General Question

nocountry2's avatar

Is it normal for my stepdaughter to cry every night?

Asked by nocountry2 (3668 points ) January 19th, 2009

My stepdaughter just turned 8. She spends half the week with my husband and I, half with her mom and her new husband. We’ve been married for almost 2 years, and for the past….6? 8 months? I don’t even know how long anymore, but when she’s at our house, at bedtime she starts crying because she misses her mom. At her mom’s house, she starts crying because she misses her dad. Every night. She can call and talk to either parent, and usually does, but it just seems like it’s not getting any better, and I’m worried about her adjusting. Is this normal or healthy? I just feel really bad for her and wish she wouldn’t suffer so much.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

50 Answers

elijah's avatar

What a sad situation. I know it’s normal for this to happen when the divorce is new, but you say it’s been a few years now. I would suggest that she see a therapist. My daughters school has a program called banana splits, it is for kids dealing with divorce and adjusting to all the changes that come with it. It really helped my daughter. Maybe her school has something like that.

elijah's avatar

I forgot to say that she may also be playing the sympathy card, knowing this gets her extra attention and delays her bedtime. It sounds bad to say this, but kids are very smart.

nocountry2's avatar

They were never married. They split right after she was born, and the 50–50 time share is all she’s ever known. It seems to me like having both parents actually married is what is affecting her, but I could be wrong. I just don’t want this to screw her up, but she can’t seem to get over it and I’m running out of coping mechanisms.

nocountry2's avatar

Okay, the sympathy thing might be true, but she just seems so miserable. I mean, she will lie in bed long after our sympathy has worn out and cry herself to sleep…but I will also say that she needs an extraordinary amount of attention, at least compared to the other children I’ve ever met. And she is very smart.

asmonet's avatar

Maybe someone at school said soemthing to her that’s making her feel like her happy homes are different and therefore wrong? I know a lot of kids aren’t tolerant of different households so maybe that came up. I do suggest you take her to counseling of some kind. Kids generally don’t cry unless they’re hurting. Because it’s been a few months, it must be a big deal for her.

Regardless of what you do, I hate to hear about kids in pain. I hope she feels better soon.

peyton_farquhar's avatar

What would it matter if it was normal or not? Your stepdaughter is clearly in pain, and taking six to eight months to adress this problem has not helped. She may be at risk of major depression and other psychiatric disorders. Get her into counseling and therapy.
@elijahsuicide it would probably be a mistake to assume this was the case. Counseling is most likely the best solution right now. Get a professional’s opinion before you make any assumptions.

nocountry2's avatar

We have suggested counseling, and her mother strongly thinks its not necessary.

asmonet's avatar

Well, her father has a right to take her doesn’t he?

asmonet's avatar

Not necessary doesn’t mean not beneficial.

shadling21's avatar

How sad… She may be tired of moving from place to place. Have you asked her if she wants to stay longer at one place? She seems to care about each of her parents, but maybe a bit of centred location would be good for her.

peyton_farquhar's avatar

Could it be that her mother is stupid or unresponsive to her daughter’s needs? Because I can see no other reason for why she would think that counseling wasn’t necessary.

elijah's avatar

@peyton_farquhar what exactly was I assuming? I think I basically said she needs to talk to someone….

nocountry2's avatar

@shadling – I have not, and that’s a good idea, but I’m not sure she would be honest. She is very sensitive about not wanting to hurt the other parent, but it seems to me like she is in a stage right now where she needs a lot of time with her mother. I think this is hurtful to my husband and she picks up on that.

shadling21's avatar

@peyton_farquhar
SHE’S EIGHT.
Counseling isn’t a quick fix, like a band-aid. It can change a person’s view of the world. Try to heal the wounds at home first, IMO.

jonsblond's avatar

I agree with shadling21, she may just need more stability.

asmonet's avatar

Eight months of crying isn’t normal.
She needs to process the emotions that have made this the norm for her. I think that would involve a therapist and more stability.

nocountry2's avatar

Her mother….loves her very much, but she has some…issues. She also recently put us through an incredibly nasty and selfish custody battle. She is can be very difficult to work with and is EXTREMELY unpredictable. But, of course they are very close, and we make a point in our house to never say anything bad about her and to always let her talk or have access to her whenever needed. We only live 5 minutes apart, but I guess I feel like we’re failing her somehow.

