I can't get the kids to 'reset'

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Whiteheron

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I can't get the kids to 'reset'
« on: October 23, 2018, 02:12:05 PM »
I can't get the kids to reset after their weekend with their dad and it's causing all kinds of problems and tension in the house. This hasn't happened before and I'm at a complete loss. I feel like a failure, even though I know this has nothing to do with me.

Their weekend with him was two weekends ago, so I have to send them back this coming weekend. They're not ready and there is nothing I can do. They haven't mentioned anything specific that happened. DD11 has been on the verge of tears all week, and DS14 is moody(ier) to the point at his doc visit, the doc strongly recommended a second opinion on DS's mental health (in case it wasn't DS just having a bad few days - DS saw doc two days after returning from dad's house).

It usually takes them a day or two to readjust after their long weekend with stbx. They don't seem to have an issue with the stand alone day, just the extended weekend. But this time is different. I am trying to be here for them, but it's so very draining. I don't know how to help them.

I did notice that DS has been ignoring texts from his dad the last few days- and he was acting better yesterday and again today. DD is still a mess. Idk what to do, I have to send them back in two days! The only thing I can think of is that it seems stbx is switching favorites - DS is falling out of favor and DD is becoming the favored one. But I can only guess, and I can't do anything about that except be stable and even, as always.

Anyone have any tips for sanity's sake?
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mamato3

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Re: I can't get the kids to 'reset'
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2018, 05:42:58 PM »
I can't get the kids to reset after their weekend with their dad and it's causing all kinds of problems and tension in the house. This hasn't happened before and I'm at a complete loss. I feel like a failure, even though I know this has nothing to do with me.

Their weekend with him was two weekends ago, so I have to send them back this coming weekend. They're not ready and there is nothing I can do. They haven't mentioned anything specific that happened. DD11 has been on the verge of tears all week, and DS14 is moody(ier) to the point at his doc visit, the doc strongly recommended a second opinion on DS's mental health (in case it wasn't DS just having a bad few days - DS saw doc two days after returning from dad's house).

It usually takes them a day or two to readjust after their long weekend with stbx. They don't seem to have an issue with the stand alone day, just the extended weekend. But this time is different. I am trying to be here for them, but it's so very draining. I don't know how to help them.

I did notice that DS has been ignoring texts from his dad the last few days- and he was acting better yesterday and again today. DD is still a mess. Idk what to do, I have to send them back in two days! The only thing I can think of is that it seems stbx is switching favorites - DS is falling out of favor and DD is becoming the favored one. But I can only guess, and I can't do anything about that except be stable and even, as always.

Anyone have any tips for sanity's sake?

I would really try to probe and find out if something happened. When DS acted this way, it was because he had witnessed DV and was really traumatized.

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athene1399

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Re: I can't get the kids to 'reset'
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2018, 05:43:25 PM »
I don't know if this is the right thing to do, but maybe ask them if something is bothering them and go from there. I know we shouldn't "fish" for information about the ex, but if it's something affecting the kids then maybe you can help them talk it out. Or just validate their feelings. And if they don't want to get into specifics, just let them know you are there if they need it. Or ask if they want to talk with a counselor instead.

Sorry I don't have any better ideas. That must be frustrating to deal with.  :(

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Penny Lane

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Re: I can't get the kids to 'reset'
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2018, 10:19:17 PM »
Oh man that's so hard.

Keep in mind that you're not going to be able to mitigate their dad's behavior all the time. Try not to put that pressure on yourself. The calmer you are, the more that will rub off on them.

I don't have any evidence that this works but over here when things are really bad at BM's we make sure we're keeping a lot of structure and calm at our house. Extra consistent on the rules, etc. It sounds kind of counter-intuitive but we actually save big treats or outings or whatever for times when the kids are already doing well. It's almost like, that takes extra emotional energy and they just don't have that to spare when they're recovering from mom's house. When they're doing badly it's all about their normal routine, but with extra love and cuddles. Also, we still enforce rules about behavior and really try to push the message that it's ok to feel bad but certain behaviors are not ok.

It sounds like other posters have had luck asking the kids about what's going on. We've tried that a little but it seems to have been counterproductive when they're in that state - they just retreat into themselves more. When they start coming out of it, they start offering stuff up on their own about what they're stressed about. So YMMV on that. It's ok if they don't need to talk they just need you to be there for them (or some alone time, or whatever).

