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Daughter woes

Discussion in 'Chit-Chat' started by IDave, Jul 27, 2005.

  1. IDave

    IDave

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    I have had some trying issues in regards to my daughter, lately. I haven't shared much before, but things have come to a very troubling (to me) point, and, I guess, I'd like to bounce things off of folks on the board. There's a lot of wisdom here, and I'd like to hear what others think. I know that I am too emotionally involved to trust my judgement fully as to what to do.

    My 15 1/2 year old daughter has moved out of my house to be full-time at her mother's place. Her mother and I were divorced 9 years ago from an unhappy marriage, and the involvement (for a couple of years before the divorce) of a third party, who is now my daughter's stepfather.

    The custody arrangement from the court, which was not contested at the time, was for equal physical custody, and my daughter has gone back and forth between the two homes every 1-2 weeks ever since. I have done everything I knew how to keep the arrangement as amicable as possible. I've been careful not to ever put down the other family in front of my daughter or in public, although I cannot say that in my heart I have the highest regard for them, naturally, I think. Since we work in the same (100 employee) place, I have had lots of positive feedback saying that we have done well working out this relationship: the model sort of comportment, so to say.

    My daughter has, over the last couple of years, become withdrawn and moody at times. She has seen counselors, although she thinks little of them (calls them "quacks") and has been on antidepressents, although she doesn't take them accountably. And, it turns out, she has been doing cutting and burning of her skin lately, and even punched a hole in the wall of her room (and covered it up with a picture, so I didn't find out about it until this week).

    My ex-wife describes to me explosive arguements and battles between herself and my daughter, and also between my daughter and her stepfather. A month ago she was even discussing kicking her out of her home because of how much she upset her. While we've experienced the silent-withdrawn stuff, there have been no pitched battles when she is in our home.

    Well, it turns out that at the same time, for at least the last two years, my ex- has been instigating and pressing for my daughter to spend full time in one home. She tells me this week she has even consulted lawyers on several occasions. At the same time, although she would deny it, she has been undermining my current wife to my daughter.

    Now, my current wife and daughter have had a great relationship until the past couple of years, when, as my wife puts it, she suddenly "lost" my daughter. She has done tremendous things for her (taken off 2 months to help her with dyslexia training across the country, supported her through many issues, gone to all of her events that she could, played music with her, etc.). She has also been clear and reasonable about her expectations for my daughter, far more consistant than my ex-wife. And, while I have heard my ex- say nice things about my current wife, I have also heard her make very negative comments ("she's cold," "I can't talk to her," "I'm a little afraid of her,") in front of my daughter and others.

    So, a couple of weeks ago the ex-wife proposed to let my daughter choose between the homes, and my daughter chose her Mom's. The reason she gave was her bad relationship with her stepmother ("she moves my stuff when I'm gone from my room" is the only concrete issue she has so far verbalized). And, she's gone.

    We've emailed a little (one sentence stuff). My ex-wife has assured me (with a grin on her face) that I'll still have a "relationship" with my daughter, but so far nothing has been arranged or encouraged, except by me, with nothing developing so far.

    And here's a kicker, for me: ex- says that stepdad and daughter are still fighting at times, "but they made up and she was laying around with her head in his lap this afternoon."

    Now, I know that I am angry and hurt and sound like a jealous ex-husband, all of which I am, but there is something about that picture that bothers me a lot. Given the other troubles, it worries me. I've shared that comment with my family, and all of them think it is inappropriate.

    Am I over-reacting? I don't want to make things worse by pressing an issue that isn't one, but I also don't want to dismiss something that may be important.

    At the same time as all of this, my ex- has arranged weekly counselling and psychiatric sessions for my daughter (I'm to pay for them, and have no objection, have helped set them up), but plans to leave next week for a two week vacation out of the country, in the middle of all of this, and leave my daughter with, who knows? No decision.

    I need some help here. I know it is far beyond the mud board, but I want to know what people think about the stepfather thing. It could turn out big, and lifechanging for everyone, so I am looking for feedback from reasonable people.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Degnol

    Degnol

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    Dave, I unfortunately have been there. Ex and I were divorced15 years ago when son was 6. I just had the every other weekend stuff. 4 years later I remarried. Son was moody at times, but mostly OK. Ex said terrible things about me and later about my wife. Saying to others when son was within earshot "His father is evil and does not care about him". Believe it or not I have only found this out recently because my son told me it happened.
    Now the son lives with us, and like your daughter, has a great relationship with my wife. He tells her that she has been a better parent than his "parents".

