Step Daughter won't talk

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-19-2010
Step Daughter won't talk
16
Mon, 07-22-2013 - 3:57pm

SD10 is here for summer visitation. We only have her for a few weeks in the summer, Christmas break and spring break. Every time she comes there is NO improvement and I really don’t know what to do or if there is anything I can do.

She does NOT talk. For the week she has been here she has probably said 10 words on her own. The rest of the time it is us asking her questions and prodding her to say something. She will answer questions, but in as few words as possible. If we ask what she wants to eat/do/watch? ….all we get is a shoulder shrug.   Her mother just says “she’s a very quiet child”. . The only time I have seen her act normal and happy is when we had a friend over to play with her.

It may sound like a silly problem to some, but it is seriously annoying and I really feel its disrespectful. If she is shy, shouldn’t that get better with time? I have taken her shopping and we had a girls day of getting our nails done.  Her mother said she loved her nails, but there is no way I would have known that because the kid looks miserable all the time. Last night when she didn’t eat her dinner, DH asked her if she was full or if she didn’t like it, she said she was full… then she texted her mother that it was nasty. Apparently everything I make is nasty.

Do I just ignore her? Do I keep trying? It really makes everyone miserable while she is here, because we can’t seem to do or say anything to make her happy or not “shy”.  She is the same with her dad, maybe a tiny bit better but not really. He has told her numerous times that she needs to speak up and let us know what she needs/wants and that the silent thing doesn’t work…nothing.  The mother and her family have done a lot of bad-mouthing, is it just that? I’m just really at a loss and so is my husband…..

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iVillage Member
Registered: 09-16-2002
Mon, 07-22-2013 - 5:22pm

Just wrote a whole reply and lost it, stupid iVillage website!  :( 

Well, to sum up, I basically wrote to try to kill her with kindness, have her get involved in the meal planning/making, take her to places where conversation is stimulated (a museum, a play, etc.).  She is only 10 years old, and yes, she may be exhibiting this behaviour because she does not want to betray her mother by being sociable with you and her father.  I have no idea about the bad mouthing that has been done, but she should not be in the middle of it.  How do you know she told her mother that your food was nasty, did her mother tell you that, or do you read your step daughter's texts?  I'm sure she's very confused and feels like she needs to pick sides, which is really hard for her.  Have you and your husband ever tried sitting down with her mother to mend fences so to speak?  It's up to the adults in this situation to make this girl (remember, she is only 10!) feel like she can have a relationship with all without anyone making her feel bad about it.  I'm curious, how old was she when her parents split (and you came into the picture)? 

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

.  -Albert Einstein

Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Mon, 07-22-2013 - 7:57pm

My answer isn't going to help much, but what she is doing is totally normal. 

Now, I do believe that there is a grey area of what is normal and what is extreme, but in general, many pre-teens behave this way in any household. 

In fact, just yesterday my DH got frustrated with DD13 after a somewhat expensive outing in an effort to spend the day together as a family, my DD just wanted to lay down in the back seat all the way there and all the way back.  I didn't see what the big deal was, buy my DH felt as you did.  A bit disapointed and frustrated. 

Now, my DD can be quite the cornball, so I don't worry to much.  And I do see her giggle with a GF or watching TV.  But boy howdy, the moodiness is horrible.  We can't get hardley two words out of her, either.  And yes, it started a couple years ago.  She has moved on to some teen-agish issues, but a lot of what you are describing is still there. 

I know it is hard, and my DH struggles with it also, but you can't take it personal.  I know the other poster said to kill her with kindness, which I do often suggest, but be careful.  We keep trying things and unfortunately we have expectations that "this time it will be different."  And when it is not, we develop resentments. 

Just keep loving on her and if you do anything kind, do it because it is the right thing to do and let go of any expectations. 

Serenity CL Making a Second Marriage Work

 

Serenity
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-19-2010
Tue, 07-23-2013 - 10:29am

She was 5 when her parents divorced and 6 when I "came into the picture", and 7 when I married DH.  Their divorce was nasty and we know the kids were being involved because the older kids would join in on disagreements (calling DH and chewing him out for whatever the diagreement was about).

During the last year the BM has wanted to build a 'friendship' with me because she though maybe it would help repair some of the damage that has been done (she has admitted to the PASing, from both her and her mother), so I have been communicating with her...but I really don't see any change in the way SD10 behaves.  And actually she is worse this summer than she was last summer.

We know what she was saying about the food becasue she used my DH's tablet to text her mother, she left it open and he saw it.

I really do try to be nice and sweet to her.  I try to make foods that she will like.  At Christmas I had her help make cookies.  This weekend I took her shopping for school clothes and supplies.  Like I said, we had manicures done... usually people talk during all these activities.  Nothing...

 

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-19-2010
Tue, 07-23-2013 - 10:42am

I agree with the not having any expections part.  I have been doing alot of reading about step families and that is one thing I have learned.  At first I think I did go overboard for her, and what I wanted in return was for her to like me.  And of course that didnt happen.

So, this summer I have backed off.  I still planned some activities but nothing like I did last summer.  It has helped ME to not feel the resentment as much, but its hasnt helped the situation with her or how she is acting.  I have two older daughters so I know how girls can be, believe me!  So, I would have been happy if she had at least seemed happy about the shopping or the manicures... but she gives nothing. She really, truly acts like it is torture being at our house.

The BM says she cries to her (but she thinks it is getting better).  They still sleep in the same bed, so I wonder if she has separation anxiety.

I myself am shy so I really do understand that, but to me this is excessive.  And, again I would think after a day or two she would snap out of it.  Her BM says she is the opposite with her and that she is has wondered if she is ADHD.