asmonet's avatar

I’d try a weekly schedule, let her have some time to relax. Can you imagine moving every three days? That’s got to be exhausting, never mind the short distance the change of scenery is enough to be exhausting. Constant change isn’t good for kids or for adults for that matter, I think you should try a weekly schedule, then if the behavior continues look into therapy.

asmonet's avatar

And you clearly love her and you’re trying to figure out how to help her, I doubt you could be failing her.

jonsblond's avatar

You obviously care and you are not failing her. It is very difficult for all involved.

cak's avatar

I’ll be honest, that is a very tricky custody arrangement. On paper, it appears to be a good thing, because of the amount of time at each parent’s house; yet, she is always in transit. She has no “stable” home – as far as location. Yes, she has parents that love her but she’s bouncing back and forth and at her age, she needs something constant.

Since that might not be an option, I tend to agree that some kind of therapy might be beneficial – and both sets of parents should be involved, but you can’t force that issue! Somehow, she needs to learn that she has two loving homes and 4 people that love her very much and are willing to do what they need to do for the betterment of her emotional health…not what mom or dad want, but what is best for this child.

A change in arrangement might be in order; however, if that is off the table, other steps need to be taken, and soon.

Please understand that my next question isn’t any kind of accusation – my father that just passed away, wasn’t my biological father, he was my stepdad – believe me, he was my hero, in so many ways. I’m not taking an “evil” stepparent point of view! Is the relationship she has with the step parents a good one? With you, with the new husband? It might be a lot of new things, so quickly that she hasn’t had time to truly deal with things.

While you are trying to figure out how long you have been together, she may be seeing that Dad has a new wife and Mom has a new husband. That’s difficult for a child! Also, we all know that a lot of children (of divorce) have that lingering hope that Mom & Dad will get back together and it shows up at the oddest times, too! That’s not saying anything bad about the step parent – just a child’s hope of having Mom & Dad, together, again.

As for you, let me applaud you for caring and loving her enough to ask this questions. I’m sure you know there is no easy answer – and you seem willing to face that there is work to do, that is a good step mom! :)

jlm11f's avatar

I agree with asmonet. I am 20, and going home for the weekends itself is exhausting. The transporting stuff, change of environment etc etc. She’s eight years old and very sensitive. She shouldn’t be lugged around like a toy. She needs a sense of “permanent home”. You should lengthen the alternating schedules. From a week to even 2 weeks. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t see the other parent at all for 2 weeks. The good thing is that you live only 5 minutes apart. One can drop by to grab lunch with her, read her a bedtime story etc.

Also, I am sure you have already tried this, but talk to her about this before bedtime. Ask her how she is, how her day was, whether she’s worried about anything, whether she wants something specific etc etc. She might be only 8, but any kid/person can understand and appreciate genuine compassion. And kids, especially, love the feeling of a grown up really listening to them and trying to understand them.

peyton_farquhar's avatar

@shadling21 Yes, I got that she’s eight. I never suggested that counseling would make everything better all at once. Counseling is supposed to be a long term solution to a long term problem. She has been reportedly crying herself to sleep for the last six to eight months. Isn’t that long enough to determine that whatever has been done so far isn’t sufficient to help her? What’s wrong with getting professional advice? The advice of someone who’s career is based in helping other people get through emotional trauma, which is what this woman’s stepdaughter is clearly experiencing?

augustlan's avatar

Oh, I feel for all of you. I have 3 children with my ex, I am remarried and he is not. We decided that the best arrangement was for them to stay in their home with their father as the custodial parent. They spend every other weekend with me, and I visit them in their home once or twice a week. Whenever they go too long without seeing one of us (when I have them over a long school break or can’t see them as often for some reason), they miss whoever is absent and one of them (if not more) is likely to cry. I’m thinking the 1/2 and 1/2 arrangement may have something to do with it. Also, check your PMs for something from me.

RandomMrdan's avatar

My parents divorced when I was really young too. And at first I was always sad, and would cry whenever I would leave one to be with the other. I was more sad to leave my mom usually.

I was eventually sent to see a therapist, and that seemed to help me out quite a bit. Also, I should note that I remembered the way my mom smelled, so when I moved in with my dad, I had my mom send me her pillow cases, so when I laid down at night, I felt like I was with her and it put me at ease.

This sort of thing is hard on kids, but it sounds like you should take your daughter to a therapist to hear possible suggestion they may have to offer as well.

