Difficult child and stepchildren

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by WearyMomof2, Nov 5, 2018.

  1. WearyMomof2

    WearyMomof2 New Member

    I’ve seen posts about stepchildren, but I was wondering if anyone has a difficult child whose behavior is affecting the custody of your spouse’s biological children?

    My son has ADHD (inattentive type), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and occasionally has explosive episodes, the worst of which resulted in his younger stepbrother getting a concussion. He followed that up with giving the same stepbrother a black eye while my husband was meeting with the custody mediator. My son is regularly seen by a therapist and psychiatrist. He's had a neuropsychological evaluation. His explosive episodes are very short and are not Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED). Afterwards, he is very remorseful and embarrassed. We are doing what we need to do for all of the boys, but then we have my stepsons’ mother involved in the discussion and contradicting what our family therapist advises. In the end, their custody agreement trumps good advice from a therapist.

    Most of the time, my son is a completely non-violent, highly immature and over-emotional child who never stops talking. Emotionally he often acts more like a 6 to 8-year-old. He cries all the time. He needs so much more parenting that I can give him. He needs constant one on one interaction.

    My husband shares custody of his four boys ages 8-14, and together we have a 3-year-old who is showing signs of autism and is in early autism intervention. It’s overwhelming, and I feel no matter what I do, I’m failing someone.

    My son’s therapist says he needs to practice the skills he is lacking to help resolve the issues between him and his stepbrothers, but it risks him having a challenging episode, and my husband doesn’t feel it’s worth the risk. More and more, my son and stepsons have zero time together that isn’t heavily monitored by my husband. When in doubt, he sends the boys off to their mother's and then the resentment builds because my stepsons see their father less often. I wish this could be an opportunity for them to develop empathy towards my son but they don’t have any relationship with my son, and their mother doesn’t care about my son or how things work for our family, only that her boys get time with their dad. There’s only so much time in the day, and my stepsons get shortchanged, and there is nothing we can do about it. I think my stepsons take that resentment out on my son. He doesn’t have the frustration tolerance or social skills to deal with it, so he lashes out.

    I fear my son is internalizing the criticisms. Recently he's acted out damaging my stepsons' belongings. When I ask him about it, he says he wants to 'get them back.' It's so out of character for him. I try to advocate for him and help him navigate the world and then he just does something stupid and he's back to being the 'bad' kid again.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2018
  2. I'm sorry to hear about your son's issues and how it is affecting custody of your spouse's children. Your situation does sound overwhelming.

    Has your son been prescribed ADHD medication? If he is on an ADHD medicine, it's clearly not working. ADHD mediation does work, but it is occasionally "hit-or-miss" in having the correct mediation prescribed.
  3. WearyMomof2

    WearyMomof2 New Member

    His psychiatrist has made a few changes to his medications, most recently about 6 months ago after he hit his stepbrother. He's on Vyvanse right now for ADHD. He had been in intuniv along with stimulant medications, but that caused too much sedation. The Vyvance works well for him in school. We find most of his behavior challenges come at the end of the day when his medications are wearing off. He's having considerable difficulties getting his homework done in the evening without me sitting with him. I don't know if that's the ADHD or anxiety. I suspect anxiety. He really struggles in school and that's very hard for him because he's the oldest and biggest kid in the class.
  4. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    If your younger child has autism, that runs strong In families. If one child has it another child has a 20 percent chance of having it too. Your oldest may also have autism rather than just ADHD and anxiety, both which are present in autism. If you havent yet I would have him reevaluated by a neuropsychologist (A psychologist with extra training in tje brain). You can find them at university and childrens hospitals. My son has it but was wrongly diagnosed with both ADHD and bipolar until he was 11. Then once he got the right diagnosis his life changed for the extreme better and he did very well and is doing great at 25. I would definitely do this. ADHD is treated differently than Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and is not as serious as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and you need to find out. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is very often misdiagnosed until middle school so the kids don't get the right interventions. They are usually stuck just taking stimulants, which doesnt help most with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). It made my son MORE aggressive. That is my recommendation