    15 1/2 is a TERRIBLE age, especially for girls. And really terrible for girls and their relationships with parents, especially Dads. Just be what you continue to be, a caring level headed concerned dad in a smooth relationship. My wife and I try never to argue in front of him, but when it does happen we also resolve it in front of him.

    Bide your time. I suspect your ex is trying to put some m'shooga on your daughter. Stay the course and I'll bet she will return to the previous custodial relationship if not move in with you full time.

    In the mean time, I feel for you bud.

    GL

    Ed
     
  3. dd113

    dd113

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    I have no kids so I really cannot comment on your daughters behaviour. I would suggest you get a family law attorney ASAP to protect all parties involved.
     
  4. Trunk Monkey

    Trunk Monkey Moderator

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    My opinion/experience comes from the perspective of your daughter. Your ex may see having her in one home as stability and a solution to her anger/depression. As much as I personally don't like them (see it as admitting failure), it's really good that she's willing to get counseling. Be involved in the counseling if you can be, go as a family if possible.

    I'd address the cutting first, it's one of those outward expression of inner problem things. I've known two girls that were cutters, one had been abused by a boyfriend, the other saw herself as the cause of her parent's problems.

    Be prepared for some give and take in the situation. Both my parents have commented later that it was very hard to put their selfishness/pride aside to do what was best for the kids.
     
  5. mabrodis

    mabrodis

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    Are you saying you think there is something between your ex's husband and your daughter (inappropriate contact, etc) or just that there are mental games being played by your ex (and her husband) on your daughter? In either case I wouldn't really know what to do. A good friend of mine is going through a very messy divorce, her two kids (7 & 5) are splitting time between parents, up until the father (my friend is the mother) filed a restraining order just to keep the kids longer, nothing came of it, it was total BS, but there is no recourse for that, if you say you felt threatened, you get a restraining order and magically in 1-2 weeks when a judge is actually sposeto hear the complaint, you drop it and nothing ever happened, except my friend didn't get to see her kids for 2 weeks for absolutely no reason. Now it's more of that type of bitter fighting, and through it one thing I've seen in the kids, they want to please everyone. They will tell the father what he wants to hear (mommy hits me, mommy is mean, mommy talks bad about you) when they are with him...and tell the mother what she wants to hear (daddy left me with grandma and went off with his girlfriend all day, daddy talks bad about you, daddy said he might keep us all the time), when the kids are with her. It sounds to me like although your daughter is much older than these kids I'm referring to a similar thing would naturally happen. She probably wants to please everyone. It sounds like you have a good relationship with her, so maybe she didn't feel like she needed to 'please' you, because you already know/like her, but someone like, oh the ex's husband maybe she feels more compelled to please them (and constant "how great is he" comments from your ex probably push her to do things to/for him).

    I don't know what I would do, it sounds very serious...why did your daughter have to choose where she wanted to live fulltime? Is that a final decision, or could she still come visit? It seems like that if she was doing fine going back and forth, although it is a pain for everyone I'm sure, it seems like that would be better than either parent going for a long time without seeing her.

    I certainly don't sense near as much 'bitter ex' talk in your post as what would be normal from someone in your position, seems like you're keeping your emotions in check probably far better than your ex....sigh....

    No advice here, but I feel your pain...
     
  6. Jman

    Jman

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    First off, I want to say sorry for what you're going through. The most important thing, I think, is to make sure your daughter knows that your door is always open to her, that you will even meet with her without your current wife around (if that's the big problem) to make sure the two of you keep a relationship going and keep communication open. Always be there for her, be calm and sensible when you need to, as well as passionate and caring when you need to. Do not let these troubles create more of a disturbance by sending you off on a tilt.

    As for cutting/burning of skin, yes that is a sign of trouble, but I've encountered that in a few friends of fairly "normal" divorced families. The most common thing I've heard was that they felt "not in control of their life" and the cutting "made them feel alive and in control." It might not be a sign of anything other than a really awkward/bad stage.

