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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Long story, but just looking for some input. So my husband and I began dating when we were both stationed overseas together. He was divorced and had 2 kids that were still with their mom back in the states. After the divorce he still saw his kids frequently until he left to go overseas. He was able to go back and visit 3 or 4 times over the course of the 3 years we were there, and I met his kids once or twice, but didn't want to interfere too much with their time together. While we were stationed there, we had a baby together. Anyways, fast forward some, we got stationed back in the states a year ago, and started getting both his kids every weekend. They loved their new step sister from the moment they met her, so that has never been an issue. His ex has some issues, and because of this, only had custody of their son (6yo at the time). Her mother has had custody of their now 11 year old daughter since she was 3 or 4 I believe. Anyways, about 3 weeks after we got back last year, ex wife's mother calls him and says that she believes the son should be with us full time. He talked to his ex, and she was upset and angry, but said she wasn't going to fight. Obviously this was all a big change for all of us. He hadn't spent a lot of time with his son in 3 years, I had only met the kids a handful of times, and the son was used to living with his mom. When this first happened last year, he was 6 1/2 years old, and pretty much didn't do anything for himself. Didn't know how to tie his shoes, didn't wipe his own butt, didn't know how to take a shower by himself, get a drink, etc. We quickly started working on these things with him, and started to add in some small chores around the house. He has been very emotional the entire process, which is understandable. He doesn't understand the situation, and we are a lot more strict and structured that what he was used to. He still sees her every other weekend, but even after a year, he comes home every time crying and upset, saying that he just wants to live with his mom and wishes things were back to normal. He doesn't like that we don't help him with stuff, he thinks we are mean, etc. We don't want to badmouth his mother to him, so we just try to explain to him that we aren't mean, and that we do help him with things, we just don't do them for him. We are trying to teach him to think for himself, and figure things out himself. It was very obvious to us from the start that he has gotten 'too much' help, if that makes any sense. He couldn't even complete one page of very simple homework right. He didn't understand anything he brought home. we would read it to him, and it would be a 2-3 hour ordeal every night for him to do one little math sheet, or spelling sheet. Because he didn't understand it, and said that we weren't helping him (i.e. doing it for him). He has come a long way, and learned a lot. But we still have a lot of issues. The crying every time he comes home from his moms is not just a normal cry. It's all out screaming/crying "I want my momma." And it will go on for hours. We try to talk to him and he just closes down pretty much, and will only really say that he just misses her and wishes he lived with her. He goes to bed at 8:30 o'clock every night, and wakes up usually around 4:30/5am. we've told him not to get up before 6 on school days, because he needs more sleep. But he always wakes up that early. even on weekends. I think he is constantly anxious/worried/sad. He sees a counselor, but I still can't help but wonder if we're doing this right. I know this post is all over the place, and long. There's so much more I could add to it, but I don't want to write a book on here. Just looking for some input or ideas on things to try. He's getting in trouble at school for talking. He has a hard time with his homework every night. He just wont take the time to read it and do it right. He just does most all of it wrong, and then gets worked up and gets an attitude when we have him fix it, and when we try to help him. He's waking up way too early and I think he's worried about something, but he won't say what. He is a great kid, we just want him to think for himself. It seems that his mom babies him way too much still, and she doesn't seem willing to get on the same page as us. My husband has talked to her, and she just gets mad and says things about how he's her baby and she misses him and he wants to live with her, and things along those lines.
 

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Has he been evaluated for language, attention or learning disabilities?

I am all over the place on this and I'm going to focus on homework. I *hate* homework for kids this age. I don't think it's necessarily helpful or pedagogically appropriate. After being in school for six hours, kids need to run around and spend time with their families (if possible), ideally engaging in experiential learning (running around outdoors, exploring their own interests, playing with friends, participating in family activities like grocery shopping, cooking, folding laundry - even if it's just hanging around chatting while adults do stuff). (I acknowledge that this assumes a parent is home, and isn't always possible. It is not what happens at my house.)

Instead, there's homework. And kids hate and resist it. My very bright 8 yo has exactly those fits about the dang worksheets, and YES they would be done in ten minutes if he would just sit, and pay attention, and do them right the first time, but he never has, and it is going to take a lot more time and maturity before he does. We are down from 3 hours to 1 hour, with a weekly crisis over the reading response homework. It takes time.