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2018
  5. WearyMomof2

    WearyMomof2 New Member

    He had a neuropsychological evaluation six months ago after he hit his stepbrother. I had it done to prove he wasn't this awful kid my husband ex and other family members think he is. His behavior challenges are very different than my daughter's. My daughter will have meltdowns that last for an hour and then need several hours of reassurance. My son's never has had meltdowns or tantrums the way she does and his ADHD meltdowns or 'episodes' as we call them are very quick and he's back to being himself. Also my son is very engaging with people. He wants to talk to everyone, and he's very aware that kids often don't like him and find him, well... annoying. I sometimes think his anxiety would be less if he wasn't such a people person.
  6. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Every Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) child is different. My son babbled to all too BUT he did not know how to have give and take conversations. He really had few meltdowns which quit at about age 8 and did not ever hit anyone or get violent but he was socially clueless and annoyed kids too. You cant look at two Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids and compare them. They are all different yet they all have trouble socially and dont do well with transition and need help understanding life's rules.

    Its up to you if you pursue it. I hope you do. Your son and his family are starting to think he is this bad kid. Frankly I would leave my husband snd the steps before I allowed the entire family to pick on my challenged little boy. It wouldwHAVE to stop pronto. It is cruel to leave him out of the group and call him bad and it will affect your son's perception of himself. I would have never allowed it. You dont need to either.
  7. Have you contacted your psychiatrist and explained what is happening when the Vyvanse wears off? There are medications that can be given after school and different medications that can be given to supplement the Vyvanse. In addition, children's livers metabolize familiar medications quickly and extended release medications which should last 12 hours soon begin to only last 8 hours. For this reason, ADHD medications must be rotated.
  8. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    For this to happen there has to be parental support of the idea.
    But the thing is, who can fault your husband from being scared.

    The risk here is that your son is being scapegoated. By his step-siblings, and even by your husband. The reality is that there is extreme pressure on the family. The possible autism diagnosis for sure, of the baby, the blended family, the issues with your son, the fact that the step-kids have to deal with two families, and interference of the ex-wife's mother into business that is not hers. I am wondering if there is the possibility of family systems therapy?

    I know for me, paying for all these services is daunting. If you live near a metropolitan area you can good psychotherapy according to a sliding scale, at Jewish Family Service. They serve everybody.

    The other possibility would be behavioral evaluations, where a person comes into the home and trains everybody.
    I am wondering if your son has an IEP. Because he really should have an accommodation to avoid the homework that may be stressing him out. He could have help at school to do necessary homework. This may be a question in part of pressure that can be minimized for him. There were a lot of challenges for my son at school but we did not have problems at home, until he was in his later teens. I believe it is because I really laid off with pressuring him a lot. For the most part, we did not do homework. He ended up with native fluency in 3 languages, and highly articulate. His capacity is huge, but he is mentally ill, and he has not been able to harness it.

    Now, there are people that believe I created the problems for my son, by exactly this way of handling things. But in my heart, I believe that if I had pressured us both to the extent that we were stressed out, it would have undermined our relationship which was very good and sustained us both. But it was easier for me, because he was my only child and I raised him alone.
    However bad the sedation was, and I am not advocating sedating him, the lack of impulse control seems worse.
    What about asking if he could be given the sedating medication at night? Are you very confident in the child psychiatrist? I would consider taking son to a major Children's hospital in a metro, to the Child Development Department where there will be a team of developmental specialists.

    I think that whatever is done, the intervention needs to take into account EVERYBODY in the family, not just your son. Because at this point, EVERYBODY bears part of the problem but more importantly everybody needs to be part of the solution.
    There is the baby that they think might be autistic. That would be a whole other set of issues--dealing with a potentially autistic toddler, alone, along with this 8 year old who sounds absolutely adorable.

