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Relationship Partner with BPD (Straight and LGBT+) => ┬╗┬╗Family Law, Custody, Co-parenting, Divorce => Topic started by: kells76 on October 02, 2019, 09:27:04 AM



Title: Feedback on communication threshold
Post by: kells76 on October 02, 2019, 09:27:04 AM
DH and I are on the same page that Mom's (and Stepdad's) "importance"-meter is not well calibrated. They purposefully didn't tell us about SD13 feeling like a boy, but then Mom emailed me the other day that "SD11 doesn't want to go camping with DH, and could you talk to her about talking to DH about how she doesn't want to spend that time with him alone". We've also been out of the loop on doctor /ER/urgent care/dentist stuff.

SD13 told us the other day about some seemingly creepy stuff that a kid at school had said and done. Short story was that a couple kids had somehow found our house and sent a picture of themselves in front of our house to SD13, and then at school had also talked about "something big happening" on a certain date. SD13 told us "maybe I'll skip school that day." Coupled with a few other anecdotes we'd heard that indicated this kid had trouble with self restraint, DH and I decided to contact the school. All of the stories on their own were more on the "wacky" than "creepy" side, but together... we were concerned.

The school was great and got info and communicated with us. Turns out the kid was going to release a music album on that date but hyped it poorly. Still some other stuff going on, but at this point we're not as concerned.

I debated personally getting Mom in the loop on this. I know I'm past the "heads up" stage at this point, but I thought I'd get your feedback on what you guys would've done.

On the one hand, it would be what a normal separated family might have done -- share info. I think it'd have been better for the kids.

On the other hand, Mom has a track record of not having appropriately "matched" responses to danger. SD11 doesn't want to go camping? EMAIL. SD13 feels like a boy? DON'T EMAIL. SD13 unsupervised in coed tent on school trip? DON'T DO ANYTHING.

I believed that Mom/Stepdad would take any "Hey, just so you know, we contacted the school because were concerned about hearing X and Y from this kid" and turn it into something about themselves and their wonderful perceptions: "Well, WE heard the same stuff from SD13, and WE know this kid well enough to not do anything, but hey, you do your cute thing"

I was also pretty sure that the school would take the lead on contacting whoever needed to know. So, the school could be the "bad guy/messenger" and Mom would get the info from someone less triggering.

Was I being petty for not telling Mom? Did I miss something that I could do differently next time?


Title: Re: Feedback on communication threshold
Post by: kells76 on October 03, 2019, 09:41:05 AM
Sigh... mixed feelings.

SD13 was upset yesterday because we didn't give her a heads up about telling the school. She said she understood why I reported the behaviors but was... she didn't say "mad", but upset/disappointed/frustrated that she didn't get a heads up. It sounds like the school announced her name over the PA during class to call her to the office, which I'm NOT happy about. She thought she was in trouble.

I tried to keep it validating: "So this came out of the blue, and you instantly felt worried because you had no idea what was going on, and you thought you were going to be in trouble. That's understandable; I can see why you would've wanted to know."

She brought up that she's usually good at "reading" people so it was weird that she didn't pick up on any body language the whole weekend. I said that interestingly, her perception was correct -- after the kids told us on Saturday what they'd heard, I actually don't remember processing it until Monday a.m. as something actionable.

I told her I was sorry for how it all played out, and it sounded like what I could do next time something like this happened was to fill her in beforehand. I did share a little of where I was coming from -- that I didn't want the knowledge that her classmate was "going to get reported" to be weighing on her the whole school day, with a sense of "something's impending, but I don't know when". SD13 shared that that would actually be OK with her.

DH checked in to see if she felt heard and like she had resolution, which she did. She commented that the conversation went better than she thought it would. And, interestingly, that she doesn't look forward to talks like this because "it feels like picking a fight". Interesting that sharing her opinion/feelings about something feels like fighting to her.

I just tried to emphasize that I was really glad she could share how she felt with us.

Uuuggghhh... I feel like I blew it. And at the same time, there's a part of me that's like "Now, now, kells76, these are great opportunities to give SD13 a different experience, where we can have a conflict and she can feel heard and important, and it's not a blowup". But still, looking back, it's like, DUH, it's really obvious that I could've given SD13 a heads up. Bleerrrrrggghhh.