So, if this is any indication of what is ahead with the teen years coming... I think we are in trouble!

Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Tue, 07-23-2013 - 11:54am

Ugh, my post disapeared!!!

Short version:  There is a possibility SD could be depressed.  Co-sleeping with mom probably isn't helping at your house.  Long-stretch between visits make it hard to nurture this relationship. 

I don't see that you can do anything different than you are. 

Stick around and keep us posted!

Serenity
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-19-2010
Tue, 07-23-2013 - 12:45pm

thanks so much for your responses!  She could be depressed, I know I sure am today... it's frustrating when you feel like a failure.  I know the long stretches are alot of the problem, but BM moved them all 1200 miles away so there's not much we can do about it now.

Again, thank you!

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Tue, 07-23-2013 - 2:00pm

I got remarried to a widower who had a DD--when he & I met, she was 10, they moved in w/ me & my kids when she was 12 and we got married a year later.  this girl NEVER and I mean NEVER talked to me--and she lived with me 5 yrs.  (She had a terrible relationship w/ her father & moved out when she was a senior in high school to live w/ her grandmother and then her father & I got divorced a while later).  My kids would visit their dad a few times a week & occasionally DSD & I would be home alone for dinner--that was torture for me because it was so strained--it wasn't that she didn't like me, I think she just didn't know what to say.  If her dad was there (& he was in a good mood) she might talk slightly more.  And she lived at my house every day!  Now the strange part was that after her father & I got divorced, she sent me a letter one day about how she was sorry for her behavior and I was the only one who ever stuck up for her.  So your DSD's silence toward you really isn't personal at all.  Can you imagine being sent to stay w/ people you don't know that well for a few weeks a year?  It must be very uncomfortable for her, esp. if she's a shy child--it's not really her house, the food is different (maybe), the routine is different, she can't see her mom, who she's probably dependent on.  and yes, it was terrible for her mom to say bad things about her dad--no matter how nice mom is being now, those things can't be unsaid if DD heard them & who knows what's stuck in her mind.  Plus is dad working all day?  What does she do while he's at work? 

If it's at all possible, are there any kind of activities around where she can meet kids her own age, like a camp, sports or theater or something?  I would think it would be extremely boring to spend weeks only with adults too.  I think you need to be nice to her but not go overboard and try to do too many things.  Try not to take it personally that she doesn't talk.  I've found the preteen years are pretty hard with girls anyway.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-19-2010
Tue, 07-23-2013 - 5:44pm

so you think, just kinda step back... be nice but just kinda let her be?

last summer she was here for a whole month.  I worked mornings at my office then worked from home in the afternoon so I could be home with her.  I put her in a couple classes and swimming lessons during the day, set up a few play dates with a friends' daughter, and she spent alot of time riding bikes with neighbor kids ... so really she kept pretty busy.

Since all that didnt seem to really make a difference with her, this year I was going to put her in a daycare so she could be with other kids all day while we work.  Plus she is only here for a week and a half this summer.  The daycare provider needed her shot records and BM didn't cooperate so I couldn't get them and BM said SD10 just wanted to hang out at the house.  ( I have a DD19 who is around the house too).  So, either way I was trying to do what would make her happy, and it was their choice for her to stay at the house.

Your description of 'strained' is very accurate.  Everyone in the house is uncomfortable.  But I can see your point about her being uncomfortable since she is only with us a few weeks a year.  But at the same time I would think at some point she would feel comfortable.  And I know DH and I are probably terribly boring to her, but its hard when you don't get anything back, to know what to do or not do. If we say the wrong things she cries to her BM.  DH is frustrated and is ready to tell them he doesn't want visitation until she really wants to come.  I don't think that is the answer but I don't know what is either.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Wed, 07-24-2013 - 11:21am

I agree with your first sentence.  Two things stick out at me here (maybe cause I'm a divorce lawyer too so I see a lot of family dynamics).  If DSd is only at your house for 1 1/2 weeks--why is dad working the whole time?  Maybe he can't get all the time off, but I'd think if this is his chance to see his child for only a very limited time, why isn't he doing that?  It shouldn't be YOU taking the afternoons off to do things with her, it should be HIM--he's the parent, not you.  (Not that you aren't part of the family, etc. but I just see this a lot with fathers when they get remarried that they expect the stepmother to take care of their own kid.  I also know a lot of moms who get mad that the bio dad is not taking care of the child, yet they have to send their child to dad's house.)  And he definitely should not take the attitude that she shouldn't visit until she wants to come--do you think she'll ever want to come then?  Probably not--that will pretty much kill their relationship and I'm sure if the mom is even a little difficult she'll be saying "see, your dad doesn't even want to see you."  I mean, if my bio kids are difficult, I have to deal with it--I can't just send them somewhere else.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-19-2010
Wed, 07-24-2013 - 12:09pm

I think you are right, it should be DH's responsiblity to make sure she is taken care of and that he does things with her.

In the past he didnt have vacation time to take.  This summer he could have taken a couple days off, and sometimes I wonder if he is afraid to be alone with her.  Its a long story, but his older daughter (19) lived with him for awhile and instead of just saying she wanted to live with her mother, she made up stories about him (this has been admitted to me by her and her mother) and they don't really have a relationship now, so maybe that is part of it.

There are so many issues with thd kids/BM and her family, that I could write a book.  So, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the visits don't go well.

Next time she comes I won't have any kids at home (my youngest is going to college) so I may just make alot of plans and have to work extra during that time.  To give (force) them time alone and to give me peace too.

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