My DSS's are dirty--really, really dirty. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 44 Old 06-27-2008, 10:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I mean dirt dirty. Un-hygienic dirty.

I picked them up yesterday, and while I've been trying to turn a blind eye (and nose) to their lack of hygienic skills (ages 11, 9 and 6), I just couldn't yesterday. It was to put it bluntly, gross.

DSS-11 body chemistry is changing and while DH and I have had discussions with him in the past about taking better care of himself (particularly when he is at his moms) he's not following through. Now, I understand he is 11, but there is a certain amount, even at that age, of ownership one takes with their own hygiene. When I asked him when was the last time he took a shower--he couldn't remember.

The other boys were just as filthy gross. I mean, ear wax just bulging out of their ears, dirt on their faces, clothes that had been on their bodies for several days.

Compounding the issue is DH is working on a project and is coming home a couple of hours later than usual, so I'm picking up the boys....and let me tell you, the SMELL coming from the back of the van was well, it was nauseating. I practically held my breath the drive back to our house (only about 10 minutes, but still...LOL) and told them to hop right in the shower as soon as they got to our house.

Mom is apparently not helping with the reminders about cleanliness (fundamentals like bathing, tooth-brushing, etc) so how can we help the boys recognize that they need to be responsible for making sure they don't smell, their teeth don't rot, etc.? I know that the boys are not being told to bathe and they just are not doing it--these are really sweet boys.

(FTR, CPS was called on their mom back in December, I was told by DH for a dirty house, so she is on someone's radar--you would think (I know I would be) she would super-fastiduous about her kids and their hygiene)

Ideas?
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#2 of 44 Old 06-27-2008, 12:03 PM
 
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What a tough situation. I really feel for you and your DSSs. What kind of relationship does your DH have with their mother? Do they have a functional co-parenting relationship? It sounds like the boys are more than willing to bathe, brush, etc when reminded, but that she doesn't take the initiative to remind them. The first thing that should happen is that DH should have a conversation with his X. He should try very hard to keep any personal barbs out of it and simply talk to her about the health and social ramifications of her childrens' conditions. If that's not possible/probable, you could try their pediatrician. The two older boys are definitely old enough to have a private conversation with their doctor about this issue. Make an appointment under the guise of a check-up and have a conversation beforehand with the doc. And then, when the "check-up" part of the appointment is over (or during, if you or their dad isn't in the room), you vacate and let the doc talk one-on-one to the kids about cleanliness and hygeine and how it effects their health and social and family life. And then, it's up to you and DH to REINFORCE at home. Maybe make hygeine "fun." Involve the kids in picking out toothbrushes and toothpaste flavors, soaps, shampoos and bubblebaths, new clothes, etc. With the younger kid, you could try to make a game out of bathtime and brushing time. And with the older kids, I think it's perfectly appropriate for you to have frank (regular and respectful) conversations with them about cleanliness. Good luck to you!

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#3 of 44 Old 06-27-2008, 12:11 PM
 
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How about a school counselor? I know, I know, it's summer...but if they smell like that at SCHOOL...maybe the school can step in and talk to them.

I have to say though that my daughter, by the end of the day, looks like a walking mudball. To the point where I had to buy her brown clothes to play in, so that we don't have to worry about getting stains out! *sigh* For the younger ones...could it be that they LIKE to be dirty? My daughter, well, she LOVES to be dirty. She has FUN in the dirt and is comfortable in muddy clothes. I think my husband wouldn't notice if she wore them to bed and got up and went out in them again the next day, either! I personally put her in the tub at night, get out the jammies, and hand them to my dh, otherwise, she goes to bed in the same muddy clothes she took off right before her bath!
So...especially for those under 11...I think it might just take dad calling and reminding daily at just before bedtime that he wants them to take a bath/shower before bed. If mom isn't doing it...well, maybe dad should step in. Since he can't be there physically, perhaps a phone call will do. How often do you get them? Do they have clean clothes to wear at their house? It might make it difficult to put on clean clothes if they don't have them. If their mom had CPS called because the house is dirty, is it possible that they are low on clean laundry to boot, or do you think they're like my dd, and just love to be in "comfy" dirty clothes (*sigh*)?

If the laundry is an issue, perhaps you could give the boys laundry bags and bring their laundry to your house when they come and do it there? I know it's extra work, but it might be a way to help with the issue.

And...if they don't have a mother who has the time or makes the effort to care about their hygene...maybe having a dad who take the time and makes the effort even though he is not with them every day will make more of an impression than their smell (or lack thereof) on them. Sometimes pride of oneself comes from others showing us that we are worthy of that pride. Not that it SHOULD...but if "even their mother" doesn't have time for them... maybe that is part of the lack of pride issue. That, and they are just little kids, really, and little kids don't think"huh, I smell, I think I should bathe." They just don't.