Title: Re: Feedback on communication threshold
Post by: worriedStepmom on October 03, 2019, 10:18:23 AM
I don't think you handled this poorly at all.  I have a 13-year-old.  I don't think I would have told her beforehand.  Yes, D13 would have been mortified if she got called to the office.  We would have had a really similar conversation as to the one you had with your kid after school.  But, like you said, that shouldn't have been her burden to bear.

It sounds like she was at least halfway freaked out because she couldn't read you.   I imagine that was really scary for her, given how important it is to keep tabs on her mom's emotions. 


Title: Re: Feedback on communication threshold
Post by: livednlearned on October 08, 2019, 08:41:23 AM
I debated personally getting Mom in the loop on this. I know I'm past the "heads up" stage at this point

Has mom ever come to you and said anything about being the last to know? "These are my kids and you have no right to blah blah blah"?

it would be what a normal separated family might have done -- share info.

I don't know if any of us here get to participate in normal  *)

Was I being petty for not telling Mom? Did I miss something that I could do differently next time?

I don't know how chronically toxic things are with the other parents ... with my ex, I became somewhat accustomed to the firehose of contempt that sprayed my way no matter how I handled things, no matter how carefully or thoughtfully or fairly I tried to do things. With him, it didn't matter. His emotional responses were triggered by so many other things that often had nothing to do with me. I developed an approach I could live with for myself and stuck to it, and figured sometimes it would cause an uproar and sometimes it wouldn't, but at the very least I wouldn't have to over worry about every little action and reaction.

Me, I wouldn't have given a heads up, and I would've flipped a coin about whether or not the firehose pointed my way and just shrugged if it did.

It took a while to get there, though, and it was my ex, not my H's ex like it is for you. I think I got to the end of the rope and found some peace there because during the journey it was so harrowing to be trying to avoid his conflict and rage and disdain.

As for telling SD13, yeah. That's tough. You guys seemed to have worked through it and honestly, the after math seems more important than making what amounts to a toss up. You could've given her a heads up and then what? She insists you do nothing? And you do it anyway because you're the adult and want to make sure SD13 is safe?

My T used to often send me back to S18 over stuff I did that I regretted -- her thing was that the repair and recover is what counts. How we deal with the so-called mistakes we all inevitably make.


Title: Re: Feedback on communication threshold
Post by: kells76 on October 08, 2019, 10:11:35 AM
Excerpt
It sounds like she was at least halfway freaked out because she couldn't read you. I imagine that was really scary for her, given how important it is to keep tabs on her mom's emotions.

She's in this kind of adorable phase of being "really into psychology" (which is great; so many opportunities to talk!). She says she loves trying to figure out why people choose what they do, and what actions or things in their pasts contributed. (I think I asked her, "So why do you think you're so into psychology?" She didn't know  lol)

Anyway, I wonder if a big part of that is control/management. If she knows what people are going to do, then there are no surprises and things are smooth and manageable. And yeah, if Mom is unpredictable, then SD13's body language radar would have to be at an 11 to try to "predict" what Mom may do. So, makes sense that it'd be unsettling to have NO indication of what I ended up doing. Again, TBH, I didn't even consciously process it until day of.

Excerpt
Has mom ever come to you and said anything about being the last to know?

That's actually a really interesting question. I don't think she could "debase" herself into a posture where she "didn't know". I think that a big part of her outer identity is "being the expert". If she had to come to me to say "Hey, could you give me a heads up next time", that would imply that she didn't know something, and I think that would be excruciating for her. Interestingly, we were at SD13's game this past weekend. SD11 came over to say Hi, and Mom immediately followed, stood next to us, and hugged SD11. Didn't say anything to me. I wonder if she was waiting for me to bring something up? Oh well, if she wants to talk, that's on her.

When she does engage about the kids, as far as I recall, it's never from a "you didn't tell me" posture. That's interesting.

Had a T appt the other night and brought it up with him. He commented that Mom and Stepdad are NEEDY people. That was a bit of an AHA! moment for me, because I think remember you (LnL) asking/commenting on "what are the specifics in the interactions that get to you" because the pattern over the years has been "the individual words & phrases of this email sound healthy, so why do I get such a feeling of repulsion/confusion?"

