What can I do to help my 8 yr old step daughter adjust to coming to live with us full time.

Rebecca - posted on 11/15/2011 ( 4 moms have responded )

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Just looking for some tips and advice for our growing family. We have always had had her every weekend. However her mother has developed a growing drug problem that has spiraled out of control. It is no longer safe for to be in her mothers care unsupervised. So after today she will be coming to live with us permanently. This also involves her changing schools and I know how big of an adjustment this is for a 3rd grader. We also have a 22 month old son and a new baby on the way. I just want to make sure with everything going on and all the changes that we support her in every way she is going to need with everything she doesn't understand going on. I don't want her to feel lost in the mix coming from being the only child in her mothers life to full time big sister and shared attention especially with a new baby coming and all of the time that consumes. Our household rules are very different with her mother it was anything goes and do it yourself where as with us she has bedtime, chores, and has to ask permission before doing things (even if it's as small as helping herself to ice cream). I just expect her to be overwhelmed and I have been in her life since she was 3 so we have a pretty good relationship, she knows that I love her will always care for her and that she can come to me. But we still have our moments of her lashing out with the you aren't my Mother you can't tell me what to do kind of attitude. I don't know, I guess I am just searching for advice on making this big transition the best it can be on everyone involved. I can imagine losing my mother to a drug addiction at such a young age, my heart is just broken for her. I do not understand.

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Denikka - posted on 11/15/2011

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Consistency and stability are going to be key. Love her and give her some one on one time as much as you can, you and her dad individually. You are taking over the mother role and you need to immerse yourself in it as much as you can. Find time to bake with her, or paint her nails, or take her shopping or bowling or whatever it is SHE enjoys.
You and her dad each need to spend individual time with her.
Talk to her, and even more importantly, listen to her. Maybe give her a journal to rant in. Tell her that she can come to you with something she's written and talk about it if she wants. And let her write whatever she wants, don't scold her if she uses bad language in her journal (out loud is a different story, and that should be dealt with). That journal needs to be her safe spot to say ANYTHING she wants.

But most importantly is just to love her and integrate her as a full part of your family. Don't treat her differently or more specially than you would your own children.

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The only thing I can think of is have a LOT of patience and understanding. Granted, you still have to be consistent on all the boundaries, but expect that it may take her a while to adjust and just be open w/ your communication w/ her. Also give her a safe outlet for any and all negative feelings she may have over this transition. Not the same thing, but when my ex left us our girls were 6. After a couple of months of dealing w/ their anger... I sought a child counselor. The girls LOVED going to see her and play games w/ her. They never talked MUCH, but them having an extra support person in their lives (and me getting some good ideas from her) really helped us all w/ the transition.

Kyleigh - posted on 11/15/2011

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I would be doing some fun things with her an find out what she likes to do so you can have a good bond going on Very noble of you to step up and be the best parent here to her and listen to her whenever she feels like she needs to talk. Maybe color a picture/draw a picture for her mother. Hope it goes well. and good luck! :)

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Rebecca - posted on 11/15/2011

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Thanks for all the input all great ideas! I fear it's only going to get worse with her mother, she has always been what I would call emotionally unstable but now the drug use. She started a while back with prescription drugs but we recently found out she has been shooting up heroin for over 6 months. We had no idea because she lived with her Mom (my step daughters grandmother) and she was kind of in denial so she had been covering it up. But it has reached its breaking point and her parents have since contacted us and told us what was going on. She has no desire to stop or get clean and when she was confronted about it she threatened to disappear with Lexi. So it is a sudden change too, she isn't going to have much warning about changing schools but its only for her protection. Her mother has found her passed out in parking lots from shooting up in her car and she hasn't had a job in over 3 years so how she is "buying" the drug your guess is as good as mine. Unfortunately without help she is probably going to end up dead or just disappear. Really sad, we have never really gotten along but she used to be so full of life now she just looks like a shell, empty eyes.

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