It is not clear to me why custody has to be so either/or. DS's mom having him only on weekends allows her to basically avoid the work parts of parenting, while depriving you and your partner of the fun parts where you *don't* have to nag him about homework. Would it make sense to consider something more equitable than weekday/weekend, in support of DS seeing his mom more, his mom being able to spend more time with him, and you and your husband remaining involved?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Has he been evaluated for language, attention or learning disabilities?

I am all over the place on this and I'm going to focus on homework. I *hate* homework for kids this age. I don't think it's necessarily helpful or pedagogically appropriate. After being in school for six hours, kids need to run around and spend time with their families (if possible), ideally engaging in experiential learning (running around outdoors, exploring their own interests, playing with friends, participating in family activities like grocery shopping, cooking, folding laundry - even if it's just hanging around chatting while adults do stuff). (I acknowledge that this assumes a parent is home, and isn't always possible. It is not what happens at my house.)

Instead, there's homework. And kids hate and resist it. My very bright 8 yo has exactly those fits about the dang worksheets, and YES they would be done in ten minutes if he would just sit, and pay attention, and do them right the first time, but he never has, and it is going to take a lot more time and maturity before he does. We are down from 3 hours to 1 hour, with a weekly crisis over the reading response homework. It takes time.

It is not clear to me why custody has to be so either/or. DS's mom having him only on weekends allows her to basically avoid the work parts of parenting, while depriving you and your partner of the fun parts where you *don't* have to nag him about homework. Would it make sense to consider something more equitable than weekday/weekend, in support of DS seeing his mom more, his mom being able to spend more time with him, and you and your husband remaining involved?
We talked to his school about getting him tested, and they have begun the process, but from what his counselor has told me, it can be a very lengthy process going through the school. Can sometimes take up to 6 months to find anything out. We originally wondered if a learning disability was the case, but after starting a new school this year, we don't think that's the case. We think it is really just that he doesn't want to do it, so he doesn't try, or pay attention. It seems like his mom would just give him the answers before, because that's what he expects us to do, and when we don't do that, or we make him sound a word out, or make him check his math to see what is wrong with it, he instantly becomes mad and cries and says that we don't help him.


With the custody situation, you are exactly right. It makes us feel like the 'bad guys' because we both work, so during the week, it is pretty much homework, dinner, shower, bed. There's never much time for play or just to hang out together. That is one reason we have started keeping him every other weekend, so that we have the chance to spend time with him and do things together as a family. As far as giving him more time with her, it wouldn't really work out. She has to be at work earlier than he can be dropped off at school, and the few times we have asked if she would mind picking him up from school throughout the week, there has always been an excuse as to why she can't. And to be honest, it seems like it is just better for him to be with us right now. Up until about 6 months ago, he was still taking showers with her. He's 7 1/2 now, and when we learned that he still took showers with her, my husband had a talk with her and told her that he was too old for that. Just doesn't seem like more time with her would be best for him right now. Maybe down the road, if she were to really make an effort the get on the same page with us, that would be something we could look at, but for now we are trying to 'fix' for lack of better words, a lot of things with him.
 

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It might make sense to push bedtime back, take the hour as relaxing family time, and see how he deals. If he's waking up so early, it's hard to argue that he needs more sleep.

And it would give you time to do something, even brief, that was just fun.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
It might make sense to push bedtime back, take the hour as relaxing family time, and see how he deals. If he's waking up so early, it's hard to argue that he needs more sleep.

And it would give you time to do something, even brief, that was just fun.
We did try pushing it back for a week. We let him stay up until 9, and then until 9:30 he was allowed to read or do something quiet in his room, but he still woke up just as early. He says that he wakes up so early because he wants to say bye to his dad, who leaves for work around 5:30, but we've told him that isn't necessary. It's nice, but he won't go back to sleep after that, and then it makes the evenings harder, because when he's tired his attitude is really bad. If the waking up early didn't affect his attitude towards homework and his behavior at school so much, I don't think it would be that big of a deal. But I know you already understand the homework fun, so you can see where it just makes it harder. I mean, it's very simple stuff. After he reads a page in his book, I'll ask him to tell me 1 thing that happened, or that he just read about and instantly he's mad. "Ughhhh I don't know!" and getting an attitude and crying over it. And I explain to him that I just want to make sure he understands what he is reading, which just makes him more mad.
 

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But wait - he's expressing a real emotional need there. He wants to say goodbye to his dad. Who is exactly is that "not necessary" to?