Good luck with this.

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#4 of 44 Old 06-27-2008, 07:31 PM
 
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Oh, we are SOOOOO dealing with this same situation with DSD (almost 10yo). She comes to us looking like a ratted dog and can't remember the last time she had a shower.

What we have done is set up a routine for her at our house with taking a shower every night after dinner. She has to wash her hair every night because she has major dandruff issues. Then, she blow dries it herself.

We have sat her down and really discussed the importance of respecting her body by taking care of her hygeine. We talked about the fact that she is old enough to do this stuff on her own without anyone telling her she has to. That includes being at her mother's house.

DSD was very on top of this at our home, and we told her to continue it once she went to her mom's. Still she came back looking and smelling disgusting. We asked her what happened, and she said that her mother told her she is not ALLOWED to shower and wash her hair daily. : We just don't even begin to understand the logic there and the ex won't explain herself.

DSD was pretty upset over not being able to bathe daily. We told her that she should just continue to do it anyway, but she should just take care of it before her mother came home from work in the evenings. So, that is what she has been doing, and her mother apparently has no idea. That is how little attention is paid to her hygeine.

So, my advise would be to try to get them to be more proactive about taking care themselves--if they can do it all on their own. Your DH should also have a talk with his ex about the care of the children. The least she could do is to make sure they are clean and presentable when they come for a visit. Otherwise, I would be tempted to call for some investigating to be done into how well they are being cared for altogether.

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#5 of 44 Old 06-29-2008, 12:42 PM
 
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From the other side of the pond...

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Oh, we are SOOOOO dealing with this same situation with DSD (almost 10yo). She comes to us looking like a ratted dog and can't remember the last time she had a shower.
It was only about 1 1/2 - 2 years ago when my daughter (now 14) would "remember" when she last showered/bathed. Until then it was "oh, a few days ago." Even though she showered/bathed every other day at a minimum.

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DSD was very on top of this at our home, and we told her to continue it once she went to her mom's. Still she came back looking and smelling disgusting. We asked her what happened, and she said that her mother told her she is not ALLOWED to shower and wash her hair daily. : We just don't even begin to understand the logic there and the ex won't explain herself.
I don't know how it is where you live (or Mom, really), but I have to pay for water. I have one who will happily stay in the shower for 30-40 minutes at a stretch, and often wants to shower 2-3 times a day. Uuuuh, no - he's not ALLOWED to have three 30 minute showers a day as I will go broke in short order. I'll go with one long shower - the others are to be quick in & outs. But, I could see a kid saying he's not ALLOWED to shower daily as a result. Doesn't make it true.
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#6 of 44 Old 06-29-2008, 04:12 PM
 
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From the other side of the pond...

It was only about 1 1/2 - 2 years ago when my daughter (now 14) would "remember" when she last showered/bathed. Until then it was "oh, a few days ago." Even though she showered/bathed every other day at a minimum.
Yeah, I realize she can't remember things clearly all the time, but she would remember if it had been the night before. It wouldn't be an issue at all if she appeared to have bathed within the past day or so. kwim

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I don't know how it is where you live (or Mom, really), but I have to pay for water. I have one who will happily stay in the shower for 30-40 minutes at a stretch, and often wants to shower 2-3 times a day. Uuuuh, no - he's not ALLOWED to have three 30 minute showers a day as I will go broke in short order. I'll go with one long shower - the others are to be quick in & outs. But, I could see a kid saying he's not ALLOWED to shower daily as a result. Doesn't make it true.
This I understand also. We pay for water, and I limit her shower time if she doesn't want to take a bath. She has 15mins in there and that is plenty. Problem solved.

Also, DSD really MUST wash her hair daily because she has hit puberty and the oil and dandruff issue is bad for her. She is being made fun of at school by friends. Her mother has told her that she is only allowed to wash her hair every other bath, but every other bath is really only washing her hair once a week there.

We think the real reasoning behind all of this is that her mother often takes the kids out at night to church things, dinner, movies, etc. and there probably is not enough time for full baths every night if she waits until her mother gets home after 7pm when she has to be in bed at 9pm.

This is what DH is having a major issue with about it. It is not being made a priority to take care of her hygeine. This is especially upsetting because DSD is being made fun of about it, and her mother is taking care of the issue. kwim

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#7 of 44 Old 06-29-2008, 04:52 PM
 
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try tea tree oil for the dandruff. I know that's totally off topic, but it really helps. Mix four/five drops in with the shampoo and leave it sit for a few minutes. Rinse. SHould help within a week or two pretty significantly...or if you have access to Paul Mitchell products where you live, Paul Mitchell has "Tea Tree" shampoo and conditioner. They have a permanent spot in our shower.

