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Parenting Issues This forum is for discussing any of the parenting issues involved in your divorce, including parenting of step-children.

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Old 08-28-2013, 02:37 PM
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Default Tips or Advice?

I'm asking some advice from experience posters for some parenting tips for managing conflict with the ex.

I know through conversations she's had with my new partner that there's been increased agitation on the part of her father with regard to me and my new partner. My D shares a confidante-type of relationship with my bf and he'll tell me things that she says when we're alone if he thinks its important that I know. As I'm sure many children of divorce do, my D spends a lot of time negotiating what she says between both parents and protecting both of us. I know she's heard some pretty nasty stuff about me from her father and his family and she's a sensitive, lovely kid and tries really hard to manage this stuff. Adding to the mess is the fact that my ex no longer speaks with our oldest child at all.

He mentioned to me that my D has been getting yelled at a lot regarding my new partner. In particular with regard to me allowing him to babysit her during the summer months since he was able to take vacation time and I had to work. My ex prefers to leave my D at home alone all day from 6am to 5pm (with no phone in his home) and I refuse to do that. I instead used a camp for the month of July and managed Aug by taking vacation myself and arranging that my bf take vacation to babysit her. Apparently my ex blew his stack when he found out and has continued to do so everytime my partner's car is there. There's nothing my D can do about how I manage my household but my ex is a huge screamer and apparently she's been the main receiver of this behavior lately. I know how it goes because I obviously have a long past with him and the thought of my D suffering through that is pretty tough for me to think about. He's a pretty moody person in general but he's also a rager and will just go on and on yelling.

Now normally, I don't give a fig about what my ex thinks or does. I also know that there's probably very little I can or maybe even should do about the whole situation. My opinion last year was that it would blow over with time, however, that doesn't seem to be happening. I pay zero attention to what he does at his house. I have no idea whether or not he has a permanent gf although I'm aware that he dates and introduces our D to those dates as he sees fit.

My concern is this. Lately, I'm noticing a marked change in my D's mood on switch days along with some other concerning things. I know some of this is probably just normal because she's changing schedules but its to the point where she's almost despondent and depressed on those days. She drags around, doesn't want to go anywhere and will just want to cuddle quietly. She'll often nap in my bed and she isn't really a nap kinda kid.

I've told my D that she can tell me or ask me anything. However, she keeps things about her dad and his household mostly to herself which I actually have always thought was a good idea. However, her mood swings are concerning me a little because they're pretty dramatic. My partner and I will also eventually be making our relationship more permanent and I'm wondering if there's anything additionally I can/should do withing my circle of control to ease the tension. If anyone has any advice or tips, I'd appreciate it.
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Old 08-28-2013, 02:48 PM
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Depending on the age of the child in question my first advice in the immediate is to encourage her to call the Kid's Help Phone:

Home | Kids Help Phone

I will respond in more detail in a bit but, wanted to get this advice posted in the immediate.

Good Luck!
Tayken
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Old 08-28-2013, 03:13 PM
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Would help if you told D's age? is she approaching the teens?
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Old 08-28-2013, 04:08 PM
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Sorry D13.
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Old 08-28-2013, 04:26 PM
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Counselling would be my advice.

By coming to your BF, its clear you D needs to be able to confide in someone who isn't one of the parents. But your BF isn't trained and isn't neutral. It would be better for all concerned if you could find her someone who could listen and help her work through her emotions.
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Old 08-28-2013, 04:29 PM
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Teen age girls can have all kinds of issues going on at once (both real and imagined) then add hormonal changes, normal rebellion to the mix and you say that the ex is moody as well? Nobody in their right mind would condone your Ex's behavior with regards to yelling his head off ... that's just plain ignorant whatever his excuse may be.

The most you can hope for is that she will confide in you when SHE feels the need to do so. Girls at that age tend to be very emotional, withdrawn, even bordering on dramatic at times. If this behavior happened overnight, it could be mild depression or just plain growing pains. Try to get her talking ... she's in the 'in-between' age, it's not easy.
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Old 08-28-2013, 04:30 PM
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You have my sympathy. This sounds like a stressful situation, and I commend you for reacting with restraint and thoughtfulness.

A couple of thoughts: first, 13 years old = dramatic mood swings. Kids do this even in "intact" two-parent families and drive their parents to distraction.

Second, unless you have some reason to think D13 is experiencing abuse or neglect by her dad, it doesn't sound like there's a lot you can do. She has a rage-filled jerk for a father, and part of her life's challenge will be learning how to manage her relationship with him. If he's stopped speaking to her older sibling, she may also fear that he will abandon her the same way if she asserts herself too much. The behavior you describe sounds like a somewhat fearful, insecure sort of thing. The inscurity may also reflect your partner becoming a more permanent fixture in her life - as much as she likes and trusts him/her, she may be a bit concerned that she will be sidelined. From her father, she may have gotten the message that kids are disposable and can be dropped if adults find them inconvenient.