The first week of any schedule adjustment is going to be rough, but I *really* think it sounds like this kid needs more time and attention, emotionally. Reading or playing in isolation isn't going to hit the spot.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
But wait - he's expressing a real emotional need there. He wants to say goodbye to his dad. Who is exactly is that "not necessary" to?

The first week of any schedule adjustment is going to be rough, but I *really* think it sounds like this kid needs more time and attention, emotionally. Reading or playing in isolation isn't going to hit the spot.
I agree. I didn't mean to make it sound like we just sent him to his room alone. We spent time together, usually just talking/hanging out and his dad usually lays in bed with him each night and reads to him before he goes to sleep. There are some nights when homework goes a lot quicker, and we do actually get to sit down and play a game together, or just laugh and play, but it is few and far between on weeknights. I think we will try with the later bedtime again and see if that helps his waking up early. I do understand that he wants to tell his dad bye, but when it is that early, and he won't go back to sleep afterwards, I just don't think it's a good idea for him to wake himself up so early. Maybe his dad could just go in there as he's leaving and give him a hug and kiss, while he is still in bed. maybe that will make him feel better, so I'll suggest that.
 

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How does he do at school? Not academically, but with doing things for himself.

Would he be in a better frame of mind to do his homework in the morning before school? I might be inclined to let him get up early and work on homework while he's fresh. Talk to the teacher about the amount of homework he's getting. They might be able to cut down on the volume a bit, or give you some insight on what he should focus most of his energy on. Mayb ehe can do the spelling sheet and skip the math one, but you get an app that helps him memorize his multiplication tables. He still learns what he needs to, but it's not all 'homework'.

When he does something for himself, it might be helpful to get him to reflect on how he feels. That sense of accomplishment doesn't last very long, he might need someone to point it out to him and help him focus on that, for the moment that it lasts. He may not be getting the full benefit from those feelings. When you have that sense in something you've done, really verbalize that more than you might normally, for his benefit. "I really didn't want to do the dishes but now the counters are nice and clean. Phew! I'm glad that's done!" It sounds a little funny out loud, but you probably do think stuff like that, right? He might not have learned to give himself that little bit of credit that, next time he can remember that feeling and use it to motivate himself.

There's probably not a lot you can do about the mom. She is going to be even less likely to make him do things for himself when her time with him is limited. She will want her time with him to be low-conflict. This is one of those frustrating 'consistency and time' will solve it problems.
 

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My kid just finally got an assessment at 14 and the test can identify things that aren't obvious. The 'instant recall' part of his memory doesn't function well, and what it looks like on the outside is, he just isn't invested and doesn't want to do the work. Try asking specific questions... "Was the car blue, red or orange?" or "Was the dogs name Bart, Den or Ralph?" and see if he can come out with those answers more readily.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
How does he do at school? Not academically, but with doing things for himself.

Would he be in a better frame of mind to do his homework in the morning before school? I might be inclined to let him get up early and work on homework while he's fresh. Talk to the teacher about the amount of homework he's getting. They might be able to cut down on the volume a bit, or give you some insight on what he should focus most of his energy on. Mayb ehe can do the spelling sheet and skip the math one, but you get an app that helps him memorize his multiplication tables. He still learns what he needs to, but it's not all 'homework'.

When he does something for himself, it might be helpful to get him to reflect on how he feels. That sense of accomplishment doesn't last very long, he might need someone to point it out to him and help him focus on that, for the moment that it lasts. He may not be getting the full benefit from those feelings. When you have that sense in something you've done, really verbalize that more than you might normally, for his benefit. "I really didn't want to do the dishes but now the counters are nice and clean. Phew! I'm glad that's done!" It sounds a little funny out loud, but you probably do think stuff like that, right? He might not have learned to give himself that little bit of credit that, next time he can remember that feeling and use it to motivate himself.

There's probably not a lot you can do about the mom. She is going to be even less likely to make him do things for himself when her time with him is limited. She will want her time with him to be low-conflict. This is one of those frustrating 'consistency and time' will solve it problems.
He's only in 2nd grade, so he really don't have too much homework. I did have a sit down with his teacher a couple months ago to talk about his behavior and she said she constantly has to remind him to do what he's supposed to be doing, or to read the board and follow the directions, things like that. With his homework, we get a list every Monday of everything. It's always the same. He has to read every night, and do a very short math activity every night, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays he has to do a spelling activity. As long as it is all turned in by Friday, his teacher does not mind so much what days he does what. So on days that he gets done quicker with 1 activity, we will ask him if he wants to do something else so he can get a head start. Usually he wants to, but if he doesn't, we don't make him.


