New Step-Child Developing Late

Anonymous - posted on 05/24/2015 ( 8 moms have responded )

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Hi all! I made this account specifically because I just don't know what to do with my step-sons. I'm 25, I have no kids (I wasn't ready); my S/O and I have been together almost 2 years. Due to his military service, deployments, and falling out with his ex-wife, he has not been present in his son's lives, for the most part. She did not want us to have the boys. Once I got them, I saw why.
The boys are 6 & 8 (K & 1st grade). They had missed 45 out of 90 days of school. Despite my S/O sending her 1200$ a month for child support (for 2 kids!!!), we had to take them clothing shopping as soon as we got them. They were both stained black from dirt (I scrubbed them each with a toothbrush for an hour), their shoes were ruined (no socks, feet were stained black- mortifying at Dick's when buying shoes), they didn't even have clean underwear on (holes, stains, etc.). She is a POS, but I digress..
Both of the boys have taken to me very well. They are very affectionate, they call me "momma" (they've been with us for three months now), they tell me they love me and smother me with hugs and kisses (sometimes I think it's borderline inappropriate, but I don't think they had much attention before, and I never turn them away when they ask for affection). We have them enrolled in school full-time, and they're in all kinds of sports including Lacrosse and CrossFit for Kids.
Obviously, due to their missing school, they were behind on reading and writing skills. The youngest could not spell or read basic words. I cried teaching him how to spell, "Mom" and "Dad". I am not sure what kind of abuse they have endured, although they told me that their last "Daddy" (My S/O's ex-wife's husband) would slam their head into the floor, and do other things. Now, if they are disrespectful, they get a swat on the butt, but we do not abuse them. We are currently fighting for custody. Those kids will go back to her over my dead body, although that is not the way that I want my relationship with her to be, but it's about their safety now, not her feelings.
Anyways, I'm sorry for the novel, but I think their background plays into the problems I'm having now. The youngest one is about to turn 7. He keeps peeing and pooping in his underwear, all day long. All of the new underwear I bought him had to be thrown out. I have gotten so frustrated with it, that I just put him back in diapers. I told him that it is not to embarrass him, it's just that people that still have accidents have to wear diapers, and when he can prove that he can keep his diaper clean, he can wear big boy underwear again. My S/O and I have had to teach these boys how to shower properly and wipe their own butts, among other elementary values that they should already have surpassed.
Despite me putting Luke (7 year old) in diapers three days ago, and him saying he wants to wear big boy underwear, he has had an accident every day. My problem is not that he has accidents, it's that he won't tell anyone. He will pull his poopy underwear back on after he pees, and sit in it all day. The other day he peed three different times, and when I checked his underwear, he had taken a full poop. I asked him when he did it, he said when he got off the bus (5 hours prior, and our house is right at the bus stop..). Last night, I asked him if he had an accident, "Yes ma'am." He was sitting in poop and pee for three hours. If we don't check him, he will sit in it all day. He had told me a multitude of reasons- he's scared of the toilet, he doesn't want to stop playing, he doesn't know why he does it, or the strangest of all..
Every time he does bad things, he says, "My head tells me to do bad things."
He also is much further behind in cognitive development than his brother, who is only a year older. He still cannot really read or write basic words, he cannot pay attention to anything for longer than thirty seconds, he cannot answer a question (he will just stare at you), etc. I am at my wit's end. We are going to have him tested for a variety of things, but I just don't know what to do. We are so embarrassed that our 7 year old is in diapers.. people look at us like we're parenting wrong and ask us why he's wearing them, but what else can I do? My S/O is beyond frustrated and I keep encouraging him to be patient..
Sincerely,
Very Frustrated, Not-So-Wicked, Step-Mother

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Jodi - posted on 05/24/2015

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I realised that. I was just saying that any form of punishment for a trauma child could be extremely traumatic. Swatting them on the butt, while to you seems perfectly reasonable, could very well be continuing to add to the trauma they have already had in their lives.

You need to give greater consideration to the reason behind the behaviour before immediately issuing punishments. You can't just assume it is "misbehaviour" in the same way it is misbehaviour by an average child. This is a child who has been conditioned a certain way and whose brain connections have been wired differently. You really should do that research and get the right supports in place to help you deal with these issues. Getting those supports should be your priority.

Jodi - posted on 05/24/2015

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What is wrong with your step children is that they have endured severe trauma, and trauma damages children developmentally. Their brain connections do not form in the way they form in other children, and therefore, their connection with actions and consequences will not be the same. Whether they ever fully recover from their trauma or not will depend hugely on the extent of trauma they have suffered, but you can't just punish them with a swat on the butt or expect that they are capable of making the connections most children of this age do.

I would strongly suggest that you need support. Were Child Protection involved in this case (and if not they should have been)? They may be able to refer you to the appropriate professionals. Not only do these children need therapy, but you and your husband need some training as well, in how to deal with children of trauma. It can be a difficult journey, and it is something that will have ramifications for many years, as it truly has affected their brain development at a period in their lives when these neural connections are so important.

Dove - posted on 05/24/2015

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He needs to go to the doctor... immediately. Get a full physical done and if that all checks out get him a referral to a mental health professional. It could be from years of neglect and abuse or it could be something else going on, but either way you guys need some help.

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Anonymous - posted on 05/25/2015

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I'll read the link you posted now! I've been reading so much stuff..anything helps. Thank you.

Anonymous - posted on 05/25/2015

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I meant to write a longer response last night but I was busy with the boys. I understand what you're saying Jodi, and thank you. I stated in my post that we are scheduling him appointments.. that means testing for different disorders and counseling. There isn't much else I can do. I've been in his life a measly 3 months. I have no idea what happened to him before he came here. I tried asking him the other night if anyone has ever touched him (pointed to erogenous zones); he said no. I do believe he's been sexually abused though, from some of the things that his mother has stated to me. I also believe their mother is a drug addict, so who knows what they saw in their previous home.
Last night he had another accident and lied. He obviously knows it's wrong, because he tried to ball the diaper up and throw it in the trash before I could look at it. I talked to him but I haven't been punishing him about the accidents- I can already tell he's ashamed and remorseful enough. I was reading about another condition in which the child holds their stool for so long that the colon swells, and the anus leaks. He said that he couldn't feel it when he had accidents, so maybe that is the cause, but now he's started urinating. After our talk last night, he urinated in his diaper after he woke up this morning. He didn't tell anyone; we check him every hour. I asked him why he did it instead of going to the bathroom when he was already awake; he said that there's monsters in the toilet, he didn't want to get up and go, diapers are easier to pee in..
I don't know what to do other than counseling and things of that nature.
My S/O is retired Army and battling the effects of PTSD. His temper is very short. He doesn't become violent, he just gets angry over the simplest of tasks. Unfortunately, that's not a great mix with children. We spoke last night and he's agreed to be gentler with the boys, but I can see his blood boil when his son tells him he peed in his diaper "on purpose."
I think I'm doing a pretty decent job, considering the fact that I was thrown in the middle of this and I have no children. Children's brains don't seem very different from adults; they understand basic emotions- you just have to break things down into simpler terms. I know that when we went to get them from their mother, they were filthy, the principals of the school literally looked at us and said, "We're so glad someone is coming to get them." Apparently, CPS would've taken the boys from their bio-mom due to educational neglect, but we got there in time. I don't know why the case took as long as it did- we had no idea what was going on until we got there. The bio-mom also did not let us meet them at their house- apparently the boys were leaving in a shack with no air conditioning in the middle of the latest solar flares of Florida. I'm sure she was scared for us to see the condition of the home- she didn't want us to talk to the school staff.
I wanted to wait to bring them here until I knew that I wouldn't just be another woman to leave their lives..I wanted my S/O and I to have a rock solid foundation, because I knew this wasn't going to be easy. I kick myself in the butt all of the time for not just going to get them earlier. I really didn't think they were in danger :(
I really appreciate you talking with me.

Anonymous - posted on 05/24/2015

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We don't punish them for accidents, we punish them for the normal things kids get punished for: lying, stealing, misbehaving, etc. Sorry if it came off that way.

Anonymous - posted on 05/24/2015

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Thank you. We've already had them visit a pediatrician for a basic check-up when they first moved here, but Tuesday we will definitely be getting him in to another appointment.

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