allowed on.

 

 

 

Just as you set boundaries and when she must stop using the computer, you can require other things of her. The whole family doing things together can be required. She won't be the first 12 year old in history required to help bake cookies or play a board game winky.gif

 

I think helping her figure out how to feel OK while interacting with the world would be helpful to her. Setting up a basic daily and/or weekly schedule might help. For example, requiring that she help make dinner every night, fold laundry etc. Do all these things WITH her. It's not about getting to her *work,* it's about getting her out of her room and interacting. Put on some fun music and keep the conversation light. Set up certain points on the week that you do things together as a family, such as Thursday Night is Board Game Night and/or Saturday is Family Fun Day. (we often go for short hikes for our family fun, dollar movies are another option. Some families have a regular movie night and spend a dollar at Red Box.)

 

Doing things as a family or just as part of the week may be easier than getting her to do them, even though it ends in the same place. For example, if you decide that going to the library is a wonderful thing to do every week because you want to go get a book, and you just drag her along (even against her will) she may end up realizing that they have a cool teen section with Magna and such. Just taking her with you because YOU want to go may be easier than convincing her that she might like it once she gets there.  But sometimes, just telling rather than asking is more effective. "We are going to the library now" rather than "Would you like to go to the library?"

 

Does she know how to bake? This is something that has also been fun with my girls (who are now 14 and 15) and that your DSD may have mixed out on because the chaos. Sometimes doing things like making waffles from scratch or making pizza completely from scratch might be fun to her.

 

Encourage her to invite a friend over. This may not have been possible for her before, so it might be uncomfortable for her. Gentle teach her entertaining skills (you could start a thread looking for tips on hosting a sleepover on the Parenting a Teen board).

 

Talk to her about what she IS interested in. If that is League of Legends, then talk about what is going on for her in LOL. Ask her what YouTube videos she likes.

 

One of my favorite parenting tools, which you could do as a whole family or just you and her, is reading aloud. Pick a great book (The Hobbit might be a nice place to start) and read a chapter to her at bedtime. Besides helping to develop a love for the written word, sharing literature together is a gentle way to connect with another person.

 

Once school is in session, talk to the school counselor or social worker and see if they can do something to help. Some schools have systems set up to help kids who are opposed to help. My kids school has a Psychology class that is really more a self-help/group therapy session. You might see if her school offers support for kids who need it, but are opposed to it (which isn't an uncommon problem at this age). You might also check into Art Therapy. A licensed art therapist would feel completely differently to her than regular talk therapy. I can see why you want to tread softly in this area.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#6 of 6 Old 07-01-2012, 11:50 PM
 
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Though she might have unhealthy reasons for being on the computer so much, it's not that unusual for a kid her age to become obsessed with computers and online role playing games. So I would be sure to appreciate the value she gets out of her computer time, because it is something she chooses for herself, and you don't want to make her feel like you think she likes what she likes because she is sick in some way, or from a bad family. That said, I think it's a good move to put some boundaries on screen time so she has a chance to integrate and become involved in other activities that might help her heal, too.

 

My step kids have had some grief issues because their mother abandoned them. To me the number one most important thing has been experiencing a stable, loving, sane household, and time. Her feelings are bound to surface, but not until she's ready, and sees her way to expressing them. And it's ok for these things to take time. If she's been neglected as a young child, she may need to have some of her "baby" needs met- she might get really immature after a while, clingy and whiny. She also might get mad and start throwing scary tantrums. These things rarely appear as tear filled heart to hearts!

 

I second the idea of play therapy- you might not even have to call it therapy.


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