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#8 of 44 Old 06-29-2008, 08:40 PM
 
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I think that you should think about taking the kids. I think that if the mother is that careless about hygene, what else isn't she doing? Are the kids eating? Sleeping? Doing homework during the school year? For the kids to be as gross as you are saying, there must be bigger problems as well.
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#9 of 44 Old 06-29-2008, 09:33 PM
 
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try tea tree oil for the dandruff. I know that's totally off topic, but it really helps. Mix four/five drops in with the shampoo and leave it sit for a few minutes. Rinse. SHould help within a week or two pretty significantly...or if you have access to Paul Mitchell products where you live, Paul Mitchell has "Tea Tree" shampoo and conditioner. They have a permanent spot in our shower.
Thanks! I actually do use the PM Tea Tree products. I will have to buy her some or just add it like you suggested.

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#10 of 44 Old 06-30-2008, 12:26 AM
 
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Glad to help. It would stink to be a teen, with all the "stuff" that comes along with that, and have bad dandruff on top of it.

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#11 of 44 Old 06-30-2008, 04:30 AM
 
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Thanks! I actually do use the PM Tea Tree products. I will have to buy her some or just add it like you suggested.

For the kids, we just add a bit to their regular shampoo, much cheaper We add it to our lotion too!
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#12 of 44 Old 06-30-2008, 08:54 AM
 
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I think different parents have different standards on hygiene. DSD's mom has never been big on it (probably because DSD puts up a fight about toothbrushing, flossing, hair washing and brushing). She used to always be really dirty by the time her week at her mom's was done, and sometimes she didn't even take a bath there. DF is the only one that clips her nails, gets her hair trimmed, etc. DSD's sister also wasn't big on hygiene - she would wear the same clothes all weekend when she visited our house. Since she started menstruating, it's been a big change, though. She even showers sometimes when she is with us.

Lately it has been a little better with DSD, but I don't know what has changed. Possibly swim lessons on Wed night, so she gets a shower two days before she comes over.

When DSD was 3, he did mention it to her mom, and she was really upset. I think she felt pretty bad about it, and DSD looked cleaner for a bit. He hasn't said anything lately, due to other things that have taken precedence in their conversations. Once the parenting agreement is filed, I think he'll feel more comfortable about bringing things like that up.

We've just tried to make hygiene a habit when DSD is here (bathe regularly, brush teeth every morning and every night - no exceptions), hoping it would sink in.

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#13 of 44 Old 06-30-2008, 10:43 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, personally I also worry more about the boys mom is NOT doing as well.

DH and I have had a long talk the boys about their hygiene habits (or lack thereof) and it seems to have made an impression, we'll see how it pans out in the coming weeks as far as what has been followed through upon.

DH is also planning on discussing this with their mom as well this week, and if history is any indication, that will go over as well as a turd in a punchbowl.

We'll see.
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#14 of 44 Old 06-30-2008, 02:32 PM
 
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for dandruff, you also may want to check for allergies, around here, it's a marker for being fed food dd are allergic to.
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#15 of 44 Old 06-30-2008, 05:49 PM
 
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how are the children otherwise? DO you think that they are well taken care of aside from this?
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#16 of 44 Old 06-30-2008, 10:49 PM
 
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We've made it a habit to have dss hop in the shower as soon as he gets home. Both our boys are 11 now and with the onset of puberty, they stink! So, it's a must for showers and smelling pleasant. I hope you get something worked out with the mom, that's really irresponsible.
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#17 of 44 Old 06-30-2008, 11:24 PM
 
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DH is also planning on discussing this with their mom as well this week, and if history is any indication, that will go over as well as a turd in a punchbowl.
Not to get OT, but :

It's good that he is talking to her about this. It will be hard to find a way to say it without making her feel attacked, but the more gently he says it, the better her response will probably be. Maybe something in the "I noticed the boys have been really stinky lately, have you? Maybe we should both try to be more diligent about reminding them to shower and change clothes" vein. If he approaches it as a shared problem that they can solve together rather than accusing her of neglect, she might respond more favorably. DF uses this approach sometimes, and it seems to work for him.

