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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So my now 12 year old sd moved in with my husband, my now almost 3 year old daughter and I about 2 years ago. She was taken from her mother by cps because of drugs and some other issues. I feel for her that she has gone through a lot in her life but she has basically shown herself to have absolutely no respect, manners, or compassion towards any other human being. She constantly disrespects her father by calling him idiot, stupid, fat, loser, etc. Never says please or thank you, has on several occasions laughed at her little sister when she was crying in pain, and has told me she does not care about people only animals. Also recently she screamed at my husband, my daughter and I "I hate you all and I hope you all die in a fucking car accident" as she flipped us off. This was in response to getting grounded from her tablet for the weekend for calling her father an idiot. I am at my wits end and my husband is getting there. MY husband works weekends (off on thu.& fri) and works 2pm-10pm so I am basically her primary care giver. We are currently seeing a counselor who is giving us some advice but our next appointment is 2 weeks away and I am feeling on the verge of a nervous breakdown from this constant stress. To be honest, I'd give just about anything to not have her in my house influencing my daughter, verbally abusing my husband and I and making my life miserable. Any comment or advice from someone in a similar situation would be much appreciated!!!
 

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She needs to be seeing her own counselor who is highly experienced in abuse and trauma. Rather than going through regular channels, I would find out what behavioral health agency in your city is best known for their work with children who've had these kinds of experiences. Checking with your schools social worker could be a great first step (they tend know their way around the local agencies).


I also wonder if she needs a psychiatrist, not just a counselor/psychologist/social worker. She may actually have a mental illness, not just a need for talk therapy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
First of all, thank you for your response! The counselor I am referring to is actually her counselor. She recommended that my husband and I have a few sessions alone with her (without my sd present) partly because my sd refuses to talk. The counselor said if she won't talk then she cant help her but she can give us some guidance. So far she has basically said it is essentially my husbands fault that she is so disrespectful and I must agree. My husband also seemed to agree but is very inconsistent. One day he will punish her for calling him names and the next he will do nothing. So obviously he has to step up. But yes, it is also possible that she does need to see a psychiatrist instead of a lmf counselor. Do you think the counselor would be qualified to at least say weather or not she thinks a psychiatrist may be necessary? Honestly with her apparent total disregard for human kind, I am afraid when she gets angry that she will hurt me or my daughter. I am doubtful of this but the thought has crossed my mind as well as my husbands so I do worry at times. Also she has cut herself in the past, so I also worry that one day she may hurt herself even worse than just cutting. I just am beginning to feel that I am not qualified to be her primary caregiver, especially if my husband is not going to take drastic measures to try and fix this. I just feel scared and stuck and clueless.
 

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I have been down this road, but we were able to start counseling earlier, and nipped a lot in the bud as a result. My husband and I were the ones who saw the counselor to essentially get parenting coaching to sort out how to parent children in a bad situation. My husband was the one who needed counseling on consistency. We saw the therapist every week for about five years. It was absolutely vital for our sanity. And it helped us have the tools to know how to work through the disrespect, controlling manipulation, and negative attention seeking.

You may want to consider a similar course of action.

The other thing you may need to really discuss is how to best help her. If she's too far out of control, you may need to consider a different living situation that will help her get boundaries. There are some boarding schools out there for children/teens in emotional crisis, but they aren't cheap.
 

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Hi livysmom,

I'm not in a blended family, but I saw this on the new posts and wanted to reply. If she is cutting herself (i.e. harming herself) and you are concerned that she is danger to herself and others, an impatient program may be needed. Your husband could reach out to her pediatrician to get a placement in an inpatient program or you and your husband could take her to an ER to get her admitted right away. It sounds like she is in terrible emotional pain and is lashing out at both herself and others.

I wish the best for all of you during this difficult time.
 

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Read up on resources for foster parents. It's not exactly the same, but it's similar. Foster kids almost always bring trauma with them, so there's a lot of resources for helping a child get past trauma and surviving it yourself.

I think the sessions should be more frequent. At this level of crisis, twice a week isn't uncalled for. And don't be afraid to look into other specialists.

What is your legal status? Are you a legal guardian?

How likely is it that your husband can change his schedule so he's there after school and on weekends?