I would definitely get that second opinion on the mental health stuff, like the doctor said.

If your gut is telling you that he's switching GC back, then that's probably right. I don't know how that can help you, but it can't hurt to have some sense of what's going  on at the other house.

I know this is so hard, we deal with it too, all you can do is your best. The kids will be ok. I think I posted recently, DSS had a huge meltdown and he was so mad at us because of his mom. I thought it was the beginning of a really bad period. But when he came back again he was back to his old self!

I hope that when they're at their dad's this weekend you can do some decompressing yourself. That way you'll be in the best state to help them out when they come back.

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Rose1

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Re: I can't get the kids to 'reset'
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2018, 01:17:26 AM »
I found things came outout slowly weeks later in some cases. And the time they were most likely to come out was when I was picking 1 up from school (by herself, never with her sister present). The older one opened up when she helped me prepare a meal. Peeling veggies and chatting seemed to do it. I he r heard that elsewhere too. One on one time and housework. It didn't have to be much, I was working but I usually had time each day while driving.

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Whiteheron

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Re: I can't get the kids to 'reset'
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2018, 11:44:45 AM »
I did mention to DS that I noticed both he and his sister were 'off' since coming back and let him know that if there's anything he feels like telling me, I would listen. He just kind of shrugged me off, which I interpret to mean he isn't ready to talk yet.

DS had T last week, they've decided to up his meds, since they never readjusted the dose after his growth spurt. Hopefully that helps. Ds's T spoke with me about how DS is feeling bullied by his sister and that I need to establish rules to protect him. She also mentioned that when DS insulted me directly (huge trigger), I did the wrong thing by telling him that wasn't acceptable and leaving the room. Because DS is apparently afraid I'll abandon him if he shows any anger.  :blink:  She told me I should have just said "I understand you're angry and it's ok" (DS wasn't angry at the time...he was being impatient). I felt like a complete failure and a sh!tty parent, but had to remind myself she only has DS's side of the story.

I have told the kids repeatedly that it's ok to express their anger, but as soon as they start taking it out on other people, then it's not ok. The T agreed with me and said that would be abusive behavior. I also told the T that I encourage the kids to punch a pillow/scream into a pillow if they need to vent. She said they need more, so I asked her to go over acceptable ways of handling anger with DS is subsequent sessions, and that I would establish rules for both kids about acceptable behaviors. She also said that these rules need to apply at both houses...she suspects stbx is a PD...why do the professionals seem to forget this? That if I go to stbx with a list of rules the kids need to follow he will do the opposite? Only thing I can think to do is plant the seed with DD's T, and ask her to suggest some rules to stbx.

The entire time she's telling me how DS is feeling and essentially that I'm falling short as a parent, I'm thinking to myself: I'm not strong enough for this I can barely keep it together, does she realize DS is just as guilty as his sister when it comes to picking on each other, that DS instigates a lot of this?, and OMG, fear of abandonment = BPD!!! ( I don't actually believe DS is BPD, the fear of abandonment only gives more weight to my thought that DS is falling out of favor with his dad, and DD is becoming the GC - this would likely feel to DS like his dad is abandoning him, which could cause all of this, so now DS is terrified I'll do the same?)

In the car on the way home, DS admitted to me that he knows he's not innocent in all of this. So we talked about some preliminary rules that would be in place at my house from now on. When I had both kids together. I told them there were going to be some new house rules centered around respect and supporting each other. I listed out a few rules (which I'm going to print out and hang up), including, no name calling, no disrespectful comments, no touching (poking, kicking under the table,etc), that we were going to respect each other, support and encourage each other so we could all be healthy, happy and whole people. Both kids seemed to visibly relax after this. Which I thought was odd, because that's what I've been trying to encourage the entire time. I guess I just needed to deliver the message differently. Maybe I thought I was getting it across, but wasn't?
idk, I just hope it helps
You can't destroy me if I don't care.

Being able to survive it doesn't mean it was ever ok.

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coyote

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Re: I can't get the kids to 'reset'
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2018, 01:28:07 PM »
WH,
Are you sure this is the right T for you and the kids?
How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.
 Wayne Dyer

The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?
Capt. Jack Sparrow

Choose not to be harmed and you wonít feel harmed. Donít feel harmed and you havenít been. -Marcus Aurelius

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Penny Lane

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Re: I can't get the kids to 'reset'
« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2018, 03:04:04 PM »
Oh, Whiteheron!

 :bighug:

You are not a shitty parent! You have described on here doing a heroic amount of work for your kids, both while you were living with your ex and now. Just leaving your ex and making a new and better life for yourself and the kids took an incredible amount of strength. Parenting moody teenagers is hard for anyone at the best of times. Every parent falls short sometimes (though, really, it doesn't sound like you're falling short). And on top of this all three of you are dealing with a PD which makes everything a billion times harder.

For what it's worth I think the advice the T gave you was not great, either she's not grasping the dynamics of the situation or she's not expressing herself well. I think that walking away when someone insults you is a GREAT habit. I actually think that models good behavior for the kids, so they know how to handle it when someone insults them.

I guess what I would take away from what she said is that when your son acts up, he's trying to express hurt feelings. Maybe if he insults you again you could do a modified version of what she said. "I hear that you are angry and that's ok, and I love you but I don't like how you're talking to me so I'm going to take a break and we can talk about this when we've calmed down." Then you're making it clear you're not abandoning him but you're also taking care of yourself. (Like, honestly, she thinks it's good for your son to see you just stand there while he insults you? What kind of message does that send?) And maybe if he's acting up in general, that's a sign to have more family time or one on one time with him (just not while he's insulting you).

I love the rules you set up. And to me the fact that you weren't getting through before but you are now - that says to me that you're SUCCEEDING. No one gets it right perfectly on the first try, all the time. You saw that what you were doing before wasn't conveying the message, you took the feedback from the T even though it was delivered in a way that made you feel bad, and you made changes around the house that immediately made the kids feel better. That sounds like an incredible success to me!

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Stepping lightly

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Re: I can't get the kids to 'reset'
« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2018, 06:57:58 PM »
Hi WH,

Agreeing with the others, the responses from the T were a little off.  They reminded me of a T we had a few years ago, I was demonized for "not validating" the kids when they would spout out the lies BM was telling them about us.   Apparently, telling them things were untrue was not the correct thing to do....but allowing them to think horrible lies was the healthier tactic to take.  I think the fact that you walked out of the room when being treated badly, was absolutely normal.  You didn't leave the house...you just disengaged- big difference.  T's sure can make us feel like we are crappy people when we are actually doing a pretty decent job with what we are dealing with.

I do wonder if they are switching favored positions- my SKs used to get swapped out with BM approximately every 6 months...and it was ugly when it switched.  You had one child elevated and suddenly empowered while the other has been thrust aside, creating anger and sadness and discomfort.    They switched pretty permanently about 3 years ago, not sure if they will ever switch back now. 

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sevenyears

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Re: I can't get the kids to 'reset'
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2018, 11:57:51 AM »
White Heron - it sounds like you are doing a great job parenting.  I really like that you explicitly reviewed your rules and expectations. It goes even farther than providing them with structure and consistency - it provides them with clarity too. You certainly provided them with quite a bit of relief when you did that - and, that is a very good thing. Way to go!

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notrightinthehead

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Re: I can't get the kids to 'reset'
« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2018, 04:33:05 AM »
When my kids were off, I told myself that they were allowed to have bad days and I should not take it personally. I tried to give them extra love, a smile, a little hug, praise, telling them I love them. Sometimes, what bothered them came out months later, when they had dealt with it themselves. I forced myself to respect their wish, not to talk about it. For me, parenting was like a walk in the dark, we all try our best, but nobody really knows exactly what the right path is.
Seems to me, that your kids like the rules being written down and visible for everyone. And you are doing your best. Remember, to be a good enough parent suffices. The therapist is also just another human being, she gives you her opinion. Her opinion is as valid and valuable as is yours. In the end, you know more about your son as you spend so much more time with him.
I can't hate my way into loving myself.

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Whiteheron

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Re: I can't get the kids to 'reset'
« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2018, 11:53:07 AM »
Thanks everyone for your replies and encouragement.

Coyote- yes, I believe so. When I was 'interviewing' her to see if she was a good fit for DS, she suggested stbx may have NPD. She is the only one who seems to get it, although in front of DS, she doesn't bring out that language (as far as I know). When I call her to tell her what's going on, she seems to get it. She is intuitive and DS trusts her. I often find myself wishing she was my T. I believe she was so alarmed at DS's downturn that she wanted to ensure everything possible was being done at home to make it a loving and supportive environment for DS. Maybe to also give me a wake-up call?

A close friend pointed out that I do a lot of work behind the scenes to keep my home as happy and stable as I can, but that I need to be more open about it with the kids and allow them to participate in things such as making the rules. My default is to keep everything from the kids and to not be overly mothering for fear stbx will resurrect his attempts to convince the courts I'm an enmeshed, alienating and ineffective co-parent. It's hard for me to realize I'm still allowing him to control my behavior. His threats and actions have had the desired effect - I am afraid to include my kids in these things because I'm afraid of what he will do and say. I still walk on eggshells because the court battle is ongoing. I need to work on this.

I think that while professionals know PD's are out there and can identify PD traits, that they really, truly don't 'get it' unless they've experienced living with one firsthand. They know things are off,  but don't truly understand that their thinking is not like ours. Their behaviors do not make sense. Their disregard for the rules and feelings of others is pervasive. Not something that happens occasionally. Professionals I've dealt with seem to think stbx will get serious about it if the kids' emotional well-being is at stake. This is likely because stbx puts on a good show in front of the professionals, but then doesn't follow through at home. It is so very frustrating. I feel like I'm screaming into the wind. No one can (or wants to) hear me.

Penny - I do tell the kids that the loudest statement they can make when someone is picking on them at school is to walk away and not engage. And they've done it with great success, so they get it. I can only take from all of this that DS is so fragile right now that he needs me to reaffirm that no matter what's going on in my life, no matter what mood I'm in, if I'm angry or upset, that I will never leave him. That I will always be right here for him, to support and love him no matter what. I assumed he knew, but I think his T was trying to let me know that he needs to hear it from me. I'm trying to not take her remarks personally, I know she cares about DS and has his best interests at heart, and I know DS is struggling right now.

stepping - She's otherwise been a great T for DS. I also see that by her appearing to take DS's side and be a strong advocate for him will also increase his trust in her, as I (and she) believe he's not fully open with her about how things are going with his dad. She took DS and his concerns seriously, something his dad is unable to do. She knows I will implement whatever strategies she suggests. Her message was clear even if I didn't appreciate her delivery. I am doing my best. That's all I can do.

I'm not certain how you validating the lies would have helped anyone in your situation. That's just insane! I don't understand how parents can choose favorites and switch between the two. I never tracked to see if there was a time link to his switching. I do know he tends to favor DD, because she is younger and more agreeable (provides more + supply) whereas DS is a defiant teenager. I firmly believe the only reason DS came into favor is because stbx needs to reverse what DS has been saying about him to the therapists, doctors and law guardian. I hate how this hurts the kids.

thanks sevenyears! I am going to print the rules out today and have them hanging before the kids come back tomorrow. I'm trying to think of a way to make it serious yet fun.

notright - I agree. I try not to probe too deeply, the kids usually talk about things when they're ready.
While I was sitting there in the T's office I had to remind myself that she only was getting a biased view of what's happened. I was tempted to correct her, but I realized this was not about me needing to go on the defensive, so I bit my tongue - which wasn't easy.
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athene1399

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Re: I can't get the kids to 'reset'
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2018, 05:58:59 PM »
WH,

You are not a bad parent! And if you are trying to make things better, then you are a perfect parent. :) WIth what the T said about you walking away, that depends on the kid and situation. I'd be afraid more of giving positive attention to a negative behavior. Maybe if he triggers you again say "I can see you're angry and I'm upset with you over what you said. I still love you but I need a timeout to collect myself. We can talk about this in a bit." That way you still get your break if you need it, but you still let him know that while you're upset you still love him and are coming back to talk. I think that could be beneficial to the both of you. IMO if you are triggered you may not handle the situation well so walking away may be best. And that doesn't mean you're a bad parent. It takes a lot of courage to admit your own faults and understand your limits. And then when you come back calm to talk, you can ask him how he could have handled his anger better instead of insulting you. Maybe replay the conversation, say what you said to make him angry and have him practice the "better" approach (i think you said the T was going to give some "what to do when angry" ideas).