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Teens making me miserable

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Teens making me miserable

Me and my husband each had 8 year old boys when my sister abandoned her three kids and we took them in. That was 4 years ago and now I am the unexpected mother of FOUR teen/tweens. I have a five year old, two twelve year olds, and two thirteen year olds. This is not what I wanted my life to be. I took my sisters kids so that they didn't have to grow up in foster care, and because they had separated them all from each other. Our adoption was finalized last year and now I have 5 kids. The 4 older kids are making my life so miserable. I love them all so much, but it is so exhausting and grueling. 70% of all of the conversations I have with any of them ends up in an argument. Every time I ask them to do anything like help with housework or go with me to the store it devolves into them being complete jerks and ganging up on me to argue about how terrible it is or how they shouldn't have to. Literally every single day they are here I spend deflecting arguments and trying desperately to just get the most basic of household needs done with them. I feel like I am just bleeding out every single day and by the end of the day I am empty. It's like our fun and happiness is being held hostage by their garbage moods about everything. I cry almost every night after they have gone to bed because of how stressful the day was. I should express that they are good kids, they don't do drugs or get in fights. The two older adopted children went to a lot of transitional therapy and did great with that. I feel like it is just what I should expect from teenage years but with the 4 of them it is so exhausting. Sometimes I just want to give up. I don't know how to get through this and no matter how many times I talk to them about their behavior it doesn't end. I am desperate for a way to get them to stop with the arguing and complaining all of the time. I'm at my wits end. What am I supposed to do? I feel so incredibly tired and done with it all.

Re: Teens making me miserable

Dear Trackle,
I get how you feel. Arguments with your children can be physically and mentally draining, regardless of the age. I myself am a teenager, and feel your your plight, as I have had several run-ins with my own mother regarding the most minor issues, such as doing chores. I find myself disagreeing mainly based on something my mother did earlier, such as cutting off my access to electronics. Try and confront them directly to ask them where the anger is coming from. During arguments with my mother, I feel like I am not doing anything wrong by standing my ground, but immediately afterwards I feel terrible, and try to make it up to her.

Something you and your children could try is the practice of listening to understand. This technique was introduced to me by my father, and it has reduced the number of heated arguments within this household significantly. While you are arguing with your children, you are both listening to respond, as in you listen to the other party's defence only to rebuke and challenge it, instead of understanding what they are trying to say. For example, if they say "Why should I have to help you carry stuff?" someone in an argument would say "I'm your mother" or "You just spent so much time on your phone" or something along those lines. My mother says these all the time. What you should try instead is to instead ask them why they think they are not obligated to help you.

Convey that you are just trying to understand them using body language. Crossing your arms as you are talking conveys rejection, as if you are not even interested in what they are trying to say. Try and maintain eye contact and leaning forward to convey that you are paying attention and are willing to listen to what the opposing party has to say. These will help steer the argument toward a more constructive conversation.

I'm afraid that that's all that I know how to help with, talking from the perspective of a teenager. Just take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in your struggles with your child. Many parents say enduring this period of their child's lives is unbearable (experience), but ultimately it is worth it. Never give up! Smiley Happy

Yours sincerely,

Re: Teens making me miserable

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@Trackle I’m so sorry to hear how hard things are for you. I can hear the grief when you say that this isn’t what you imagined your life to be. You have done an incredible thing in trying to keep your sister’s children together, but it’s also an incredibly difficult thing and your feelings and wellbeing matter.
I know it’s a cliché, but it’s so true that we can’t help other people put their gas masks on unless we have ours on first. You are the centre of your family and you need to be okay in order for everyone else to be okay.

You’ve been caring for everyone else for four years and that takes so much strength, but it’s okay to say it’s hard and I’m so glad you reached out here for support. This is a safe place for you to share your feelings whenever you need to.

Do you have much support from friends, family or professionals for yourself or with the children?
I know you said that your sister’s children are adopted now, and I’m not sure what that means where you are from, but are you able to access anything like post-adoption support services that might be able to help?

I hear what you're saying about these being typical behaviours for teenagers to a certain extent. As Wellif so insightfully said, communication between parents and teens is often hard. In case it’s helpful, here is a link to some information about communicating with teens on our website.

At the same time, your nieces and nephews have been through trauma, loss and abandonment, so they will have additional challenges to face that mean navigating life is harder for them, and therefore it’s harder for you too as their adoptive mum. 

Please don’t feel there is anything wrong with you for feeling this way.
It sounds like you might be suffering from compassion fatigue due to caring for so many people, and perhaps not receiving enough care yourself. Is there any way you might be able to take a break somehow? For example, could you carve out a set time in your week that belongs only to you so that you can do something you love that nurtures you?

One thing that some parents caring for children with disrupted attachment and development trauma find helpful is therapeutic parenting. I’m not sure if it interests you, but if it does, this website has some introductory information about therapeutic parenting in case it’s helpful.

I’m not sure if these thoughts are helpful but I just wanted to say we care and we’re here for you - please feel free to post here any time.