If it absolutely came to it, could you financially afford to move out? You shouldn't have to worry for your 3 year old's safety and you do NOT want her to learn such disordered behavior.
I'm not saying you'd have to divorce, there are married couples who live separately. That may be necessary for a few years while your husband helps his daughter get past this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you all so much for your advice and sharing.I am having trouble quoting you all so I will do my best to direct my responses clearly.

oldsmom, we have talked about sending her to some type of boarding school if things get worse, unfortunately I don't think our income would allow this as an option. May I ask how old your step child was when you began counseling and how it turned out in the end?? I'd love a story of hope!

HappyHappymom, she has cut herself twice to our knowledge about a year ago. Once on wrists, once on thighs. She says she hasn't done it again but I speculate that she is just hiding it better now. I don't know how to find out if she is still cutting without violating her privacy or embarrassing her. Perhaps a physical exam by a dr would be a good route? or do we just take her word that she is no longer cutting?

sillysapling, I am not a legal guardian. My husband has full custody, and her mother has a right to see her but there is no set schedule. Her mom tends to get her once a month or so and shows no desire to regain custody even though she regained custody of her 6 year old son (my sd half brother). I am her caregiver the majority of the time. I'm basically a glorified nanny. Very unlikely that my husband's schedule will change but to be honest things are even more stressful when he is home because my sd is much more bold with her disrespect towards him than with me. When I am home with her she pretty much keeps to herself in her room. Mind you I used to always include her in things and try to get her out of her room but I grew tired of her making everything miserable by making it very clear that she was not happy to be doing anything with my daughter and I..... I could not financially afford to move out. I am a stay at home mom right now. But I have considered finding a way to leave if things don't get better. Not because I want to but because I am becoming very anxious and depressed. I just often wonder if that is fair to my daughter to take her away from her daily life with her father and I. I don't really know what is worse for her at this point. My sd has never shown physical aggression towards anyone but the fact that she laughs at others pain, has said she does not care about humans and said some pretty horrible things (ie:hoping we all die) I do wonder if she is capable of physically hurting one of us if she were every angry enough.
 

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I know it's going to be very hard and at times you are probably going to think.."What am I doing!" "I can't handle this anymore" and probably a hundred other self doubts. You have a long road ahead of you but please don't give up!! This young girl has gone through a lot of trauma and doesn't have the understanding and tools to deal with what she has experienced. Don't forget, she will be experiencing puberty on top of all of this.

Cutting is her way of dealing with her deep emotional trauma. Some cutters state it gives them relief and/or changes focus from what is really going on. Sometimes for them, physical pain is easier to deal with than the emotional ones. She will continue to cut if she doesn't get help. They are very good at hiding it. This is also why she likes animals over people...animals won't cause her the emotional pain.

I absolutely agree with being consistent. This is a vital key to changing behavior. Being consistent and having absolute rules of what is acceptable and what is not will give her stability, which is something she desperately needs.

She does need a counselor/psychologist specializing in children with trauma. For your own sanity maybe you could keep a diary. I found this helped me release some of the frustrations I felt and still feel! lol.

I too became a stay at home mom to my three stepchildren and although they were older they came with major baggage. We are still dealing with some of the issues and it's been 8 years now. I tell myself that these kids have been to hell and back. They have seen the dark side of life and my job is to show them they have choices and there is good out there. Oh believe me, I have days where I have to say this over and over to myself, take a deep breath and get my game face on.

Don't give up...she's deeply wounded. I wish you the very best of luck!!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thank you for the words of encouragement Mother_of_4. Everything you said is very true. I guess what makes it even tougher and what makes me want to give up is that my husband is so back and forth. He has a very hard time disciplining her or even saying no to things that are bad for her simply because he is afraid of her. I can't be doing any good to her when I am just step mom and Dad is right there giving her everything she wants. And he believes everything she says so if she tells him she's not cutting, he believes her and he gets anrgy with me that I don't. Also when I am feeling overwhelmed and maybe cry or something because I am so stressed he gets angry with me for this as well. He gets angry with me for being anxious and depressed, which of course only makes me more anxious and depressed. So as I'm sure you can see, my SD is not the only problem. I also am dealing with marital issues as well. I just feel completely alone and like I'm the only one fighting to make things better. That is why discussing it on this forum is so cathartic!0:)....
 