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#18 of 44 Old 07-01-2008, 10:28 AM - Thread Starter
 
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how are the children otherwise? DO you think that they are well taken care of aside from this?
Eh, not so much. Our standards are pretty high though when it comes to things like personal appearance, nourishment and education. As the years go on, I'm sure we'll be seeing a shift in custody....
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#19 of 44 Old 07-03-2008, 08:34 PM
 
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You could have the kids go to the store and chose deoderant (for the older one), and soap and such, and they can bring them to their mom's house.
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#20 of 44 Old 07-04-2008, 12:44 AM
 
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I like jjawn's suggestion. When I was in the same age range as your stepsons my mother had a mental breakdown. Showering/bathing would have meant that there had to be:

* a lightbulb that actually worked in our bathroom
* a gas account that wasn't delinquent for hot water
* soap
* shampoo
* towels that weren't molding on the floor

Yes, you can explain hygiene to a kid in the 6-12 age range, but if the mother is decompensating then the kids might be overwhelmed with just trying to get by as best as they can, period. Hygiene takes a backseat when you're that age and you're trying to get basic food, Mom's attention (good or bad), fumble through school, etc.

Offer to buy them the supplies they need, and send them home with backpacks with new towels, soap, shampoo. See what happens. That will tell you a lot about what's going on at their mom's house. But don't guilt the kids--don't make them MORE responsible for their hygiene than their mother should be. It hurts emotionally to have that burden placed on your shoulders at that age.
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#21 of 44 Old 07-04-2008, 11:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I like jjawn's suggestion. When I was in the same age range as your stepsons my mother had a mental breakdown. Showering/bathing would have meant that there had to be:

* a lightbulb that actually worked in our bathroom
* a gas account that wasn't delinquent for hot water
* soap
* shampoo
* towels that weren't molding on the floor

Yes, you can explain hygiene to a kid in the 6-12 age range, but if the mother is decompensating then the kids might be overwhelmed with just trying to get by as best as they can, period. Hygiene takes a backseat when you're that age and you're trying to get basic food, Mom's attention (good or bad), fumble through school, etc.

Offer to buy them the supplies they need, and send them home with backpacks with new towels, soap, shampoo. See what happens. That will tell you a lot about what's going on at their mom's house. But don't guilt the kids--don't make them MORE responsible for their hygiene than their mother should be. It hurts emotionally to have that burden placed on your shoulders at that age.
OOOh boy. You just touched on a subject that I've been afraid to put more thought into. Their mom is just a hair away from unreality, and I've heard that hygiene (for themselves and those they care for) is one of the first things to notice...

Argh.
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#22 of 44 Old 07-07-2008, 09:38 AM
 
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I have been thinking about this post and want to encourage you to be kind to the boys about this matter. They are young and still learning. I hope you do not tell them they smell and make them feel bad about themselves. Please be kind in how you speak to them about this personal issue.

I think you should support them and ask them to bathe at your house, and you should also look into teaching them about laundry and helping them with laundry during visits. I knew a man in college who had a lot of odor and he had never learned to do laundry, he relied on his girlfriend and was wearing unwashed clothes that stank. Many people told him to bathe but bathing didn't help, it was the clothes.

Again, I think that if you say 'you stink' it's an incredibly damaging thing to say and they will feel shunned and rejected so please be as positive and supportive as you can.

It sounds like you are also really negative about their situation with mom, again, try to be positive but realistic. I'd also look at the fact that different people have different standards, and if you are a bathe every day person and she's a bathe 2x a week person, it's not about being right or wrong philosophically..... it's about getting the kids basic needs met. Do whatever you can to support the kids.
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#23 of 44 Old 07-07-2008, 10:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I have been thinking about this post and want to encourage you to be kind to the boys about this matter. They are young and still learning. I hope you do not tell them they smell and make them feel bad about themselves. Please be kind in how you speak to them about this personal issue.

I think you should support them and ask them to bathe at your house, and you should also look into teaching them about laundry and helping them with laundry during visits. I knew a man in college who had a lot of odor and he had never learned to do laundry, he relied on his girlfriend and was wearing unwashed clothes that stank. Many people told him to bathe but bathing didn't help, it was the clothes.

Again, I think that if you say 'you stink' it's an incredibly damaging thing to say and they will feel shunned and rejected so please be as positive and supportive as you can.

It sounds like you are also really negative about their situation with mom, again, try to be positive but realistic. I'd also look at the fact that different people have different standards, and if you are a bathe every day person and she's a bathe 2x a week person, it's not about being right or wrong philosophically..... it's about getting the kids basic needs met. Do whatever you can to support the kids.
We are EXTREMELY kind to our boys, especially with regards to this situation, thank you.

There comes a time when just being "kind" is not going to get their bodies to stop smelling from lack of bathing habits, that's where being a responsible parent comes into play and you start the guiding process of showing your children what is acceptable and what is not (particularly personal hygiene).