There's not much you can do about her father (except divorce him, which you did!), but you can reassure her that you are always there for her, you aren't going anywhere, and she always has you. I have a similar situation wtih my D8 (gets upset, clingy with occasional meltdowns on the day before the transition to her father's house) and we have developed a sort of semi-joking routine we go through a couple of times a day:

Me: Hey D8...
Her: Yes?
Me: Who is my favourite person in the world?
Her: ME!
Me: Who do I love the most in the world?
Her: ME!
Me: Who is the best kid in the world?
Her: ME!
Me: Who is the luckiest mom in the world?
Her: YOU!

Really corny I know, and probably a teenager wouldn't go for it, but D8 has expressed that she really likes this ritual. (Also a similar situation with a new partner - my bf and I are moving towards more permanent commitment [though right now we can only see each other on weekend because of his out-of-town work], and although she really likes him and wants to see lots of him, she also expresses concern that he might displace her in my life).

Encourage her to keep talking, bearing in mind (as you do) that she may not want to talk to you about anything at her father's house. Does she have anyone else she can talk to who is not you or your bf, to whom it might be easier to express her feelings?
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Old 08-28-2013, 06:04 PM
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I would offer two suggestions. Have a talk with her to let her know that you are there for her no matter what and that sometimes there are situations where teens just don't know what to do and how to handle it. Sometimes they need an adult to help work out some of the troubles. Review with her people she could talk to and include people in your family, his family and at school. Offer formal counselling and encourage to talk to someone she trusts if she has feelings she doesn't know what to do with.

Additionally, get her a journal with a lock on it. Some times just being able to let the feelings out is a bit of a relief.
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Old 08-28-2013, 06:57 PM
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All excellent advice....thank you.

Just to clarify. My D is mostly just exhibiting more anxiety than normal on exchange days and there's a few other things...ie, withholding information (safety/health related) because she knew that it would cause an issue between me and her father but it was important that I knew. Otherwise, she's a lovely kid...especially for a teenager. She's a personable, smiley, laughing kid who still likes to cuddle and spend time with me...which is nice. She's also an exceptional student. Her grades actually got even better post divorce...so she's on-track but I tend to be a bit overprotective, pro-active and I've definitely noted the behavior change. It seems to be getting worse...she was pretty despondent when leaving for her dad's this week. I really want to circumvent any potential issues as early as I can.

She's definitely hormonal from time to time...but I don't believe that's what this is. There's been two instances that she's texted me after leaving my house to ask me if I could pick her up because her dad was screaming and "freaking out" on her. I'd text her back to ask her if was something she could manage or talk through with her dad...and both times, she handled it with her dad and I didn't intervene. My D is not a push-over type of kid...she is very much like me and can be stubborn and difficult if challenged. But I also know how he was with me and our older child. His behavior can be hard to deal with when he's in a rage. He's on of those guys that will make up erratic rules and when challenged, gets furious. His comment during marriage was always that the kids should do what he tells them to do because he's the man of the house. There was often a lack of consistency. Discipline/screaming got more harsh if he was mad about other things...ie, bad day at work.

My new partner is adding to the issue a bit because her dad is ticked that he's becoming a more permanent part of her life and he can't control it. But in addition, he's a complete contrast to my ex and I think my D sees the difference. My bf is a calm, kind guy. He's a role model with his own children and grandchildren for how to be a good man and think of others first. Its obviously nice for me and nice that she can confide in him but I think it makes the stark contrast to her father that much tougher for her to deal with. My ex's main focus is pretty much himself and what he wants and needs. Regardless of all that, however, my D loves her father and really tries to negotiate with him through the anger he has.

I will follow all the suggestions. I will definitely have another talk with her and let her know that I'm available and when she starts school next week, I will check into available counsellors in the school system to give her an opportunity to talk to someone. The kid's help line is also an excellent suggestion and I'll put the number up on her bulletin board and tell her that she can call there just to talk, if she can't talk to me or her dad.

Thank you very, very much!

Last edited by Pursuinghappiness; 08-28-2013 at 07:01 PM.
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Old 08-28-2013, 09:20 PM
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Just want to add, your new bf sounds like a really good addition to your daughter's life as she heads into adolescence. She'll have another model, in addition to her father, of what a man can be (i.e. doesn't have to be a loud macho control freak). This may help her to make better choices when she starts to navigate the waters of dating and romance.
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