    Welcome. I hope you keep posting. I believe that there are solutions, but they do not come so easy for many of us. You have a lot on your plate but it sounds like you have a really loving, precocious and sweet child. Solutions will be found for him. It may be a question of another medication adjustment. Meanwhile, I think I would try to moderate expectations of everybody. Your husband is overwhelmed too. The stepchildren are caught in the middle between two families and who knows what their other grandmother is saying. Or their mother, for that matter.

    But I agree with SWOT. Your 8 year old needs protection, too. You are right. This is not his fault.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2018
  9. WearyMomof2

    WearyMomof2 New Member

    My son is 12. I thought I posted that in the original post but I must have left it out. He's in 5th grade and struggling. He does have an IEP. I should revisit the amount of homework he has. It shouldn't take him the amount of time it does, but he is behind in math and reading.

    Thank you for all your replies. I will address the medications with the psychiatrist. Perhaps I need to find a different psychiatrist for him.
  10. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I am sorry, I got the age wrong. I just added this to the post above but realized you would not see it. (See below.)

    I am not questioning the psychiatrist but I do similar work. There is a vast difference in competencies, one from the other. I mentioned Childrens Hospitals. But University Psychiatry Clinics would be good, too.

    I do not want to burden you with suggestions. I am kind of sorry I did. Because your burden already is so great. But this situation is largely beyond your control. It should not be in your hands to solve. But if you don't reach out to make changes, what will change?
    First. Nobody on earth could be adequately handling this situation, and the expectation of yourself, that you should is cruel and burdensome. This is the time when you need to nurture and to protect yourself. You are holding everything together. It is like that globe symbol, that is in a woman's hands. That is you right now. You can't start mother-bashing. The situation is tough as it is. Now is the time to be your best friend.

    You are failing nobody. But if you are hard on yourself, you are failing yourself. This is easy to solve. Just stop it.
  11. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Maybe they can do pull out and give him extra help at school. I would do almost anything to lessen the stress and demands on him.
  12. Crayola13

    Crayola13 Active Member

    I think your son is being treated like an outcast. He is out numbered, and his stepbrothers gang up on him. This is causing him enormous stress. Did these behaviors start or get worse when the stepbrothers came into the picture? He doesn't feel secure and is going to develop an anger problem in the future. Does your husband's ex-wife have joint custody? How mamm times a week are they at her house? I definitely think everyone should continue with family therapy.

    I am glad your daughter is in early autism intervention. Who knows if her symptoms would be so obvious if she wasn't experiencing all of this. I definitely think seeing the brothers act up is stressing her out.

    I'm so sorry for you having to go through all of this. The kids don't seem to want to accept each other. If your son wasn't so outnumbered, it would be easier for him. Is he happier when his stepbrothers stay at their mom's house?
  13. ksm

    ksm Well-Known Member

    Has he had DNA testing to help find the best medication ? We had it done for our adopted granddaughters and found that one was lacking a necessary enzyme to break down the medications...and one had twice the normal amount and would metabolize it too rapidly. Be sure to see if your insurance covers it first. They use a swab on the inside of the cheek. The test resultS will have a list of revommendations of medications to try, and those that should be used with caution.

  14. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Take him to a team of specialists. His chances of being autustic are very high. Yes it is hard and you dont want to hear it again. But diagnoses often evolve with time as the child gets older and shows more and there is now the sister and genetics. It doesnt help to treat him for ADHD if that is not his real diagnoses. His overreactions show more than ADHD in my opinion but most psychpsychiat, good or bad, dontb really like to diagnose autism and it is often caught very late. My son was 11. Tons of medd before that that did not help and that he didnt need. Waste of years.

    I had mental illness as a child and was the family scspegoat. I was the "bad" one. I really resent my FOO who I disown for how I was treated and took years of therapy to realize I am npt bad. Dont let this hapen to your son. You will deeply regret it if you do. I know your son is your heart. He is not doing this on purpose. Do please protect him. He is innocent here and already being ostracized. The family dynamic must change or hebwill end up badly hurt. Your husband is not understandung?! I hope he is. Your son needs a kind and compassionate man.

