Seems like a risky thing to say, but the situation has definitely calmed down at least temporarily. My stepson is definitely cooperating with me and my partner more. He has not been in trouble at home or at school for a few days. This is what has helped us:
- Contacting free parenting helplines: see familylives.org.uk and youngminds.org.uk There is very little support for parents of teenagers here in the UK until things get really, really bad but these helpines gave me practical advice and listened well.
- Setting out the rules clearly and agreeing on consequences and rewards and enforcing them consistently. It sounds basic, but it is not always easy to do.
- Talking honestly and showing emotions – saying that we as parents are not happy and cannot carry on putting up with negative behaviour. Also, saying that we care and that negative feelings are ok, we just need to find a healthy way of expressing them. Not easy if this type of discussion was not modelled for you in your own childhood.
Fingers crossed the flowers continue to bloom. A precious reward for the struggles that came before.
My stepson is angry. He fights with his friends and his enemies – physically and he fights with us with his lies, excuses and most recently plain defiance. He just says, no, I’m not doing that and he doesn’t do it. We have offered people to talk to and tried to talk to him ourselves, but he is not opening up and expressing his anger in a useful way. The defiance hurts me and makes me angry. He does not respect us. I am not sure where this is going, but a happy ending seems unlikely.
For a crime drama addict like me, it is interesting that the police really do start interviews with the caution “you do not have to say anything, but anything that you do not say and later rely on in court etc” just like on TV, but I didn’t really want to find that out through being the appropriate adult for my stepson suspected of a crime however minor.
This has shaken me up and made me feel insecure. I ask in my mind if we did something wrong, and why he did this, but most of all this has made me worry even more. If he can do this, what else can he do? Who is going to help us here? Is there an ongoing issue, or is this just a one-off?
We got through the interview and decisions will be made in the next few months about the punishment he will face. It pushed me to talk to him and tell him that I care about him. it also made me ask for help from a new set of people. I am proud that I managed to have those difficult conversations and hope that they will be the catalyst for positive steps, but it was still a shock and extremely stressful.
I had just got used to all the worries that come with parenting a baby/toddler (Is he still breathing? Oh my god, has he swallowed my medicine?) when the teenage stepson suddenly appeared in my house bringing a whole new host of concerns. I don’t have to spend time thinking about whether he is drawing on the walls or pulling down bookcases, but there are still plenty of things to get anxious about.
Where is he? What is he doing? Who is he with? Where did he get that money from? Has he gone to school? Why does he eat so much rubbish? How long is it reasonable to wait before asking him AGAIN to do his homework? Why does he wear such tight trousers (I was a teenager in the 90s when bootcut was in and just don’t get skinny jeans). Why can’t he just send one text to let us know where he is.It is really very stressful at times.
What I keep telling my partner, and sometimes manage to believe myself, is that we have to play the long game and focus on getting one thing straight at a time. We work on his school attendance first, then his behaviour at school, then his homework etc and it will come together in the end and just like my toddler learnt how to go back to sleep by himself, my teenage stepson will also learn, eventually, to be a responsible adult.
All the step parenting books will advise you not to discipline your stepchildren when you first meet them and to wait until you have built up a relationship. Having only been an occasional stepmum up until recently, I had rarely needed to discipline my stepson. However, today, when I sat in the corner of the lounge trying to look like I was watching TV whilst my partner explained to my stepson in great detail how he wanted him to help out with cooking all while the stepson tried to hide his boredom, I had to intervene. A few quick well directed questions and a suggestion of how to resolve the problem and he agreed! Probably out of appreciation of me halting the lecture from his father and his inability to sit still for any length of time without an electrical device in his hands. Afterwards I questioned myself and my partner repeatedly – did I interfere, had I done the right thing. I now feel, tentatively, like I might have done ok.Let’s see how things go next week…