And I think that part of what happens is that when I "crack the door" to share information, Mom and Stepdad "kick the door wide open" to grab that info and return it in a way that is all about meeting their neediness, but that's underneath a thin coating of "about the kids". So, I get this sense that when DH and I try to share info, that is seen as... hmmm, I'm trying to think of an analogy, but basically it's like we're offering "a drink of water" to the kids ("Hey, Mom, could you give this water to the kids"), and Mom and Stepdad see us "offering the water" but it's not for them, but they feel SO needy that they grab it for themselves. It's like they see "attention offered" and their neediness is so desperate that even though the "attention offered" should be for the kids, they take it for themselves. The emails back are pretty relentlessly the "thin coating" of "about the kids" with the undercurrent of "I'm a great mom, validate me and my insights, I see things more clearly than you, we're the experts, etc".

So, for you, it was a "fire hose of contempt". Maybe for us it's the "vacuum cleaner of neediness"? I mean, we get the contempt in there, too.

Excerpt
the after math seems more important than making what amounts to a toss up

That's what I'm hoping. I notice myself at about 15% "beating myself up for how it went" and 85% "we did a repair and I'm owning it".

Excerpt
I would've flipped a coin about whether or not the firehose pointed my way and just shrugged if it did.

I think I'm getting there. Another situation came up, this time with SD11. I'd been emailing with her teacher each Friday to see what HW she needed to take home. She does it with us when it's our weekend together. I got the email this past Fri and it was a Mom weekend. I haven't included Mom on the emails, because I'm approaching the "shrug, Mom is an adult who can email if she wants" phase. Got an email yesterday that apparently SD11 didn't do any of her HW, and "forgot" her HW folders. She said they were at our place, which they aren't.

I tried to be diplomatic and emailed back that I didn't think the HW was at our place because it was a Mom weekend, but I could certainly doublecheck. I offered that DH and I could increase our support of SD11 doing HW at our house, and that even if it weren't a Dad weekend coming up, we could help her get a jump start on Fri, so she wouldn't have to do it all on Sat/Sun. I mentioned that I could do a better job of reminding SD11 to do her HW instead of assuming she'd remember. I did say that we were working more in parallel with Mom at this point.

Anyway, it's tough. Again, it's the question of "am I being petty and ultimately hurting the kids by not communicating with Mom". But then I think about Mom's barometer for what's important, and the way Mom and Stepdad use communication about the kids to meet their own needs. It feels like communication between the houses only really works when there's a neutral third party refereeing, and there's not at this point, and I don't really want to come out and ask the school to do that.

I think I'm moving more to a "stone cold" "owning my actions, not apologizing or appeasing" stance. I hate that it creates these situations where, for example, SD13 didn't know about getting called to the office, and SD11 can use the non-communication to not do HW. But maybe it's good to do a role reversal, where kells76 stops "asking Mom what she thinks" and just does stuff and if Mom wants to be the one to come to kells76, that's the only way Mom will get the info.

It's still a live question, though, of at what point do I "cross the threshold" in terms of kids' safety or behavior and really need to tell Mom stuff. The HW situation I'm not a fan of but I'm not engaging Mom. The school safety issue I was closer to thinking I should tell her. IDK... at this point I'm thinking ER visit or self harm. But I don't know.


Title: Re: Feedback on communication threshold
Post by: livednlearned on October 08, 2019, 03:21:50 PM
at what point do I "cross the threshold" in terms of kids' safety or behavior and really need to tell Mom stuff.

With my ex, I was able to get to a place where it was better to ask forgiveness than beg permission.

Then S9 had a piercing feeling in his abdomen when he and I were out seeing a movie, and I was thinking:

*do I take him to the ER and then let his dad know, which eliminates a drunk and emotional parent from the hospital; or

*do I call ex and tell him to meet me at the hospital, putting him on the road drunk and creating a bigger problem.

It's ok to make it easy for yourself. Maybe frame it that way, versus "am I crossing a safety threshold here."