    Love and light!
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2018
  15. WearyMomof2

    WearyMomof2 New Member

    My husband has joint '50/50' custody, one week at each parent. In the beginning, it might have been closer to actually 50/50. Now, things have been changed so that I do not have them in the afternoons on our weeks, they are only here when my husband is here. We have been to family therapy but, the boy's mother objected to our therapist's advice and now there is a court order that she must agree to the boys' therapist. Currently my husband and stepsons go to a separate therapist once a week that is primarily a way for them to complain to their dad about my son.

    I hate how my son is being treated. We can punish my stepsons for their behavior towards my son but we haven't figured out a day to punish them for their attitude. My son's behavior has gotten worse over the years. My husband and I married 3.5 years ago but we knew each other from work and we got together because of our boys. My son had tremendous difficulties making friends, so we got together at first for them socialize. When we started dating, I had hoped our boys would become friends. We hadn't planned on getting married but the baby changed that. My son's difficulties multiplied when we moved. He was so disorganized. He managed to misplaced his backpack on the way out the door to school. Then, we were late and my stepson' mother gets notified her boys were tardy. This just started a pattern where my son got more disorganized and anxious. My son started new behaviors, like blaming his stepbrothers for everything he couldn't find or had broken. Unfortunately, there were times I did believe him and punished my stepsons for things I later realized they didn't do. You read the step parenting books and they don't tell you how to help kids adjust to things that aren't going to be fair. My stepsons were used to certain house rules that simply didn't work for my son and even for the rules we did have, there were times I'd pick my battles with him to avoid his emotional outbursts. I was doing everything I could. My son got ADHD coaching and a therapist, he was diagnosed with anxiety and the medication started working. We were doing everything we could to make it work for all the boys but my stepsons would go to their mother and complain things weren't fair and tattle on my son. If it had just been our family, I think things would have been better but we had their mother involved. For example, at school my son lost a textbook and blamed my stepson who attended the same school. He was upset and ashamed and and in the moment, he blamed his stepbrother. Had I been called, I could have fixed the situation. Instead, his teacher believed my son and referred my stepson for discipline. His mother was notified and it became a huge deal. I just wish it could have been handled where my stepson understood how embarrassing this is for my son and protected him. Instead my stepson told the vice principal about every other time my son had blamed him for taking things he had lost and tried his best to get my son punished at school.

    We were in family therapy for about a year. What my stepsons do is complain about my son's behavior to us in front of him and escalate it. We punish them if they bicker or fight with him, so they started to ignore him, which is so much worse for my son but hard to punish. The therapist said we needed more time with all the boys on their own and when that didn't work, the two younger boys having quality time with my son, hoping they could find some common ground. Unfortunately, during one of these times they were having time together, my son got upset, started an argument, and shoved the youngest backwards where he hit his head on the tile floor. Again, it was a time when I wish we could have handled this as a family but the ex was called before we had figured out what happened and my stepson had an unnecessary ER visit. It was a month before the boys came back to our house and then it was with new custody rules, the therapist was fired and we were to 'properly supervise my son'. Truth is, my stepsons escalated the situation. I'm not saying my son is blameless, he shouldn't have gotten upset and the youngest didn't deserve to be hurt but my son gets vilified because he picked on the younger one. He says he did it because he was overwhelmed dealing with one of them when youngest started in too, he lost it and shoved him. Instead of resolving the situation between them, their mother has decided the situation is to be solved by separating the boys. She tells her boys to not talk to my son when we've made it clear we view that as bullying. The older boys have been told by their mother not to leave the youngest with my son, even if their dad is with him. 6 months later during further custody mediation about my son, my son was gave the youngest stepson a black eye. My mom was babysitting, I was at an appointment for my daughter and the boys once again escalated a situation with my son and he lashed out, sucker punched the youngest. I can't make any justifications for this, instead, I am still horrified and very concerned about why he would do this, this prompted his neuropsychological evaluation and many visits to mental health professionals to get the help he needs. The problem was is we're at a point now where the my stepsons ignore my son as much as possible and my husband agrees with it. He walked into custody mediation and allowed his ex to write the custody rules that affect my son.