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I think a psychiatrist is essential at this point, in addition to all sorts of other behavioural supports. Cutting, verbal abuse, indirect homocidal ideation, preferring animals to people, etc....all pointing towards some very serious mental health issues and trauma and attachment disorders that are best treated asap before the patterns become permanent. I think your dh needs some help as well in the parenting department. Time for a tough love supernanny intervention I think. This could very well be a marriage dealbreaker. I agree with Silly Sapling that it could even be necessary to live apart in order to minimize the harm to your dd. He is not supporting you at all when he becomes angry with you for your very valid feelings. I'm sorry you are dealing with this :-(
 

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I think some kind of extreme intervention is needed as well. This is not fair at all to you to have to deal with the fall out from this. If your partner isn't willing to help then he needs to change his work hours and be home to handle her.

I do think that this kind of behavior at this age needs significant help. Reading a parenting book or two isn't going to fix this.

*Hugs* You need all the support you can get... please post here regularly if you want to bounce ideas off us.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thank you so much, alpenglow and Springshowers! It definitely does help to be on here sorting through my thoughts with some kind listening ears, in stead of critical ears. I do agree that my husband should have to deal with this all on his own if he is not going to take the advice of my SD counselor and stat getting more tough. The problem is that if he were around more and doesn't get more tough, it makes things harder on me because my daughter and I have to sit and listen to the disrespect and the toxic relationship between my sd and husband. So the only way I could get away from it would be to leave. Even if I could financially afford to leave, would this really be the best thing for my daughter? SHe loves her dad and looks forward to spending time with him every day before he goes to work. I would be heartbroken hearing her ask for daddy all the time. Also I'm sure, even if we were only separated and not divorced, we would have to have some sort of visitation/custody share set up, which would likely mean my daughter going to spend time alone with her dad and sister, which I am terrified of because then my daughter is still being subjected to my sd toxicity and I am not even there to help minimize this. I am feeling in a very stuck position right now. Caught between a rock and a hard place I suppose. Does anyone know what kind of visits would likely be awarded to her father if we did separate?
 

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oldsmom, we have talked about sending her to some type of boarding school if things get worse, unfortunately I don't think our income would allow this as an option. May I ask how old your step child was when you began counseling and how it turned out in the end?? I'd love a story of hope!
It's been a rough few years, but the kids are now all maturing into adulthood, and doing okay. Our stepkids went through a lot of toxic parenting. Their biomom was (still is) constantly trying to poison them against us by manipulating situations, lying, and just being a terrible human being. But the therapist taught us how to remain consistent, calm, and quiet when the kids got out of control. The key was to remain extremely reaffirming toward any glimpse of positive behavior and consistently enforce rules. The goal is to speak positively 5 times as much as you have to speak negatively. This meant sometimes finding really minor things to praise just so we had something positive to say, but it helped to teach the kids to seek the positive reinforcement. It was a lot of baby steps to deal with the defiance and manipulation.

We have also been careful to speak truth about situations, but NEVER speak negatively about their mom. It's helped because it shows them what respect looks like in the face of unfairness. As such, the disrespect has tapered off over the years.

The oldest got fed up and finally just came to live with us. for her last two years of high school. The younger two still live with their mom, but use our house as a safe zone to come hide/vent/chill when their mom's house gets too out of hand.
 

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Also I'm sure, even if we were only separated and not divorced, we would have to have some sort of visitation/custody share set up, which would likely mean my daughter going to spend time alone with her dad and sister, which I am terrified of because then my daughter is still being subjected to my sd toxicity and I am not even there to help minimize this. I am feeling in a very stuck position right now. Caught between a rock and a hard place I suppose. Does anyone know what kind of visits would likely be awarded to her father if we did separate?
Oh that's a tough situation - I forgot that he is the father. Leaving would definitely complicate things. It all depends on your local judges and state laws - some places are pro 50/50 and others favour the primary residence model. You can expect that at a bare minimum he would have every other weekend, and possibly more.

However, if there were a way to work out things peacefully between you two, in a temporary separation, then it wouldn't necessarily have to be that way (provided he is not abusive or narcissistic - the two often going hand in hand...and if either situations are present, you are almost guaranteed he would go after 50/50 custody or full custody). I think couples counselling with a counsellor who understands and works with child behavioural issues might help - but you really need someone who does BOTH marital therapy and child/youth counselling.
 