My pillow case experience helped me, it might be worth trying too.

shadling21's avatar

@nocountry2 – My heart goes out to your family… It sounds like it’s been a rough few months. I can’t imagine what your daughter has been through. Was she ever asked what she wanted in it all? I bet, if she was asked, she’d feel guilty for answering one way or another. If she wasn’t asked, she’d feel ignored and shuffled around. Either way sucks. Poor kid. She probably does need to talk it out.

@peyton_farquhar – I suppose that therapy at age eight isn’t too unreasonable. I think it should be a last resort. If she learns that she needs a therapist to get through things, how will she ever develop true independence? Then again, how do we ever develop true independence? Wait… do we even? And then again, learning that the emotions that she feels are normal and important to examine could help her on her way to adulthood.

I guess I just distrust counselors. Apologies.

nocountry2's avatar

Thanks, cak, and everyone, this is really helpful. My parents and all my friends’ parents were solidly married so I have NO experience with this, and I read books on stepparenting and try to be as sensitive and helpful as possible, and I just want what is best for her. It’s really kind of awkward to be the outside observer.

Her relationship with her stepdad (former best friend of my husband, long story) and me is pretty good, we are usually the ones taking her to school and activities and such. I make a point to tell her that I am NOT her mom – she has a mom and she loves her so much. I am her parent, her friend, her big sister – NOT trying to replace her mom or the special relationship she has with her dad. She was kind of upset when her dad and I got married, although her dad explained it to her brilliantly (when she asked why mommy and daddy couldn’t be together, he said, well what are two of your favorite foods? And she said, hamburgers! And ice cream! And he said, well, what happens when you leave ice cream and hamburger on a plate for a long time? She says, ew! Gross – they don’t mix well. And he said, see? Your mom and I are like that – two of your favorites that just don’t mix well over time. She got that.) And she seemed to be fine when her mom got married, but she didn’t want to talk about it very much.

We do include her in all of our talks – our view is that her opinion is just as valuable as ours, and what she feels is always important. Even though she was kind of upset at first, we were married with her blessing.

shadling21's avatar

Hamburgers and ice cream! That’s a great analogy.

psyla's avatar

My friend’s ex hypnotized the children, hope nothing like that’s going on.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@psyla really? thats odd, to what benefit would that even serve?

cak's avatar

@nocountry2 – I have a feeling (since she doesn’t want to discuss it that often) that she is still not over it, yet.

Please be careful in referring to yourself as a big sister. You are a very different role in her life, not a sister role. Did you and your husband discuss your role in her life? People underestimate that, all the time, but for a step parent, it’s hard to have a clear defined role in the child’s life.

My husband is more like my daughter’s father than her own father is. I have custody – not shared, he has visitation. We discussed how to bring him into that parent role – and we did it in steps. There is almost always an adjustment period and it isn’t always right away!

I think you understand more needs to be done and really, it’s probably going to need outside help. If her mother is against it, start it at your house – you guys find a family counselor. Start there. Maybe her mother will catch on.

asmonet's avatar

@psyla: It seems unlikely that hypnotism played any role that was significant. It’s a temporary state of relaxation. Nothing you don’t want to do already can be forced on you in such a state.

nocountry2's avatar

We started a counselor when she was obsessing over dying, but it fizzled out. My husband thinks she needs to kind of toughen up and get over it, but I’m worried it’s going to screw her up. I guess I just feel very inadequate to deal with this – I’m only 28! And being a step-parent has very little authority, when it comes down to it.

psyla's avatar

RandomMrdan, the exwife was dating a psychiatrist and, according to my friend, hypnotized the youngest kid to fear his Dad. It all went to Court for custody where she also accused him of molesting the kids because the kids once saw their Dad undressed once. It was the most perverse horrific custody story I’d ever heard. He was an exmilitary intelligence enlisted, so you can imagine the devious revenge plots he’d imagine. Even Steven King wouldn’t touch a story like this. My point is that child custody arrangements can have the potential to become criminally evil.

asmonet's avatar

@nocountry2: I never had a step-parent as my mother has been single for ummm basically all of my 22 years. But! I would think you have almost as much influence as either parent. You may not have as much authority in legal terms but you’re responsible for how that child grows up as much as any other party. I think you’re doing an amazing job simply because you’re agonizing over this – you care.