    The toughest thing about my daughter is that she isn't that affected by the outside world. My son can cry and she is perfectly fine. My daughter will have these epic meltdowns where she cries for an hour and my son is wreck the whole time. My stepsons are good with my daughter. I have to give them that. The oldest two grew up being expected help with their little brothers and it's automatic they help with her. I wish they felt the same way about their stepbrother. For example, my stepsons are eagle eyed when it comes to my son leaving out toys and items that are choking hazards for toddlers. But they always have to make a big deal about it. They can't just put the legos, etc away, they must come and tell their dad that my son left out something he shouldn't.

    He is much better without his stepbrothers. Partly, that is being able to have a set schedule, my stepsons' schedules are crazy busy. Without them, he will still be overemotional and have moments where he gets very upset but if we don't make a big deal of it. He recovers quickly from it and it doesn't trigger his anxiety. He does so much better without the boys that I get upset when my husband accepts first right of first refusal parenting time. His ex gets the boys anytime husband uses a babysitter, including me, so they are with their mom almost all the time after school and during breaks. When his ex uses a babysitter on weekends, husband could get the boys but I've asked him not to. A few weekends ago, husband could have had the two oldest when his ex was out of town with the two youngest at a sport tournament but he let them stay with his parents instead. More and more, his 50/50 custody is more like every other weekend parenting whether he admits it or not. I hope at some point, we could move somewhere more affordable and just accept the child support payment in exchange for official every other weekend visitation. It would be so much better for my son.
  16. WearyMomof2

    WearyMomof2 New Member

    I'm very certain he is not autistic. I do believe his issues are more anxiety than ADHD. He is very attuned to people's emotions, he's well spoken and he doesn't have any particular interests. Immaturity is a symptom of ADHD and that's much of his problem. Much of his behaviors are very typical of much younger kids. The judgements come in when he's 12 and he acts like a 6 year old.

    I don't know how to get my stepsons to stop resenting my son. I go to support groups for families with autism and other mothers talk about how wonderful and understanding their neurotypical children are supporting their autistic sibs. I wanted that so badly for my son. My stepsons are good kids and wonderful around their brothers. I had such high hopes that they would accept him and he could become one of their brothers. Instead, they just keep track of his mistakes. I do protect him. We take disciplining my stepsons very seriously. My husband is former military, so he is very strict with his sons but very kind to my son. It helps my son have a father in his life. What my stepsons can't handle is that jealousy that my son does get so much time with their dad. Before we were married, my husband had a special day with my son, just the two of them. They went out to breakfast, went to a Dodgers game. My son said it was the best day ever. Then he told his stepbrothers about it. To this day, they resent him for it. My husband said if he had to do it again, he wouldn't have done it. Now we try to keep things more equal between them but it really can't be equal. My son needs more time and with me so focused on my daughter, my husband is needed to parent my son. He's excellent at it but it comes with the jealousy issues with my stepsons. They don't have a problem with their younger brother getting more attention but my son, they get jealous and resentful about.
  17. AppleCori

    AppleCori Well-Known Member

    Hi and welcome, weary.

    I have a slightly different perspective on this situation. It may or may not be anything resembling your situation, but I just wanted to throw it out there.

    I was an only child whose mother married a guy with several kids. The youngest was especially difficult and would inevitably cause us to get into trouble when we tried to play with him, or he would end up hitting someone (and blame his response on one of us). It was easier just to stay away from him whenever possible.

    Maybe the step-sons are just trying to protect themselves by pulling away and ignoring your son, not bullying him.

    By all accounts (yours) these boys are great kids, and they are wonderful with your daughter. They will come around, given the right approach, I believe.

