Should I be worried?

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-18-2005
Should I be worried?
Wed, 09-17-2008 - 10:48am

I’m a little concerned about my step-daughter, but I’m not sure if I’m overreacting or not.

She is nine years old, but doesn’t seem to act her age. She prefers to play with younger kids, as opposed to kids he own age. She prefers to play with my 2 year old's toys and games instead of hers. She has a room full of things, but very rarely uses ANY of them. She is almost incapable of entertaining herself. If she is not able to watch TV (It’s very limited in our house.) or play with someone she will just sit and stare at the wall or the ceiling. Sometimes, she will bring one of her things from her room (guitar, MP3 player, baseball, whatever), but usually just hold it instead of using it. She talks in baby talk, even after repeated requests to “talk properly”. She has trouble bathing herself, washing her hair properly, brushing her teeth and cleaning herself after she uses the restroom. For the most part, I know that she is fully capable of doing these things, she just won’t. She’s gone weeks with just wetting her hair in the shower instead of washing it and she will go days with out TP in her bathroom…until I notice that it’s gone and replace it.
She is quick to say that she doesn’t know how to do something, when she really just doesn’t want to try. That’s incredibly difficult when trying to help her with homework. She still has trouble sounding out simple words, but just for lack of trying. If things get even slightly difficult, she gives up.
She is a very sweet and loving girl and is generally a pleasure to be around. Her dad has primary custody and she sees her mom every other weekend. I have been in her life for just over 4 years in a step-mother type role, but I’ve known her since she was three.

Everyone is her "friend" (even the kids we’ll meet at the park for 10 minutes) but she doesn’t have many close friends. She doesn’t ask to call anyone one from school and no one calls her. She gets along with all the kids at school and doesn’t cause any trouble.

I’m not even sure if I should be concerned. She’s a good kid, get’s decent grades (great grades when she tries) and is generally happy…so I’m not sure what the problem is.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2003
Mon, 09-22-2008 - 2:54pm

Does she do her work in class?

Is she with you all the time or does she go back and forth between her dad's and her mom's. How long ago did you guys get married? How long has this been going on? Anything traumatic, stressful different happen in her live recently (last 6months even)? Anything that might have her questioning her place in the family? Even good changes can cause kids to act up and look for more attention, fall back into more babyish habits/behaviors.

What you are describing to me sounds like she is looking for positive attention that people love her and care about her. The easiest way to see that is to ask for help and then see what help you get. In the view of a child, how much you are willing to help them, do things for them, is a measure of how much they are loved. Not really true but think about yourself at a young age. I would be inclined to start tying some of her independence and privileges she gets for being 9 to her being more self sufficient. That and start using charts to set up routines for cleaning, getting ready for bed, hygiene. The charts would be the reminders rather than having to listen to you tell her every day. My experience has been that 9 yo like to play with little kids so try turning her into a mother's helper. She can help you out with the younger kids if her homework is done, if her chores are done.