    As for your greatest fear, who knows. Yes, that comment certainly raises my eyebrows. Maybe it's totally innocent and your ex-wife is just trying to torture you. Maybe what you are seeing/hearing is evidence of inappropriate contact. Who knows? Well, you know who knows: your daughter. If I were in that situation with my daughter, and I were pretty convinced there was a problem, I would simply open up, show my weakness, and ask if everything was okay, if there was something going on that shouldn't. There's no easy way to do it, but at 15 1/2 she should be able to handle the question--if she's involved, maybe this will get it out in the open; if she's not, she of course will think you are a paranoid freak, but at least one that loves her and cares about her.

    As for the vacation thing, I would insist that she stay with you, it's the least your ex-wife can do--you should be able to spend significant time with your daughter, and if your ex-wife fights, well, then something is wrong and you need a lawyer.

    Sorry you are going through this, something like this would simply tear me apart.

    Best of luck.
     
  7. mabrodis

    mabrodis

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    Good points Jman, also one thing to keep in mind is that "not in control" feeling is also what drives many, many women to eating disorders...it's a similar outlet like cutting your skin, it's one thing YOU can control...no matter where you live or what, you can control what goes into your body. I don't understand it, but I've been around it enough with many women to see it's real and is not an 'act'.

    Good Luck.
     
  8. T Y L E R

    T Y L E R

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    I can see now why my ex used to always thank God she didn't have girls.

    Dave, I would tread lightly .. and I say that because I don't think I trust your ex. Knowing the love you feel for your girl, I wonder if she threw out the lap comment to bait you, or to hurt you deeply. Be cautious of how you 'react' to this.

    I would continue emailing, calling your Daughter. She is the key, of course. Maintain any for of communication you can, and though tempted to say something blunt, perhaps you can keep reinforcing that you are always there .. always available to talk...that you love her more than words. Tell if there is anything at all she needs to get off her chest, you will never judge her .. but you will support her in every way possible. Maybe go so far as to hint that if anything that happens at her Moms doesn't feel right that she need only call you and you'll be right there to pick her up. One call .. ANY time of day or nite.

    The councilling might be a good beginning. But the flipside of that support is her peer group. Both the school/friends AND her internet chat friends/peers . They can have a strong influence on her feelings of self and self worth etc. Have you met with her teachers?

    She sounds like she needs to expand her accountability, but towards positive, healthy influences. How does a parent facilitate such a transistion with a teen? Uggh :confused:

    Any way you can do a background check on the Stepdad Dave?



    I wish you all the best ,



    TY
     
  9. crholliday

    crholliday Frisbeetarianist

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    Like everyone else, I am sorry for your situation.

    No advise, but playing the other side (for the sake of your sanity). Is it possible that your wife would be oblivious to inappropriate moves between her husband and your daughter? My experience is that women are pretty keen to that kind of vibe. On the other hand, maybe she did sense something which is why she felt compelled to tell you about this specific thing (though this is a substantial stretch). Subconscious reach for help?

    Another possibility, as it seems that your daughter is pushing limits to different things in her life (cutting, fighting, etc like lots of teenage girls) is it possible that this is just another limit an awkward teenage girl is pushing? The reasons for pushing in this case could be many.

    I agree with lawyering up, maybe even before breaching the subject with your daughter (if you are considering that). Find out from counsel what repurcussions you could face for such discussions with your daughter if it turns out that you are simply being overprotective (which is hopefully the case).

    Good luck!

    C.
     
  10. beaufort-fj60

    beaufort-fj60

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    Sounds like your ex is baiting you.

    This is a complete wild guess; if the ex has hired a lawyer, they are probably coming up empty handed with "something" to hang you with. The ex might be working on plane B, get to you through your daughter. The ex is probably dumping her adult problems on your daughters shoulders. The daughter does not know how to deal with adult guilt, and is probably trying to rid herself of crap she should not have to deal with.

    probably
     
  11. T Y L E R

    T Y L E R

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    Oh .. and this vacation thing is key too. Keep tabs not only on your Daughter, but the arrangements the ex makes. The courts might be interesting not only in this unilateral custody shift, but how the ex deals with her welfare once she's left the country.

    If I know teens .. your Daughter has probably convinced her Mom that she can stay at *insert friends name here* while she's gone, and that that friends Mom is totally cool with it. In fact that seems like a strong sort of negotiation chip, when it came time for your Daughter to decide whom to stay with full time. "If you let me stay with *****, then I'll live with you .. because it will be obvious you actually trust me!". A dangerous match ....