If mom is not going to step up and ensure her kids are clean and hygienic, I guess it's up to us to ensure that good grooming habits are established.
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#24 of 44 Old 07-07-2008, 10:39 AM
 
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Another idea is to have several sets of clothing for them at your house, so you can wash the clothing that they bring over. It's not going to fix everything but it can provide some help.
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#25 of 44 Old 07-07-2008, 10:41 AM
 
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If mom is not going to step up and ensure her kids are clean and hygienic, I guess it's up to us to ensure that good grooming habits are established.
Yes it is up to you, and that's OK. As long as the kids get what they need, I don't think it matters which parent it comes from.
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#26 of 44 Old 07-07-2008, 11:38 AM
 
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We are EXTREMELY kind to our boys, especially with regards to this situation, thank you.

There comes a time when just being "kind" is not going to get their bodies to stop smelling from lack of bathing habits, that's where being a responsible parent comes into play and you start the guiding process of showing your children what is acceptable and what is not (particularly personal hygiene).

If mom is not going to step up and ensure her kids are clean and hygienic, I guess it's up to us to ensure that good grooming habits are established.
And it isn't just about grooming habits. It is about teaching them to love and care for themselves, and that can directly influence their self-esteem. That love for themselves is something I find particularly important because it needs to be instilled young to avoid many of the pitfalls in life that come from not respecting yourself or your body.

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#27 of 44 Old 07-07-2008, 11:57 AM
 
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I feel like I'm posting too much now, but I wanted to add that it sounds like more of the life skills training is going to fall on your shoulders if the boys' mom is not with it. Helping kids learn to care for themselves so they are competent adults is so important -- the basics like being able to cook and clean and take care of yourself in adult life. I had a loving mom who didn't teach me, she preferred to do it all herself. I think it's a great thing to teach kids and let them practice, etc.

I'm sorry that the boys' mom is not pulling her weight. I think these lessons are one of the greatest gifts you can give the kids. My boys are little so I don't know exactly how you teach these skills but I'm sure other mamas here are doing it and have ideas for what's fun and educational. But stuff like having the whole family make a spaghetti dinner together with different tasks for everyone, etc.

Also the all-important life skills of money management.
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#28 of 44 Old 07-27-2008, 12:29 PM
 
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You mentioned the CPS being called for a *dirty house* issue... is there any chance there is actually a squalor/hoarding situation in the home? Lack of hygiene and continually dirty clothes is sometimes a symptom of this- along with all kinds of other potential related issues.
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#29 of 44 Old 07-28-2008, 11:46 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Crystal Pegasus View Post
You mentioned the CPS being called for a *dirty house* issue... is there any chance there is actually a squalor/hoarding situation in the home? Lack of hygiene and continually dirty clothes is sometimes a symptom of this- along with all kinds of other potential related issues.
Well, that's what we were told was the reason why CPS had been called, I don't know exactly why as I wasn't there. However, the house is filthy and I believe that hoarding is an issue as well--there are piles (I am not exaggerating) throughout the house with "paths" meandering through it. It's horrible and I can't see how anyone can live like that. I feel really badly for my step-kids though....
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#30 of 44 Old 07-28-2008, 12:11 PM
 
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Well, that's what we were told was the reason why CPS had been called, I don't know exactly why as I wasn't there. However, the house is filthy and I believe that hoarding is an issue as well--there are piles (I am not exaggerating) throughout the house with "paths" meandering through it. It's horrible and I can't see how anyone can live like that. I feel really badly for my step-kids though....
I'd be demanding custody of those kiddos asap! Seriously. And a psych eval for their mom! Holy Cow! Living like that isn't healthy for an adult and subjecting kids to it is really detrimental all around. If CPS has already been involved seems like it would be 'relatively easy' to get the kids, at least temporarily while she "cleans up her act".
My dad and stepmom got custody of me when I was 10, had to switch schools in the middle of the year and it was hard on everybody, but really for the best in the end and my mom was only mildly neglectful in comparison.
Good Luck!! I'll be thinking happy thoughts for all of you
Oh and if you can't get them soon please please teach them how to do basic things like laundry and how to make easy foods like fried/scrambled eggs, spaghetti, etc. The 2 older ones are definitely old enough to learn this kind of stuff and the younger one can help.

Former Nanny Extraordinaire, looking forward to being a Mama! treehugger.gif I love Organizing & being a Health & Wellness Coach eat.gif & I'm crunchy granola as long as it's organic and certified gluten free. GF since March '08 yummy.gif. Willoughby Nov '11  cat.gif TTC #1-still, again, some more, & seriously pondering adoption. 
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