What we do with our self-destructive stepdaughter?

Hello. I really need some advice. I’ve been married for 5 years. No kids. My husband divorced his ex-wife 12 years ago when my stepdaughter Kim was 8. His ex-wife got custody. My husband stayed around. But in the years following the divorce, Kim had a hard time dealing with the divorce, the depression and drinking problem of her mom, her mom’s second marriage, her step-dad, etc. Kim has been a troubled child since she turned 14. She had problem with drugs and alcohol and depression. Kim was never abused. Her younger sister grew up without the problems that Kim had. Kim always chose bad friends. When I met her, she had been kicked out of high school for taking marijuana to school and had been sent to a special boarding school for troubled kids. My husband eventually got custody, and we took her out of that school and took her home, hoping that she would change. We tried very hard to give her love and support. She tried at first but slipped back to the old crowd and the old routine. Eventually she wouldn’t follow our rules and moved in with her mom. A few months later she was kicked out of there and move in with her grandma. She lasted less than a week at her grandma’s. For the last year she’s been living with her mom. She got jobs here and there, but she would quit whenever there’s something she didn’t like about her job. So her jobs normally last anywhere between a few days to a couple of months. She never graduated from high school but got her GED last year. She had half a dozen boyfriends along the way.

Recently she got into an argument with her mom. Her mom wanted to kick her out. Kim had a half-hearted suicide attempt (she took a bunch of antihistamine and then called 911). We don’t know what really happened. She said her mom has been drinking a lot. She was taken to a psychiatric hospital this week and will be out next Monday. My husband is thinking about letting her move back in with us. Kim and I have always been on friendly terms. But I’m really disappointed last time she lived with us. She didn’t do the things she promised she would do, and she lied a lot. It seems that she tried to manipulate people in order to do what she wanted. I felt that I couldn’t trust her. Dealing with her problems last time also put a big strain on my relationship with my husband. She’s 20 years old. She needs to be working or going to school. But you can’t make her do it unless she wants to. I think she needs a person to stay with her all the time to guide her. Maybe that way there’s some hope. But I’m not ready to quit working. I have a well-paid job that I love. Her mom has her own problem. My husband is not good at dealing with emotional things. But Kim needs a place to go. Sorry for the long story. And thanks for any advice you can give me.

Answer #1

I think you need to try and form a relationship with her. Don’t be pushy or judgemental or expect too much from her. It’s going to take awhile for her to realize its time to grow up. You seem like a very loving, caring, and accepting person and thats what she needs, Is to be accepted. Shes been kicked out of everywhere she’s tried to go and sent to hospitals and different schools.So my point is to kinda help her out when you have the time. Let her come home and lay down a few simple rules. Nothing like paying rent just yet way too harsh. But talk with your husband about what seems reasonable for a person under her circumstances. But the hard part is you really can’t give up. Both of you need to let her know how much you care about her and want her to have an amzing life and see the world..etc. So I think I’ve said enough hopefully you see my point of view. Good luck=]]]

Answer #2

Most of what I would say has already been said. But there is one more important thing you should know. A girl I once knew was feeling badly about something. I was trying to cheer her up by telling her what a popular girl she was and how everyone cared about her. She said she couldn’t hear me. She said she had little flaps in her ears and they were closed. The only way to open them was for me to put my arms around her and give her a big hug. That would open the flaps and then she would hear me and know how much we all cared for her. So… I hugged her and her eyes lit up and we both started laughing. But it wasn’t a joke, there is really something to that. Of course your stepdaughter is pretty far down and it will take a lot more than hugs to bring her around but it is something to keep in mind. Colt.

Answer #3

Dear jianbuy, When things have gone this far with this girl there is not a lot you can do. I would not suggest she move back with you. She needs to go on Social Assistance, get her own place and go to rehab. These are her only options. There comes a time when you have to put your hands up and let it go. It is really difficult when you are dealing with loved ones but at some point if you don’t do this you will really be hurting them more. She needs to be forced to take action to correct her own life now. It’s so hard to sit back and think she may get herself in real trouble but the real trouble came from everyone trying to help her out and not forcing her to make her own choices….good or bad. Now is the time to be a real parent and let her fall and she may fall hard but she needs to see that she is her own destiny. You’ve all have done all you can…now let her try to do it on her own. Sue…good luck