    BTW, where is the SD when Mom leaves the country?




    TY


    PS: Buy the smallest GPS logger you can find, and next time you see her, slide it into the bottom of her purse. ;)
     
  12. Ratpuke

    Ratpuke SILVER Star

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    What is your gut instincts about the Step-Father? What's your relationship with him like? Sounds like your Ex is probably just trying to stir up trouble. But, definitely keep your ears and eyes open though and make it clear to your daughter that she's #1 in your life. Talk to her.

    I was an angry teenager once and I didn't get along with my dad very well for several years. I think that's pretty normal. However, it got better and now we're pretty good friends. Looking back, things weren't as bad as I thought they were at the time. Chances are there are other aspects of her life & future she feels no control over. Be patient. Chances are that she'll talk when she's ready.

    Good luck.
     
  13. red dirt squirt

    red dirt squirt

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    i can see you have a doozie on your hands...i too come from a separated family and chose to live at my mothers opposed to my fathers. of course, now i live with neither of the two and in recent years have lost the relationship i once had with my mother and become more loyal to my father whom i ditched years ago. i must say that this is a tough issue and all the counseling in the world never did jack s*** to me. what made things best for my relationship with my dad and got me out of a lot of the trouble that i was in was finding an outlet that we had in common together. since i am largly and outdoorsy person we got into shooting together and fishing as well and even wound up in the same profession. the best advice that i might be able to give to you coming from the young kids point of view would be to find something that you all can do together...that doesn't involve the step mother. that's a whole different issue. i would suggest a week long backpacking trip that always did it for me but i love the outdoors and there was always something humbling about being away from everything......shrinks, parents bad mouthing eachother, choosing whose house i was staying at that weekend. i agree with the tread lightly policy. my mother was always more aggressive and in the end it didn't work out.......dont try to control her or get her to do things....even though it might take awhile you are in a very unique position in that you dont have so much of the responsibility of raising and punishing like her mother does......this is the very reason i enjoyed going to my dad's. Most people physically damage themselves for the attention or out of depression and boredom....that's why i think a little adventure would be good. just my 2cents...best of luck to you..i feel bad for ya but i know you all will be tight in the end just like me and my dad.
     
  14. VTFJ40

    VTFJ40

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    I have absolutely no advice, but to recomend you keep continue keeping a cool head (which you apparently have), and I second the contact a lawyer idea. Hope everything turns out OK.

    Good luck.
     
  15. swank60

    swank60

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    Dave - I'm really sorry to hear about all of this.

    What first stood out to me is that your ex is doing the "hard sell" on your daughter - that's probably the biggest part of why she decided to live full time with her instead of at your house. The pressure that she's feeling from all of this hopefully explains the cutting and burning, but that's a BIG flashing red light that something is up. Not to say it's the step-dad or what's been emplied, but something is really eating at your daughter. (and you know that already...)

    If I were in your shoes, I'd find out why your ex is trying to change the situation after so many years. I'd also find out how your daughter really feels about the new arrangement. All easier said than done, of course.

    I'm not sure if staying the course is in your or your daughter's best interest right now. She doesn't need any extra pressure or need to explain her actions at all, but my gut says you need to extend yourself to her in some way. I'm not really sure how a person can activly demonstrate stability and security, but it seems like you need to dispell any negativity that your ex is throwing out there.

    Is there any way that you can all go to a family therapist - you, your ex and your daughter? Seems like a weird thing to suggest, I suppose, but with a mediator around you can really start picking things apart and each party has the opportunity to hold the other accountable for their actions.
     
  16. IDave

    IDave

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    Thanks, everyone.

    Yes, my daughter does have a plan for while her mother is away out of the country (with Step Dad). She intends to spend the time with a friend. Friend lives with her grandparents, because friend's mother physically abused her and has a 3000 mile restraining order. Said friend verbally abuses grandma often, and in front of other adults, I know first hand, and is a counseling "failure". So, I have my doubts.