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I feel like I have advice but not really sure how to articulate it. Maybe insight would be a better word than advice? I'm a dad and, in some ways, share some things in common with your husband. My situation is somewhat similar to yours, though not nearly as extreme. My wife and I almost never fight, but the rare times we do, it is almost always because she does not agree with how I parent my daughter. My marriage is wonderful, but if there were anything at all that I could foresee ever splitting us up, it is this.

My daughter (11 yrs old) is not the extreme case your step-daughter appears to be. But I do definitely struggle with getting her to understand respect, to not argue against me, and to cooperate with household tasks. On top of that, she has autism, which makes social situations and social skills extremely challenging for her. Sometimes I feel sympathy for her and am too lenient as a result. Other times I try to honor and respect the fact that she is different, so I don't hold her to the same standards as other kids, which to my wife comes across as again being too lenient. Sometimes I'm willing to stand firm, I just simply don't know how I should do it. I'm only human. And, to shamefully admit, sometimes I genuinely fear that coming across as too harsh (in my daughter's eyes) will result in her going live with her mom exclusively when she is old enough to legally make that decision.

My advice: First and foremost, please do whatever you feel in your heart is best for your kids' immediate well being. If you truly feel like the emotional, and even physical, health of yourself and your kids are in jeopardy when your stepdaughter is present, then I would hope you could find a way to make that your first priority to resolve. The marriage is important too, but worry about that next.

Apart from that, I'd recommend trying to really understand why your husband is so inconsistent in his parenting methods. Whether thru 1 on 1 conversations with him, or in the presence of a therapist, really try to understand his reasons for not stepping up when needed. If he's anything like me, it might not be as black & white as "he's afraid of her". But if you understand why he hesitates, then you're in a better position to converse about ways to address that problem.

Either way, I really feel for you and hope your situation gets better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I feel like I have advice but not really sure how to articulate it. Maybe insight would be a better word than advice? I'm a dad and, in some ways, share some things in common with your husband. My situation is somewhat similar to yours, though not nearly as extreme. My wife and I almost never fight, but the rare times we do, it is almost always because she does not agree with how I parent my daughter. My marriage is wonderful, but if there were anything at all that I could foresee ever splitting us up, it is this.

My daughter (11 yrs old) is not the extreme case your step-daughter appears to be. But I do definitely struggle with getting her to understand respect, to not argue against me, and to cooperate with household tasks. On top of that, she has autism, which makes social situations and social skills extremely challenging for her. Sometimes I feel sympathy for her and am too lenient as a result. Other times I try to honor and respect the fact that she is different, so I don't hold her to the same standards as other kids, which to my wife comes across as again being too lenient. Sometimes I'm willing to stand firm, I just simply don't know how I should do it. I'm only human. And, to shamefully admit, sometimes I genuinely fear that coming across as too harsh (in my daughter's eyes) will result in her going live with her mom exclusively when she is old enough to legally make that decision.

My advice: First and foremost, please do whatever you feel in your heart is best for your kids' immediate well being. If you truly feel like the emotional, and even physical, health of yourself and your kids are in jeopardy when your stepdaughter is present, then I would hope you could find a way to make that your first priority to resolve. The marriage is important too, but worry about that next.

Apart from that, I'd recommend trying to really understand why your husband is so inconsistent in his parenting methods. Whether thru 1 on 1 conversations with him, or in the presence of a therapist, really try to understand his reasons for not stepping up when needed. If he's anything like me, it might not be as black & white as "he's afraid of her". But if you understand why he hesitates, then you're in a better position to converse about ways to address that problem.

Either way, I really feel for you and hope your situation gets better.
enobmoz, thanks for the insight. It does help to hear from the other party in a similar situation. Your daughter being autistic definitely changes things. I do have a friend with an autistic son and she tells me that the way she is supposed to discipline and teach him are completely different than you might discipline a child without autism. I am not sure exactly what those ways are but perhaps you and your wife learning them together would help her understand that traditional methods may not work best for your daughter?....Anyways, I definitely can relate. My husband and I don't have the best marriage but we definitely mainly argue about my sd and if I can see anything splitting us up it is also this. It is very difficult to be a step parent, especially when the child has special needs or comes from a troubled background. I think at this point my fears of physical harm are just that, "fears". As far as the emotional damage though, I am not sure. I am already seeing my daughter treat my husband with less respect than she treats me and my husband also lets her get away with it. It is hard for me to even respect my husband when I see this. But taking my daughter away from her dad just doesn't feel like it would help anything. Sad to say if it wasn't for my daughter, I doubt we'd still be together, but I am willing to put my happiness to the side so that my daughter can grow up in a home with her mom and dad. I just am completely unsure at what point leaving is more healthy than staying. My husband is also on rare occasion verbally abusive to me in front of the kids. I am just completely lost at this point. My heart is breaking for so many reasons and I just don't know what my breaking point is or should be.
 