I think we could definitely do better with 'applauding' him when he's done something. And it goes in waves. He has definitely learned to do a lot in the last year with us. I mean, when he first came to live with us, I was taking him to school one day, and he walked out of his room and asked me to help him get dressed. And not to sound like I'm just brushing him off, but I've also got a 2 year old to get ready in the mornings, plus myself, I told him you are old enough to dress yourself. You'll go to school naked or you'll figure it out. He figured it out! haha But really, I think he is just so used to having things done for him, that he doesn't want to try to do things for himself. But like I said, he's gotten a lot better. The other day his mom was picking him up and his shoe was untied, and she said "here baby, let me tie your shoe for you" and he told her that he could do it, to which she got irritated and told him that he is just stubborn and wont ever let her help him, and he looked at me and looked kind of irritated that she wanted to tie his shoe for him. So he's come a long way in that aspect. I think she has a negative attitude that doesn't help him out. We've tried to tell her to encourage him to do these kinds of things for himself, and to be happy about it. But she just sees it as her baby 'turning into a man' as she says.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
My kid just finally got an assessment at 14 and the test can identify things that aren't obvious. The 'instant recall' part of his memory doesn't function well, and what it looks like on the outside is, he just isn't invested and doesn't want to do the work. Try asking specific questions... "Was the car blue, red or orange?" or "Was the dogs name Bart, Den or Ralph?" and see if he can come out with those answers more readily.
I'll try that. I'm now even more curious to see if tests find anything. A lot of times I ask him something, whether it's related to something he read, his homework, something I just told him, etc, he says he can't remember. And I always assume it's just because he didn't actually pay attention. But maybe it could actually be something. I just thought I'd get some ideas and thoughts from other parents on some of the issues, and see if this is normal stuff or not. I've been around kids my whole life, and babysat since I was young, but it's a lot different when you become a parent overnight to a 6 year old who you don't really know. Its been challenging for sure, especially with his 11 year old sister, who brings along a couple other completely different challenges, and a 2 year old in the mix.
 

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Oh I totally understand needing them to help by doing the things they are cpapable of, most of the time. At one point I had a fight both ways... my little one wanted to do everything herself but needed help and the older one was perfectly capable but didn't want to... argh! They both went through a phase around his age where they weren't getting ready for school and it wasn't until the 7 year old was on the porch in their jammies that they suddenly saw the importance of getting dressed. Some of this is just what all kids go through.

It is nice to have things done for you, that you are capable of, sometimes. I know you do a lot for him, and I'm not trying to imply anything negative, but it is easy to get ingrained in 'you can do it yourself', especially when you're trying to be consistent. It might be good to find some things that you CAN help him with... like picking up toys is sometimes a big job, if he asks for help you can say "Okay, you get the red things and I'll get the blue." You don't want to hear "You know how to do that." when you're asking him to help bring in the groceries, so demonstrating a spirit of helpfulness is something to keep in mind as well, even though it's understandably not at the forefront of your concerns right now.
 

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Dealing with big age gaps all at once can definitely be interesting... mine are 14, 11 and 4... the little one has picked up phrases such as "You're ruining my life!"

My husband is the one who got to experience the 'instant family' and it is a HUGE learning curve. It sounds like you are doing great.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Oh I totally understand needing them to help by doing the things they are cpapable of, most of the time. At one point I had a fight both ways... my little one wanted to do everything herself but needed help and the older one was perfectly capable but didn't want to... argh! They both went through a phase around his age where they weren't getting ready for school and it wasn't until the 7 year old was on the porch in their jammies that they suddenly saw the importance of getting dressed. Some of this is just what all kids go through.