Your daughter reminds me a lot of myself when I was her age – except I never let anyone see me cry real tears. I was very aware of how my feelings might affect others and was careful not to ‘burden’ others with them if I thought it would cause any pain. In hindsight I wish I had been in regular counseling to teach me how to effectively convey my emotions. I was a very bright child but it backfired on me by making me over think everything. It resulted in me being very careful with my emotions and having a near constant guard up. I did toughen up but in some ways I also closed off. It took many years in my teens of analyzing myself and consciously trying to change to get over those things and some things I still struggle with.

Get her to a therapist, give each family one week at least with her to give her some settle in time, and continue to support her. If I was her, and honestly, the way you’re describing her makes me think she’s very similar – I would have wanted it even if I resisted it at first because it was new and challenging, if only I’d known how to say it.

asmonet's avatar

@psyla: That seems to be a rather extreme rare turn of events, it also seems highly unlikely anything like that will occur in @nocountry2 ‘s situation.

shadling21's avatar

@psyla – Whoa. Talk about a movie waiting to be made. You should seriously look into that.

psyla's avatar

asmonet, hopefully the kid’s childhood gets nowhere close to what happened to my friend. I think it would be good to keep a wise eye open & be thankful such things don’t happen. shadling21, are we talking theater movie or TV special movie? I could see it in either, but a horror book novel would be just too perverse.

RandomMrdan's avatar

I’d like to believe that story has been exaggerated just a tad for effect. I have a hard time believing it all…but would be terrible if it were indeed all true.

shadling21's avatar

@psyla – Either. If you throw in some government conspiracy, it could even get picked up as a big-screen movie!
...Just kidding. It does sound fairly cinematic, though. As RandomMrdan said, it’s pretty unbelievable.

<cough> Back to NoCo’s question!

psyla's avatar

RandomMrdan, according to my friend, it’s true. He would never had made up such a self-embarassing story & I could see the guy was in inner agony. And, who knows, really, he was exmilitary intelligence and the government might really had been monitoring him because the child custody problem made him psychologically unstable enough to disclose any classified information he may have known. shadling21, someone just might scarf this story up & we can watch it on the big screen at the end of Summer. Could be.

RandomMrdan's avatar

I’m just saying, when I hear things like what you’re saying, especially if the information isn’t from the source directly, I don’t take it as 100% gospel. And people do make up stories often, for many reasons I’m sure…attention, self pity, the list could go on. It sounds a tad far fetched. I consider myself open minded, but I’d have to see it to believe it.

Shadling is right though, back to the topic at hand…sorry nocountry I get distracted sometimes.

shadling21's avatar

As do we all. Fluther is the embodiment (? what body?) of ADD.

shadling21's avatar

I would like to formally take back my comment about an eight-year-old being too young for counseling. It was ill-informed. I don’t know much about therapy. Somewhere along the course of my life, I picked up the idea that once you go to therapy, you’re convinced that something is wrong with you and that you can relinquish responsibility for your actions. These assumptions are based off of experiences of friends, family, and various fictional characters. I really do think your stepdaughter needs to talk to someone, @nocountry2, and that someone may be a therapist.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Perhaps she’s depressed. At that age, It could be the strain of moving back and forth in the middle of the school week could be taking its toll That’s really stressful for a kid, especially if there have been a lot of changes in terms of a new stepparent. There may be too much adjusting to do, too often.

cdwccrn's avatar

A couple more thoughts:
If mom is crazy and/or mean, perhaps this child needs a court appointed advocate. So that her needs are factored in during custody and other legal discussions.
Counseling would be best if both households were eventually involved, though individual couseling is better than nothing.
She needs roots. She needs a bedroom freshly decorated for her new life, and then she needs some control over the transitions/visitation/ where she sleeps at night and when.
If manipulation REALLY is a concern, loving family talks at other times of the day, a nice bedtime routine, kisses and hugs, then NO response to the tears might be in order. What she does not need is too much attention or pity.

chelseababyy's avatar

That happened to my sister all the time, she’s 12 now, and it still happens. It’s just hard for kids, no matter how long the mother and father have been apart to cope with the fact they can only have one parent at a time.
It’s exhausting and stressful sometimes, moving around. Talk to her, ask her what the deal is, and let her know that you’re there for her.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

You could take her to a child psychologist, have her evaluated, and if the psychologist deems the arrangement to detrimental, file for a different custody arrangement.

chelseababyy's avatar

I’m sorry but when I went thru the whole psychologist thing, it just made it way worse, and I was WAY stressed

Answer this question

Login

or

Join

to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
or
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther