step daughter seeking attention

Kelly - posted on 10/14/2013 ( 5 moms have responded )

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I know the difference between self mulilation and attention seeking behaviors are.. My step daughter has chosen me to be her confidant and has begun in several attention seeking distructive behaviors.. How do I help without pushing her away? what do I do?

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Khari - posted on 10/15/2013

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Hey Kelly I would say to spend more one on one time with her. It sounds like she trusts you. Maybe set days, maybe once or twice a week (or whatever works for you) where you guys go out for dinner or lunch, shopping, manis and pedis, ice cream...etc. This not only allows her to express her feelings and confide in you, but this also allows you to give sound advice and be the role model that you are to her. She sounds like she is reaching for something/someone but don't know what that is. I can imagine how frustrating this can be. Also, if you can't get her dad on the same page, then just don't say anything negative about her situation or her mom. Be positive and discus what you do want.....not what you don't want. The more positive you'll be, he will jump on and start acting on what he wants to happen. He is probably overly protective about his daughter and maybe can't see her wrong. Again, talk about what you do want and stay positive about the situation, whether you talk to him or the mom. Remember that this is a stage and if she has the right surroundings and the right people around her, she will get through this successfully. Tell her what's right and how to handle certain situations. Be her teacher and guide!!!....Show her LOVE the best way you know how. Addition to this, you guys could have a family counseling session with you, her, her dad, and her mom.....and/or whomever else that is involved, maybe once or twice a month. Have everyone express their feelings and/or beliefs, play games, have dinner, spend time!!!!!! She needs this!.....Make this time special and positive!!!!!! Sometimes we have to sacrifice and make things happen for the results that we want!!!....and lots of prayer!!!!.....It will all work together!!!

Rebekah - posted on 10/14/2013

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Can you have her make an agreement with you that she will come to you prior to harming herself (are you alluding that she is cutting, or something else?)? That way she can get the attention she wants, but in a positive way, rather than a self destructive kind of way. The behavior may be "attention-seeking," and you don't want to reward the negative behavior, but don't miss the message... she needs something, and it may be more than simple attention. Affirmation, encouragement, support, a listening ear, validation, stability. Ask her what she needs. Find out what is driving it. Also try to teach her ways to "self soothe" in healthy ways when she's overwhelmed with emotion. If you aren't sure how to do this, consult with a therapist/counselor who can guide you and her.

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Kelly - posted on 10/15/2013

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MY feeling is that the majority of her trouble is stemming from her mother at this point. Maddie's dad has been a constant with very little life changes other than a 10yr old divorce and 8yr old relationship with me. Her mom has already been remarried and divorced twice, (in addition to several engagements in between and after the husbands) she treats Madelaine as her BFF and tells her more than she should but needs Maddie's "favor". Her mom claims to be a holier-than-thou Christian but Maddie just discovered all of her mom's sex toys. Again, Maddie is 13 and hating the rules at here moms, would LOVE to come live with us but doesnt understand that once we become the custodial parent(s) - life in our house will change with rules increasing, etc..
I feel like Im in a particularly awkward situation as Maddie does confide in me EVERYTHING that's going on - I can't really do anything to remove or ground her from Facebook, start changing custody, sign her up for counciling, check with her school counselor, etc.. nor can I get her Dad on the same page - he tend to believe that I am holding grudges and judgements against Maddies mom, and I cannot go to Maddie's mom and expect good results. She thinks she's parent of the year (every year) so saying anything contrary to that is going to go over like a ton of bricks.

Rebekah - posted on 10/15/2013

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Tough situation... I would be tempted to pull her from Facebook until she demonstrates that she can use it appropriately. It would be good to hear how her exaggerations could be considered defamation of character and she could land herself in trouble by spreading lies about this boy... in the very least, kids around her will come to view her as untrustworthy and she'll ruin her own reputation.

Facebook is a conduit for all kinds of things, and I've seen time and again young people misusing it, not fully understanding the tool that they have in front of them (cyberbullying, misrepresenting themselves, provocative photos, meeting strangers online...etc). Lots of poor judgment leading to risky situations.

I work with teens, and I've heard many girls say they enjoy hanging out with guys more than other girls... sometimes its because they enjoy the male attention (is your step daughter getting sufficient attention from her own dad?), and sometimes its because there is so much drama among the girls, competition, etc, that its a relief to be around the boys because they don't get worked up the way girls can. Sounds like your step daughter brings some of her own drama. With seeking attention for the scratching and making provocative, instigating comments online, she is going to burn through the friends she has if she doesn't get this under control.

Frustrating that her dad doesn't see it, but perhaps its time for him to also see the marks on her arm and/or the remarks online. He needs to buy in so that he can do his part too in supporting his daughter. And, I would still say that the fact that she is harming herself is still a message in itself that shouldn't be written off as just for attention... this is not a healthy way to get attention, so even if that is one of her motivations, what is going on with her that she feels she needs to resort to this method of gaining attention? There are lots of ways to get attention...why this way? She needs help. Glad she has you that she can confide in... keep advocating for her.

I'm wondering if she wouldn't benefit from some counseling... work on her self esteem so that she doesn't feel compelled to stir the drama to get reassurance and acknowledgement from others.

Kelly - posted on 10/15/2013

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she started with scratching her arm repeatedly ...while she did come to me with this she also went to all of her male friends (she decided going into this 8th grade year that she ONLY wanted guy friends) and showed me all their responses. I do know that Facebook is a perfect conduit for connecting people, but I see her severely over exagerating circumstances to get attention. For example: yesterday she was in an "altercation" in which a boy flicked her in the cheek, but she posted on Facebook that this boy punched her in the face, stomped on her and scraped his shoes across her body. While undoubedly this lad needs to keep his hands to himself...she just ate up the attention.. I am very concerned with this getting out of control. I tried to talk to her dad about it but was met with feirce resistance as he's unable to believe his daughter is uncapable of any degree of manipulation.. I am so frustrated!

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