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Ask a Professional: Concerned about step-daughter’s behaviour

Ask a Professional: Concerned about step-daughter’s behaviour

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Linda-ROPro

Ask a Professional: Concerned about step-daughter’s behaviour

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Hello,

I need some urgent advice for my 14 year old stepdaughter.
Her and her brother who is 10 begun living with my partner (their dad) earlier this year by choice.

Miss 14 started off okay at a new school which she had chosen and we had collectively agreed to. About 6 weeks later she began showing signs of just not caring.

She only cared for her social life which she had now made outside of the school she attended. She did have a girl whom she befriended at the new school and they would only attend if the other was attending. They then began not to show even when they were both there towards the end of last term. Her friend has now been removed from the school and sent elsewhere. She now has said she has no one to hang out with at school as all these girls do is talk about others behind their backs and she doesnt want to be a part of this.

I will just cut to the chase.

Over the school holidays her lies, level of disregard and care have just become a major concern and also a major issue which has impacted her fathers ability to cope.

We are struggling to have any kind of control and when everything comes to a head her father will end up losing his temper and it becomes a dramatic and is taking its toll on all involved

Please how do i go about this as the meat in the sandwich as he often refers to everyone overriding him and that he had no say with when her mum was around and never will.

Loz123

 

Dear @Loz123 ,

Thanks so much for getting in touch. It sounds like your partner is feeling really frustrated and overwhelmed by the situation, and that this puts you in a very difficult position.

Changing schools as well as adjusting to a new living situation is a big change, and it’s really common that dealing with big changes like this can cause some challenges for the whole family. Your step-daughter is also at an age where teens are often testing their boundaries, which can result in acting out and behaving in ways which are really frustrating for parents. 

It’s really important to make sure that you and your partner are on the same page about how to approach the situation, and have a shared understanding of your roles in this. If the two of you feel you are working as a team, this can make the whole situation a lot less stressful for both of you. I’m not sure how long you have been a step-parent, but having the children living there full-time has probably changed how involved you are in day to day decision making when it comes to the kids. If you haven’t already had a conversation with your partner about how he sees your role and how the two of you can work together, then I recommend this. This is particularly important because of the way you feel that you’ve been put in the middle of the situation.

In addition to this, it may be helpful for the whole family to sit down and have a talk about rules and expectations. I imagine you and your partner have already tried to talk to your step-daughter about her behaviour and your concerns. However, having a conversation which is broader and aimed at coming to an agreement as a family on rules, boundaries, and consequences can help reduce future conflicts, and help you and your partner feel able to respond more calmly when rules are broken. 

It’s particularly important to let teenagers have input during these discussions. That probably sounds counter-intuitive when you’re struggling for control, but it can switch things from a power-struggle into something more cooperative, which tends to make teens more likely to listen, respect rules and accept consequences. If this is something which you and your partner would like to try, there are some tips on family rules here. 

In a situation like this, where there are ongoing arguments, it’s also even more important to spend time identifying the positive aspects of the relationship, and working on these, for both you and your partner. This can involve finding activities that you can do with your step-daughter that you both enjoy (and that your partner can do with your step-daughter for the two of them), or even just something as simple as noticing times when things are a little better, and providing positive feedback when things are going well.

If it feels like you’ve tried these things and the situation is not improving, then family counselling 

can help families find new ways of responding to each other to reduce arguments and frustrations. This is something to consider if your partner is open to the idea. 

I hope this is helpful.

Kind regards,

Linda

 

Linda is a psychologist experienced in working with people across the lifespan, including teenagers and their families, in a variety of settings, and is ReachOut's Clinical Lead.

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