    Maybe it would be a good idea for you and your step-sons to go to counseling together, and really listen to what they have to say. The way to get them to empathize with your son is empathizing with them and their resentments (and they do have legitimate issues). I don’t think less time with their father is a good idea, in the long run. Getting the blended family to blend more smoothly would be better for all.

    Become allies with them, and they will be more likely to work with your son and you. Some jealousy is normal, but if you can get them on your side, it will become less of a problem.

    Anyway, good luck.


    Edited to add—now, that brother an I are closer than any of the other siblings are. And he can still be difficult at times.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2018
  18. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    I am wondering why this mother is so involved in your life? I know lots of stepfamilies and, although I am sure they exist, I have never heard of the husband allowing his ex to interfer in what goes on with the kids at his house to such a broad extent. Doesnt he have a say in who his kids see in therapy too??? Half legal custody?

    I understand these are her kids but they are his too and your son is his stepson, you are his wife and the baby is sister to your son and his first precious daughter. Somehow in my opinion husband has to let ex know what goes on in his house goes on in his house and he will deal with it. The mother is like part of the family. A troublemaker too. I would have a word with my husband. This is not good for your son and it wont be good for his sister either if she also has special needs. She is encouraging the older boys to make trouble in her ex's home. Stirring the pot. Your hub in my opinion engages with her too much.
  19. AppleCori

    AppleCori Well-Known Member

    The mother was called (not sure by who) but if my 8 year old child had gotten a black eye or a concussion, I would want to be informed immediately.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2018
  20. WearyMomof2

    WearyMomof2 New Member

    Their custody agreement mandates both parents have to consent to medical treatment including therapy. After the first incident, the boys' mother blamed the therapist and withdrew consent. She had our therapist served with legal papers, we weren't even notified. It took mediation to agree on a new therapist and she insisted on one who only wasn't also treating my son. There's been a lot of discussion about what's best for the boys verses what's best for our family. When it comes to legal custody matters of my stepsons, the courts only concern is the best interest of the boys, not our family.

    Over the last 1.5 years my husband has been in custody mediation with his ex wife 3 times, primarily over what she says are 'safety issues' at our house, which is code for my son. The ex used our house rule against tattling against us, saying she was being kept in the dark about the danger my son posed to her kids. After my stepson got the black eye, my husband agreed to all of his ex's terms. She told our inlaws she was willing to do spend whatever it took on legal fees to keep the boys safe and my inlaws supported her. The boys' mother had all sorts of new 'safety' rules regarding babysitting, proper supervision, and other things like the boys needed to have a separate bedroom from my son that could lock. There was nothing in the custody agreement about making things better between all of our boys, just keeping her boys safe from my son. Any physical altercation between our boys was brought up with the mediator, even a few times between my son and the 2nd youngest that were just normal childhood behavior. His ex acts like we aren't doing anything about my son and the only option for her is to go to court and force my husband to act.

    I agree my husband's ex is too big of a part of our family. The boys constantly text with their mom during their time with us. The custody agreement mandates the boys have the ability to communicate with both parents. Unlimited cellphone use isn't explicitly mandated but my husband won't take their phones away because he doesn't want his ex to do the same to him. She pays for their cell phones and the boys text him all the time too. When my son smashed the youngest pumpkin, the boys sent their mom a video of their little brother crying. My son was upset, our daughter was upset and the 8 year old was hamming it up so we weren't rewarding him for it. Then my husband gets a text from the ex about the situation. The ex wants to make it out like anytime we have an issue between the boys like this, it could have been dangerous for the younger boy so her intervention is to protect him. That's what makes me so mad, the boys are constantly told by their mother they need protection from my son.

    This ex has said if there's another physical altercation between my son and her son(s), she will call the police and file for full custody. My inlaws have said they will help her get full custody to protect their grandsons. My inlaws' opinion have really affected the way my husband feels. He isn't so willing to fight his ex for custody matters. He is more willing now to just let the boys go to their mom's when they want to, he says he doesn't want to force them to be where they don't want to be. I believe that's the main issue, my stepsons aren't accepting of my son because they have choice not to have to deal with it.