It is nice to have things done for you, that you are capable of, sometimes. I know you do a lot for him, and I'm not trying to imply anything negative, but it is easy to get ingrained in 'you can do it yourself', especially when you're trying to be consistent. It might be good to find some things that you CAN help him with... like picking up toys is sometimes a big job, if he asks for help you can say "Okay, you get the red things and I'll get the blue." You don't want to hear "You know how to do that." when you're asking him to help bring in the groceries, so demonstrating a spirit of helpfulness is something to keep in mind as well, even though it's understandably not at the forefront of your concerns right now.
O yea. Luckily my 2 year old is at a stage where she wants to do it all on her own, and usually does a pretty good job. With my 7 year old, I don't really have problems with him helping out around the house, although at first he didn't like it at all. He has to make his bed every day, help set the table for dinner, and clear it off, and he has to clean his room every weekend, o and feed his fish every morning. At first he would complain about doing these things, but now he just does them and it doesn't bother him at all. When I refer to things we want him to learn to do for himself, it's more along the lines of simple things that he just says he cant do, and gets frustrated with. For example, the other night he couldn't figure out how to hang his coat up on a hanger. Or how to unlock the front door. (simple deadbolt) or how to get a glass out of the cabinet that he cant reach. (we've bought him a stool that we keep in the kitchen for that reason). He will just whine about how he can't do it, and ask us to do it for him.
 

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An upbringing like that can have longterm neurological consequences. If he's truly been "coddled" that severely, it actually could cause developmental delays. If you take a healthy baby and refuse to let it develop the way it needs, you'll end up with a special needs child.

And that's not including the severe trauma of being ripped out of the only life he knew and put with a man he'd only seen several times. (I'm actually kind of worried you said he didn't/doesn't understand- a 6 year old should be able to understand moving in with daddy, explained in age-appropriate terms. It would still be deeply upsetting, but he should have been able to understand.)

Make no mistake: you almost certainly have a special needs child on your hands. You need a professional to evaluate exactly how much damage his upbringing has done.

It sounds like he's making great strides, which is good, but I really hope you find a specialist to work with. The right specialist will make a WORLD of a difference- night and day. What has his pediatrician had to say? Have you called your insurance to see what they'll cover, if you could try getting in touch with someone directly?
 

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An upbringing like that can have longterm neurological consequences. If he's truly been "coddled" that severely, it actually could cause developmental delays. If you take a healthy baby and refuse to let it develop the way it needs, you'll end up with a special needs child.

And that's not including the severe trauma of being ripped out of the only life he knew and put with a man he'd only seen several times. (I'm actually kind of worried you said he didn't/doesn't understand- a 6 year old should be able to understand moving in with daddy, explained in age-appropriate terms. It would still be deeply upsetting, but he should have been able to understand.)

Make no mistake: you almost certainly have a special needs child on your hands. You need a professional to evaluate exactly how much damage his upbringing has done.

It sounds like he's making great strides, which is good, but I really hope you find a specialist to work with. The right specialist will make a WORLD of a difference- night and day. What has his pediatrician had to say? Have you called your insurance to see what they'll cover, if you could try getting in touch with someone directly?
His dad was not someone he'd only seen several times. His parents were together when he was born, and for a couple years after that. He was 3 I believe when they separated, and even after that, he still had both of his kids very often, up until he left to go overseas. So it's not like he didn't know him at all, he just hadn't seen him much in the 3 years we were overseas. His mom started dating and married someone else who his son was now calling dad. And by the time we got back last year they were divorced. So his son was confused I'm sure.


We explained to him why he was coming to live with us, that it is what is best for him. But to him, he thinks that the best thing is for him to be with his mom, because that's what he knows. We don't want him to think anything bad of his mom, so we just told her that she got sick. Which, in a way, she did. She has some mental problems and is on and off meds, so it's best that he's with us in a stable environment. We did our best to explain that in a way that was appropriate for him. He does see a counselor every other week, so I'm not sure if that's what you mean by specialist?
 

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I misunderstood, sorry about that, but that can still be very traumatic, to have caregivers in and out like that. You may want to look up attachment disorders just in case, although I'd hope the counselor would have noticed something if that were a problem.

There are a lot of specialists, depending on a child's needs. Sadly, finding the right one is not at all straightforward. Someone in the wrong area won't necessarily be able to tell if your child needs extra help, because that isn't their expertise (a speech therapist won't necessarily recognize a kid needs physical therapy and vice versa)
An occupational therapist may be the right person to talk to because the kid's behind in life skills, but I'm afraid I don't know for sure.

You could look into contacting a developmental pediatrician.

Has the counselor suggested anything or expressed concerns? It is possible that you're making enough progress that it isn't in "special needs" territory anymore. If your gut says you need extra help, though, I'd listen to your gut.
 
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