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Your breaking point is different from the point where you say "I'm done". A lot of people spend years letting their partner's break them, then they pick up the pieces and put them back together and their partner breaks them again. You can even say "that's it, I'm done!" only to fall back into the habit.

Honestly, I think your step child us blinding you to reality. Are special needs kids hard? Absolutely. Is step parenting hard? Incredibly.

But youre letting the spotlight on your step daughter hide the problems with your marriage. If your step daughter was an angel and you were experiencing depression and anxiety for other reasons, would you put up with your husband dismissing your feelings? Would you put up with verbal abuse?

How we handle stress says more about us than how we handle the easy times. Being stressed doesn't justify abuse. Plenty of people have stressful lives and strong marriages- because they support their partner. Your husband is exacerbating this for everyone.

But, of course, it's not easy. You have a child with him. You're a stay at home mom. Ultimately, the question is "at what point will the negatives of staying outweigh the negatives of leaving?". That's something only you can answer.

It really, really concerns me that your big worry on separation is legal. You shouldn't need to involve lawyers with that kind of separation. There's no intention of divorce and you two should be able to get along well enough to make it work smoothly and be a non issue. If you really think he can't prioritize your and your daughter's needs enough to make a temporary separation work, that us a BIG problem.
 
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Your breaking point is different from the point where you say "I'm done". A lot of people spend years letting their partner's break them, then they pick up the pieces and put them back together and their partner breaks them again. You can even say "that's it, I'm done!" only to fall back into the habit.

Honestly, I think your step child us blinding you to reality. Are special needs kids hard? Absolutely. Is step parenting hard? Incredibly.

But youre letting the spotlight on your step daughter hide the problems with your marriage. If your step daughter was an angel and you were experiencing depression and anxiety for other reasons, would you put up with your husband dismissing your feelings? Would you put up with verbal abuse?

How we handle stress says more about us than how we handle the easy times. Being stressed doesn't justify abuse. Plenty of people have stressful lives and strong marriages- because they support their partner. Your husband is exacerbating this for everyone.

But, of course, it's not easy. You have a child with him. You're a stay at home mom. Ultimately, the question is "at what point will the negatives of staying outweigh the negatives of leaving?". That's something only you can answer.

It really, really concerns me that your big worry on separation is legal. You shouldn't need to involve lawyers with that kind of separation. There's no intention of divorce and you two should be able to get along well enough to make it work smoothly and be a non issue. If you really think he can't prioritize your and your daughter's needs enough to make a temporary separation work, that us a BIG problem.
My concern would be that if I left, my husband would be so angry that he would not be cooperative. My ideal, if I had to leave, would be to have him find time away from my sd to spend alone with my daughter, with or without me. The problem is I don't see him finding a way to make that happen, so a separation that was intended to reduce stress for my daughter and I would in turn create more stress because I would be worried about what was going on while I was not there. I know my husband would not stand for my sd being blatantly mean to my daughter, but there are things that he tends to supposedly not see as well as him not correcting my sd when she calls him names and demeans him. This is the behavior I do not want my daughter seeing. so to think this is going on without me being around to tell my daughter that that behavior is not okay gives me great anxiety. I suppose the problem is exactly what you say, only I can decide when the negative of staying outweighs the negative of leaving. I suppose I would benefit from seeing a therapist on my own to help me work out my own issues. And you are so very right that the problems with my sd are sort of a cover for the relationship issues that my husband and I have. My husband has been very unsympathetic towards me during other stressful times in my life. He was very cold and distant during my two miscarriages as well. Of course I have many of my own faults. I "Nag" and complain a lot about my step daughter, about his lack of affection towards me and also about little things. Although I can say with certainty I don't do this much anymore because I realized it is in no way helpful to nag and complain. We don't fight much anymore, mainly because I have lost my will and feel defeated. The fighting was giving me anxiety on top of everything else.
 
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