Need advice on DSD...can't take direction, guidance, criticism, initiative, resilience, cope... - Mothering Forums
Preteens and Teens > Need advice on DSD...can't take direction, guidance, criticism, initiative, resilience, cope...
Megamum2008's Avatar Megamum2008 03:12 PM 07-10-2009
Ok, so this issue has escalated and I wonder if anyone has any advice/thoughts...
My step-daughter is 12, going into high school next year, grade 8. She is a bright girl with a lot of issues, most of which I have no idea what to do about!
What brought me to write this post is her inability to cope with adverse situations. I have no idea what I can do to help her not 'lose it' completely when something doesn't go her way. If she wants spaghetti for dinner, she loses it when we have penne. If she tries to cook something and it doesn't turn out perfect, she throws a fit, cries, says she can't do anything right... Yesterday we had an issue with her baby brother. She was playing with him, and a puppy that we're looking after for the week came and jumped on her. She dropped the baby. I caught him, I did not get angry. I said whoops. She started screaming at me that she ruins everything, that we want her to be perfect and that all we do is get mad at her.
Now there are a lot of background issues at play here. I don't know how to handle her anymore. She takes it as a personal attack on her if I so much as ask her to put her shoes away. She says she can't do anything right, and storms off. It's like this with everything. Now her mother passed away 5 years ago, and she lives with me, her dad and her little brother fulltime. I've been in the picture 3.5 yrs. Since my arrival I have initiated a lot of changes in her life, ie. no tv in her room on 24 hrs a day, reading, eating 'real' food, lots of family and outdoor activites etc... but I feel like I came onto the scene too late. I can't undo the yrs of tv, packaged foods and zero responsibility she had before! She has always had every activity presented to her with no need for her to be creative or self-motivated, therefore she has no idea how to find ways to amuse herself...
Ok ramble ramble, I needed a little vent there. I hope this post makes some sort of sense. I just do not know anymore what to do with her, or how to help her. She is so capable but she gives up on everything before she even starts, in order to avoid making any sort of mistake...

PancakeGoddess's Avatar PancakeGoddess 05:46 PM 07-10-2009
hi megan,

I have only sons, and no step-children, but one book I can strongly recommend for this age and with these mood issues is (despite the regrettable title) Yes, Your Teen is Crazy, by Michael Bradley. He has a lot of good insight about the teenage brain and very good coaching about remaining matter-of-fact (which is SO KEY!) and respectful with them even when they seem to be making no sense. I think the title is meant to grab your attention, and what he's saying is that teens' brains really are not fully functioning the way we'd like to assume, but I do wish he'd had the foresight to realize how many already-respectful parents he would alienate with that title. I am here to say, though, that his advice IS very respectful of teens - he is all about self-examination for parents alongside setting limits.

Amy
Emerging butterfly's Avatar Emerging butterfly 06:07 PM 07-10-2009
Hi there...

You might want to read "Reviving Ophelia" by Mary Pipher. I don't have a daughter, but gave this book to my neighbor whos teen daughter developed borderline personality disorder around the age of 13 (read "walking on eggshells" for that...) I had read the book myself as a 19 year old, because I wanted some insight into myself...it is really wonderful.

In addition to those reading options, it really sounds like your step-daughter is dealing with depression, and the natural greif that would come from loseing her birth mother...even though you sound like a wonderful mama, she can't help but to feel the loss at a deep level. She is in the early stages of puberty, and her emotional well being would be teetering regardless of any trauma, so to add a baby brother in her newish family without her mom, and you have the ingredients for her to feel down on herself, worthless, angry, emotional and basicly totally in upheavel.

I would look around for a good, reccomended, therapist that is adept in dealing with teen girls who are copeing with grief, displacement, and puberty in general. Not all therepists are created equal, so ask a lot of questions.

Good luck with your girl.

tinybutterfly's Avatar tinybutterfly 08:45 PM 07-10-2009
I can't imagine how incredibly difficult it must be for her to have lost her mom. That is HUGE.

Going through puberty can be difficult. Add that on top of the loss of her mother and I can see why she would be having a rough time.

Undoing years of t.v. dinners, packaged foods, activities presented to her, etc. is not even the main issue here. She is probably hurting very badly from the loss of her mother.

Here is a link to a couple of books that might help.

http://www.voanews.com/english/archi...ate=2006-05-12

I know there was one written several years ago that was very good, but I can't remember the name of it.

Would therapy be possible for her to deal with her grief and whatever issues she is dealing with?

It sounds like this is difficult for both of you.
Megamum2008's Avatar Megamum2008 07:08 AM 07-11-2009
Thank you for your replies. You're right, she does have so many issues that have not been properly addressed since her mom passed away. I tried to steer my post away from that topic, but it's all interrelated. And that probably is the big underlying issue here.We talk a lot, she is super open with us, but I really think a therapist would help. My DH I think has hangups on therapy or something... I've tried to convince him and he seems to think it unnecessary or a failing on our part or something. I shouldn't let his hangups get in the way of getting her help though, and I know she needs it. There are some things I can't help her with. On that note, any tips on finding someone good? DH took her to the doctor awhile back as she was getting anxious a lot, but she of course got wait-listed to see a psychiatrist in a few months. She saw someone as sort of an intro/assesment and was so so miserable after... I'd rather find someone who will just talk with her to help her, but we don't have money for a private therapist... I'll look into this!

Thank you for the book ideas, I've noted down those names and will ask the library for them. Gotta go to bed, but thank you ladies, I feel like we're getting towards the right track!
Dar's Avatar Dar 07:52 AM 07-11-2009
Twelve is such a hard year for girls anyway, too... the hormones swirl, and a lot of times the girls themselves don't understand why they're having such strong feelings about some things. I know my daughter didn't.

I might try to enlist her in this one... some time when she seems calm and not upset. You coud tell her that it's normal for 12 year old girs to feel really strong emotions sometimes, so strong that the girls themselves don't understand why they're feeling this... I mean, she logically knows penne vs. spaghetti is not worth getting upset over, but she's still *feeling* the upet. If it can be the two of you working together to overcome this, it might work better.

For a time Rain and I had a "code word" for situations in which I thought she might want to take a step back, take a deep breath, and look at her response to a situation and see if it was really such a big deal. That kind of helped. You could also talk to her about what she wanted at times when her emotions were so strong - wwas it better if she could have some time to herself to regrup, or does she want you close to her?

It sounds like perfectionism is an issue, too, so I would try to model making mistakes, and maybe find some sort of mantra to start saying when mistakes are made (by anyone). Sometimes it helps kids to actually have those sorts of words to anchor themselves to - like "Make mistakes and move on" or "everyone makes mistakes" or whatever... but hearing the same thing every time can be grounding.

It sounds like she might also benefit from some sort of relaxation exercise... yoga, deep breathing, whatever... you could even share what works for her. It sounds like her anxiety level is pretty high, and when you're already operating that way it doesn't take much to set you off.

Amusing herself seems to be a whole other issue, and I'd tackel one at a time.

And really, it gets better, IMO... 11 and 12 were so hard, 13 was sometimes hard, 14 and up have been much better. Really, a lot of it is hormones gone crazy...

Dar
*Eva*'s Avatar *Eva* 02:11 PM 07-11-2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by Megamum2008 View Post
Thank you for your replies. You're right, she does have so many issues that have not been properly addressed since her mom passed away. I tried to steer my post away from that topic, but it's all interrelated. And that probably is the big underlying issue here.We talk a lot, she is super open with us, but I really think a therapist would help. My DH I think has hangups on therapy or something... I've tried to convince him and he seems to think it unnecessary or a failing on our part or something. I shouldn't let his hangups get in the way of getting her help though, and I know she needs it. There are some things I can't help her with. On that note, any tips on finding someone good? DH took her to the doctor awhile back as she was getting anxious a lot, but she of course got wait-listed to see a psychiatrist in a few months. She saw someone as sort of an intro/assesment and was so so miserable after... I'd rather find someone who will just talk with her to help her, but we don't have money for a private therapist... I'll look into this!

Thank you for the book ideas, I've noted down those names and will ask the library for them. Gotta go to bed, but thank you ladies, I feel like we're getting towards the right track!
What about having her see the school social worker/counselor? If you're just looking for someone for her to talk to and not get any actual medical input from, that would be a good option. Its free too .
Cherie2's Avatar Cherie2 04:29 PM 07-11-2009
in our area there is an organization called courageous kids for kids that have lost somebody. it is free and they do camps and get togethers. i wonder if there might be something similar where you live.
mom2ponygirl's Avatar mom2ponygirl 05:01 PM 07-11-2009
Along with all the other great suggestions, I wonder if a book on perfectionism might help as well.
http://www.amazon.com/What-When-Good...7338484&sr=8-1
This one looked interesting and at an appropriate level.
Another one I saw:
http://www.amazon.com/Letting-Go-Per...7338484&sr=8-8
Megamum2008's Avatar Megamum2008 12:54 AM 07-14-2009
Hi, thank you for your replies! We went away for the weekend, hence my absence from mothering...
So last night DSD and I had a bit of a breakthrough of sorts, it felt like. We were baking cookies, she was in a great mood, as she was super excited about going to visit family in another town today. As usually happens when she's in a really great mood, she crashed the other way, hard. I think what set her off was bouncing on the exercise ball into the fridge. She didn't hurt herself, but she colapsed onto the floor in a fit of 'I'm so stupid, can't do anything right, all I ever do is make mistakes' ranting... Now usually I'd tell her no, you're wrong, don't talk like that... try to make her feel better, which usually makes her mad eventually that I'm not agreeing that she's an idiot (though I think she does that in order to get me to tell her she's not)... Anyhow, this time I just laid down on the kitchen floor with her, left the cookies unmade, let her get it out. She went from ranting about making mistakes and messing up, to crying, bawling. I didn't say much, and eventually she said she felt better and we went back to the cookies. We talked about having a mantra for making mistakes, and she thought it was a good idea. We also talked about stepping back when we get overwhelmed and feel like we're going to lose it, and taking 5 deep breaths. We've been doing breathing exercises with her, and her and I do yoga together, but she insists that it doesn't help for her. It seems though, if she goes and take s5 deep breaths, by the time she's done that, she's usually forgotten why she was upset! Something in the counting I guess. I really like the idea of a code word to use when she needs to step back and reassess a situation. I'll try to introduce that idea soon.
Anyhow, it really seems like enlisting her in this is a good idea. Problem is she's now gone off for a week to visit other family, right when we were making some headway! The family she's visiting have a tendency to make her regress... her mom's twin sister still tells her 'mommy went on a long vacation'...
Ok, gotta go tend to baby brother. And I have a stack of books to ask the library about!
Thanks mamas
Cherie2's Avatar Cherie2 03:28 AM 07-15-2009
that is wonderful, i think its great that you just let her go there. have you read how to talk so children will listen? it makes a lot of sense that it felt good for her to go through it.
darcytrue's Avatar darcytrue 10:49 PM 07-15-2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by tinybutterfly View Post
I can't imagine how incredibly difficult it must be for her to have lost her mom. That is HUGE.

Going through puberty can be difficult. Add that on top of the loss of her mother and I can see why she would be having a rough time.
I agree. She is at that age where hormones are taking over as well and she is about to become a teenager and she will likely be moody and sensitive due to that. Add on her life experiences so far and that can't help any.
boobear's Avatar boobear 08:01 PM 07-21-2009
There's some great advice here. I have a 13 yr old DSD (almost 14), generally a good kid, very bright. I'd recommend a good family therapist for a few sessions if it's possible.

You never know what will help, here's some things that I've done/learned with my three girls.

What I've been learning, which may help, at this age is all about "will" and "counter-will". She needs to feel like she is making the decisions or she will say no to many of your requests. She will start to fight you on many things, and you may not even realize what you say or do that bothers her (or what builds up). My 13 yr old can't handle *any* sarcasm when she first arrives here (her stays with us are min 2 weeks to 2 months throughout the year). She comes from a very sarcastic environment and has expressed anxiety, rage and low self esteem because of it. We spend a lot of time talking about it, we have always had a great relationship.

Also, it shouldn't be "bad" to express one's self. If she is generalizing her negatively, stay calm, listen and then ask questions about what exactly makes her feel the way she does, help her narrow it down (she may not be able to say exactly what it is at first). My 8 yr old does similar things (I fought this for 2 years before I found a GREAT book, Scattered-below) and what I've found is that my reaction, to minimize anything negative and tell her positive things, actually caused more damage. My good intentions were belittling her emotions by not allowing her to express them to me. What I've done to help her get past the "hate" generalization is to narrow it down and then ask her what she could do to make it different (typically, there is always a way or light at the end of the tunnel). Guide her if she can't see what her choices are in the situation, or help her figure out how the future changes situations.

As far as her mother goes, I'm sure that's going to hurt her in ways one wouldn't understand unless it happened to them as well. Maybe a support group with other girls the same age would benefit her and make her feel less alone with those feelings.

One thing I try to do with my girls, is make each one feel special in some way as often as possible. If they don't feel loved and special by their family, they will eventually seek that feeling elsewhere.

Two fantastic books I've read (and found via other mdc suggestions) from an amazing doc who's very pro-family and not in a mainstream way, Gabor Mate, are:

Hold On to Your Kids

Scattered


fwlady's Avatar fwlady 02:33 AM 07-22-2009
I have a 14yo boy and a 12yo girl. He is a trial, and can be explosive, probably due to testosterone. She can be quite emotional. She cries easily, but tries not to. I can't imagine the turmoil your DSD is going through. I don't know why it would be considered a failure to turn to a therapist. She had a very life altering experience. Would your DH say no to a therapist if she had been attacked in some way, would he try to handle that at home too? I think maybe some logic would be a good way to go about getting him to agree. I think she is also depressed, and for good reason. And, you will probably not regret having her in therapy. I don't know what a psychiatrist would do for you at this point. That means medication, and she is too young for that. The side effects are worse than the cure.

I think lying next to her and venting with her was probably one of the best therapies. You are right about her wanting to hear you say that she isn't an idiot, but I think telling her what she is saying is wrong (and I know it is, of course she doesn't do everything wrong), is counter productive and feeding into it.

She can't wallow in self pity. So, after acknowledging her feelings, but only about the loss of her mother and having a stepmother, etc, it is time to distract, and send those energies into a better direction. This is why at psych places they have craft time about every day. Help her find her niche. I did a lot of cross stitch, crochet, and quilting as a teenager. I still use these things as "therapy", although childhood abuse isn't the issue anymore. LOL It is the stresses of life with many children, and no sleep. LOL I also like to write a lot, and she may enjoy something like that. I did poetry as a teen. When she does do that type of stuff, don't just praise her because you think she expects you too. She will know you don't mean it. But, praise her efforts, and she may try something else that she feels more talent at. Be her cheerleader, but not too much her friend.

Make sure the discipline and rules are enforced. It is more distressing for any child to have parents that walk on eggshells and don't feel confidant in their parenting. Even if you aren't confidant, just fake it. Tell her that you are doing this for her own good (whether it is about no TV, good healthy food, no dating at only 13yo, coming in before dark, etc), and stay consistant. Even if she is having a bad week. If you have done everything you can to explain briefly about rules and discipline, have her go in her room to journal, and join you when she is feeling better. She can't make the house miserable. Yes, she can vent, but in a reasonable tone that doesn't scare the baby, while you are both making dinner. YOu listen, she talks. It sounds like you do have a good relationship with her. But, we all need a time out sometimes. And, if that means you need one, then tell her, "I need a time out, we will talk in a little bit." And, then cont when you are both calmer.

Well, I haven't read a whole lot of books on these things, after initially becoming a parent. But, I have had some psychology classes in college, and some experience with my big brood. I think that much of it is about common sense. But, that is my parenting style. Kymberli
Megamum2008's Avatar Megamum2008 04:34 PM 08-01-2009
Well, I've not logged in in awhile! Thank you ladies for some really great replies. So much of what you say makes so so much sense! Right now I gotta go, but will keep you posted on our progress soon!
Megan
SuzyLee's Avatar SuzyLee 05:35 PM 08-01-2009
Often insurance covers therapy with a physchologist ("talk therapy"). I know my insurance (blue cross blue sheild) has like a 20$ copay per visit with a therapist which is very reasonable. So check into that.

Honestly, it doesn't sounds super abnormal. Maybe a little worse than the average 12-13 year old, but not off the charts.
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