    I have mixed feelings about the step dad. On one hand, I try hard to believe he means well and has been supportive of my daughter. I've told myself that over and over and tried to see the positive side of things. On the other hand, he was dating my ex-wife while we were still married (and so was he, for that matter, to someone else who was yet someone else's ex-wife). So, what does that really say about his character? And yet I am grateful to him for bewitching my ex-wife and taking her away for my sake. He's kind of proud of his multiple "generations" of stepdaughters, too. Ah, s***. I guess deep down I don't really want to think there is any inappropriate contact going on between him and my daughter, but I don't want to be blind to something obvious, either. And, NO, my daughter would not put her head on my or any one else's lap, that I know of. Muddy enough?

    Yeah, we've already done the group counseling thing. Yet here we are. My ex-wife really is a piece of work. She's very good at asking for advice, and it feels very good to have her ask your counsel, until you realize that she's asking everyone else including the pet tortoise the same questions with the same level of sincerity. It is the God's truth she was asking our daughter for adult advice when our daughter was two years old. When we went through counseling at the time of our divorce her counseler (whom she continues to see among others to this day) mentioned "something about an undeveloped Superego" (Carl Jung term, and I believe it with all of my heart). Yeah, I know it sounds bitter and judgemental, but it truly is the case.

    Which is why I worry about my daughter so much in this instance. Yes, my daughter made the choice in this matter, because, my ex- asked her what she thought (ie, "how should I parent you?"), and of course my daughter chose the house where she gets to decide the rules because my ex will always ask her for her advice on how to parent herself.

    And, with that, I know that I have lost all authority with regards to my daughter, since this is a big, obvious declaration that Dad's opinion has no power, now that she is at Mom's.

    Unless I go to court, I guess. But I hate to circle the lawyers just yet. For one thing, I suspect the courts aren't going to do anything to change the situation until something bad happens. Maybe when they leave the country and if, as she plans, my daughter is left with the friend's family, that will carry some power.

    As for the cutting stuff, yeah, I know the implicatons. I know the counseler she is about to see (in a half-hour) is experienced with this, and I have hinted, without specifics, that I have a little concern about sexual abuse. I just hope she is willing to open up about what ever the issue turns on.

    Right now, I just email her daily, and try to be as supportive as possible.
     
  17. mabrodis

    mabrodis

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    That's what I would do...and pray....alot...

    Good Luck!
     
  18. TRT2

    TRT2

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    Phew... when you have kids, that is all you have, kids.

    I have two daughters, 15 and 17. Although stating that fact only reinforces the fact that I don't have much of a clue.

    First and foremost... tell your daughter over and over, time and time again, how much you love her. I truly believe parents don't say that enough. Mine rarely to never said it to me and I make a point to specifically remind my kids that their dad and mom loves them dearly.

    Then I turn right around and use that as an excuse for acting like an over bearing dad... because I love them dearly.

    My oldest daughter began using the 'I'll cut myself' which scared my wife immensely, then she went into the 'I'll commit suicide' anytime an issue arose or conflict. She never used that with me personally but would with mom. It was a scare tactic and it worked for my wife would cease. I was not going to have that and called her bluff, here's the gun, do your worst. Now therapists might think thats a terrible approach but it put the kabosh to that type of talk. I'm not recommending this to anyone, but in my case, it worked.

    Also, I feel my daughter learned about cutting herself and other delinquent child stuff from those stupid young kids magazines like 14, and teen people... I hate those mags and keep them away from them now. Seriously, think about where our kids learn those tricks. Lets face it, somewhere the idea is planted before the actions take place.

    I've also taken a hard line on 'Running Away'. My approach has always been and will continue to be... there's the door, but its a one way ticket. Don't expect to find it unlocked when you return.

    Again, a therapist or child psychologist would have me locked up. My daughter has since then never even uttered the phrase running away and once when it slipped out in a heated discussion, she immediately back tracked and noted that is not what she meant.


    My daughters and mom constantly go at it. To me, its arguing and going round and round over the most trivial stuff. I note to quit arguing and they inform they are not. I guess that is what is sounds like to me but for them, its typical mom/daughter discussions. I have since read theories that its normal and even good for mom daughter relations. My daughters say I always yell but to me, they have not heard me yelling yet.

    They are up and down. One day can be typical bad teenage daughter day, the next they are your best friends. I really hate it when they act extremely nice until they get what they want, and then go back to being their rotten selves.