Answer #4

Dear Jian, You got alot to handle here. The problem is, that it really is not your problem. So many people get stuck with the problems their spouse brings with them into the second marriage. The fact that you even care enough to ask for help demonstrates that you are truly concerned. The fact that you are married to a guy that has a troubled daughter plays no part in giving you any ounce of responsibility in helping her.To me you sound like you would be very supportive if your husband wanted to take it upon himself to (at any cost) fix his daughter. Tell him HE holds the key to your step daughters heart..her future..her life. She wants to know and feel LOVED by the dad. She needs him to let her know that the reason he does what he does as far as discipline etc….is only because he loves her. He wants her to have a happy full life. This will take a tremendous amount of work on his part….BUT it can be done. You know there is nothing like love..there is nothing like that feeling of being loved and knowing it by the actions of the parent. When the dicsipline comes up….it MUST be explained as to why AND I believe a good reason must come with it, embraced by telling the child how much you love them. Tell him to say it over and over to her. How to handle your problem???? Try this..Tell your husband that you want to bring your step daughter back to live with you both. But you want some rules that will be followed not by her but by your husband. You want him to spend more time with her, (just him and her..alone) at least 2-3 times a week tell him to take her out for lunch….for dinner…whatever. Just tell him to take charge and tell him he must do this if she moves back in. When the daughter asks why she has to go with him….His response will be “only because dad loves you” She wants him to wrap his arms around her and give her that comfort of feeling loved. If he has to sit her down 25 times a day just to look in her eyes and explain how much he loves her….this is what he has to do. He can do this. Number 2 Lay down some light rules nothing to hard right now….If she wants to work fine….If she does not, than have cleaning jobs or lawnwork around the house for her to do. Tell you husband again that this is not yours….it is his responsibility to go over this with your step daughter. REMEMBER it is all because he loves her. Laying around the house does nothing for her and it is not good for her. It creates laziness and because he loves her so much he wants her to live happier. Tell him to let her know that he could care less about the house and the lawn. What he cares about is her….By learning to do productive things in life creates a happier person. So if we step back and look at your new game plan….we are putting more your husband on notice than you or your step daughter..Remember your step daughter did not make the choice to be on this earth….Your husband and his ex=wife made that choice for her. It is time for him to work….maybe work harder than he has ever worked before in his life. Just tell him to embrace everything he does and says in love….It has to work. You try not and take the place of anybody….support your husband through the above areas. I believe this will give everyone a fresh start (In the name of LOVE)!! God-luck. Familycoach

Answer #5

Hi Jian,

Your problem seems as complex as it is difficult to solve. While there is no miraculous way to change this situation - as you have already figured - you should participate, along with Kim’s father, to her development in such way that she at least doesn’t completely destroy herself.

From your detailed description, I understand that Kim has been a participant in a disastrous and inconstant development, partially due to her parents’ divorce which caused less stability in her life, on one side, and due to the type of education she received on the other side. Her main model in life was her mother, an alcoholic with no ability of raising her, who - instead of trying to get her on the right track - threw her out of the house and showed complete ignorance to her needs as she grew up.

Your stepdaughter won’t change in one day, a month or a year. She requires stability and security. Love and compassion are things she probably didn’t get to experience, and doesn’t know how to approach them.

Forcing her into doing things, even if these things have the purpose of her own safety and health, will not only make her act the opposite way, but it will draw her further away from you and your husband. You two are probably her only chance of stability and improvement. The traumatic events she experienced have already left their scars on her personality, and will never heal completely. What you can do is allow her to have the independence she needs, but at the same time, to offer her the care and support she lacks. This is a difficult task, and you might even ask yourself if it’s worth bringing this kind of trouble in your life, especially that you already know there’s not much you can do to help her.

She is still living her turbulent adolescence, and I believe that her father and yourself can help her grow out of it and become a slightly more calm and normal person. If you feel that you have the strength to accept her in your home, I would suggest doing so, and at least for a few months, allow her to do whatever she wants, without pushing her away from her only hope. Otherwise she will reproach the fact that you try to interfere with her life and teach her how to act and behave. As soon as you gain her trust - and this will be the most difficult part - you can start opening her eyes and guiding her in the right direction, without trying to control her life.

While your support is essential, she also requires professional counseling. Again, without forcing any advice on her, wait until she is prepared to do so. She does realize that she is doing things wrong. Her suicide attempt wasn’t really a suicide attempt, but a desperate shout for affection, and for a family.

Wish you all the best Jian, and I commend you for wanting to help her.

Answer #6

okay hmm well im a kid so my advice my not help but kids who have the problem she has dont understand love they think u trying to trick them and hurt them so they put up a wall and let no one in u got to find a way to break that wall idk if this helps but its the best i can do

Answer #7

Good Luck.

Tell her she’s worthwile, but in her language. I hated being sat down by parents and told “I will always love you. “ It’s patronising. Just casually, and repeatedly tell her you are willing to help in whatever way.

Hope that was useful, to some degree.

Answer #8

maybe u should find her some help. all teen’s think every thing there parent’s try to do for them is lame get her to do somein where she might find a friend or a boy boy alway’s make u happy but maybe u should stick with the friend boy’s can hurt.

Answer #9

Anything you say or do as far as she’s concerned will be wrong. Yes, get her dad involved. Don’t let her do nothing. if she moves in tell her she must pay board. She’s 20, she can support herself and if she’s moving in must contribute. Don’t act as though it’s you decision to let her move in. Let her know she can but it’s her call.

Answer #10

She’s an adult. There is nothing you can do about what she does. Ultimately, this is your husband’s decision. You are there for support. If you want to reach out to her and spend time with her, great–do that! Just be her friend and a good wife to your husband. This is what you signed up for. Bravo to you for caring about her. Just take her to the movies or shopping once a week, don’t give up on her. If hubby lets her move back in, try to set up some guidelings for her (such as having and maintaing a job as long as she lives with you). Maybe offer to help her set up a savings and get her act together. But there’s nothing you guys can truly do anymore. Divorce destroys children’s lives.

Answer #11

She’s an adult. There is nothing you can do about what she does. Ultimately, this is your husband’s decision. You are there for support. If you want to reach out to her and spend time with her, great–do that! Just be her friend and a good wife to your husband. This is what you signed up for. Bravo to you for caring about her. Just take her to the movies or shopping once a week, don’t give up on her. But there’s nothing you guys can do anymore. Divorce destroys children’s lives.

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