    My oldest daughter is a habitual liar. I state this in public although she finds it embarrassing and gets upset with me. I remind them about how they act is how others will judge them. To me, lying is the worst trait to reveal. We have caught her red handed and she'll try to lie out it, only to be caught again. And I am brutal in the fact that I will drive to where she says she is, or make calls to parents to confirm the stories.

    The younger daughter will probably be worse in teh long run... she already believes her shananigans are less in severity. She brings the grades home and expects everything else for nothing. She is basically beating me at my own game.

    Some how, I was able to stop the older one from cutting class. The $$ plan did not work (bring good grades, no cutting and rec. $$). It started well but I think the rewards were too far off. Now, we go to breakfast each monday morning as school starts an hour later on Mondays... If she has not cut a class, I buy breakfast and she can run on the weekend. If there is one unexcused absence she buys breakfast and is home bound all week and weekend. this had worked and there was only one unexcused absense last year. Her grades still suck but at least she is going to class. I state to others there is no college in her future as I will not pay for it while she brings Ds. She hates this but I am hoping that by putting it to the public and not lying about it, it might encourage her to try harder at school.

    I'm not proud of anything I have written but I share to just let you know that daughter problems are not specific to your one daughter. My younger sister had a troubled youth and is now dead at age 42 for poor lifestyle choices. I believe that my folks 'coddling' her and supporting her by giving money just perpetuated the problems. They bent or tried to be nice... I simply lay it out and if they don't like it, there's the door. My folks attitude was to give the stuff they did not have.... I am 180 on that. I don't give at all, it must be earned.

    'Those who have less will end up with more and those with more will end up with less'. I believe that analogy and live by.

    example:
    When my youngest had completed 2nd grade, they wanted to hold her back due to math skills. We had already in kindergarten because we started her too early (nov baby). I was having no parts of it. We put in the hours and tears.. and it was hard on both of us... getting home from work and then displaying every ounce of patience I had as we worked through those mulitiplication tables and other math skills. The following year they would not allow her to attend summer school as her grades were fine... I insisted noting we had too many hours and too many tears to lose a summer.... She is entering 9th grade this year and her math grades are phenomenal, and she loves the subject.

    For as frustrating as my daughters are, I believe they'll turn out OK. Afterall, we did too. While they piss me off to no end at times, I do love them dearly. I also find that for me as dad, i am enjoying them more and more as they grow up. I met my older daughters 20 year old boyfriend last night... I actually did not chase him off because she noted she liked this one.

    but if you have skipped this entire post, just remember to tell them every day how much you love them... even when they piss you off... Its OK to simply state that while they have angered you to no end, you still love them dearly. Even if they tore down your trust (which they have to earn back by the way) you still love them dearly. I think nothing I have said every stopped my daughters from doing something they were not supposed to...but I do believe that knowing their parents love and care for them has perhaps influenced some of their decisions.
     
  19. Jman

    Jman

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    If ya don't know, I ain't tellin'
    I think if your daughter loves you, then your statement is not true. She may have made a choice that makes her life easier, taking her out of your direct control, but that doesn't mean you don't have any authority left. And, if she doesn't love you, then what authority would you have while she was in your house, for that matter?

    You still count, your voice still has power, she will still listen to you, at certain times--you just need to be calm, tread lightly, chose your battles wisely, and have faith that she will, eventually, make the right decisions for herself, regardless of whose house she's living in.

    The step dad sounds like a real a******, though. I think you need to take the high road, but I think some drifter needs to kick that guy in the nuts for you. :D Does that thought make you feel better? :)
     
  20. Romer

    Romer fatherofdaughterofromer Moderator

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    Dave, Having two daughters, I feel your pain. I can't imagine how hard it is with the divorce adding complications. That adding to an already difficult situation. I try and be steady and stick to my guns. When I say something, I follow through. I also try and talk to them as much as I can. Something that helps is to sit down with them and try and put them in a position were they see things from your point of view. They are use to only looking at it from one angle and forget there are others involved and other factors they are not considering.

    I have been told they hate me, just yesterday one wished I would rot in Hell. The only thing I can say is for you to just be you and let her know you are there when she is ready to talk. I also try and not lecture everytime I see her and try and have a conversation about whats going on rather than telling them what they need to do.

    I don't know if this helps at all, but I wish you luck my friend.

    Ken