You have good instincts, good judgment, and you're conscientious. You don't seem to be someone who would make these decisions with malignant intent and that's  |iiii



Title: Re: Feedback on communication threshold
Post by: worriedStepmom on October 08, 2019, 06:28:31 PM
SD12 had lots and lots of trouble getting homework done and/or turned in on time last year.  Rather than try to coordinate with mom (because that just does not work for us), we
a) sat her down and had several long talks about different ways to organize herself at school so that she'd remember.  H is also helping her follow through with that and offering more suggestions here and there
b) made sure that time was set aside every night at our house for her to do her homework. 
c) she has to check the school portal every Wednesday to see if she has any missing assignments; if any are missing, she has to go to tutoring every morning until they are all finished and turned in.
d) lots of praise for getting her stuff done
e) consequences when the homework isn't done - even if she wasn't with us when she was supposed to do it.

So far this year it's been a lot smoother than last year.  I think our SD just had no idea how to structure things so she could remember and/or actually do it.  mom doesn't provide any good examples for that.


Title: Re: Feedback on communication threshold
Post by: kells76 on October 09, 2019, 09:31:10 AM
Excerpt
consequences when the homework isn't done - even if she wasn't with us when she was supposed to do it.

That's an interesting idea! I remember last year DH & Mom talking about SD11 & HW, and DH musing about more consequences for SD11 if she doesn't get stuff done. Mom jumped all over that "Oh, WE give consequences at OUR house, but of course it's fine if you don't". I wonder now if any of that was true. Maybe it was more about Mom "feeling" like she's the sort of mom who would do that, or who maybe did that once, or who would be better at that than DH.

With DH & I emailing SD11's teacher, we now know if she didn't finish something on a Mom weekend. So if we did give her consequences for that, then SD11 would know that she can't "get away with" stuff with us.

Excerpt
b) made sure that time was set aside every night at our house for her to do her homework.

Yup, that needs to start up again.

Excerpt
d) lots of praise for getting her stuff done

SD11 is pretty sensitive to perceived or actual criticism, so hopefully a strong "reward" system will help. I think SD11 has been the "scapegoat" / kid who "can't do it right/as well as SD13" for a LONG time. So, that makes "Why didn't you do your HW" a pretty loaded place to be, as I think her default is to just shut down. And, interestingly, it means that SD11 really eats up the attention from Mom (and Stepdad) that she can get if she tells them stuff like "I don't want to go camping with DH" or "I REALLY missed you" (after a weekend with us). And Mom is now sending a cell phone with SD11, without telling us. That's all sort of tangled up with the HW situation, tangentially.

Anyway, DH and I are also thinking of telling SD11 on Sundays "Hey, what would you like us to tell Teacher that you worked on this weekend? Do you want to type the email, or us?" Something where there is accountability and ownership, and SD11 knows that at least the teacher and us are on the same page. So, SD11 can't tell us "I worked on everything and I'm done" and then tell the teacher "I forgot it at Dad's house".

I think a tough part will be keeping the tone really light and not punitive, so SD11 doesn't shut down.


Title: Re: Feedback on communication threshold
Post by: worriedStepmom on October 09, 2019, 12:56:08 PM
Does the teacher need to know what SD worked on at your house?  (I'm not sure if that's part of your agreement with the teacher - that the teacher tells you what needs to be done and you respond with what's been done.)

We decided it didn't matter what the excuse was.  There was no room for any of them.  (Last year her favorite excuse was that the teacher lost it.  So we made her log every paper that she turned in.  Amazingly, the teacher stopped "losing" them.)

It's a tough age!


Title: Re: Feedback on communication threshold
Post by: livednlearned on October 09, 2019, 12:57:36 PM
I think a tough part will be keeping the tone really light and not punitive, so SD11 doesn't shut down.

That's really smart, the idea to get her involved without it being punitive.


Title: Re: Feedback on communication threshold
Post by: kells76 on October 09, 2019, 01:30:47 PM
Excerpt
Does the teacher need to know what SD worked on at your house?

Is that as opposed to what SD worked on at Mom's house? Or is it does the teacher in general need to know about any of the work done anywhere?

I don't want to go down the road of "SD11 did everything assigned this weekend and it was a Dad weekend" and then have the teacher email after the next weekend to say "It's Monday, and SD11 didn't turn in any HW, what's up" and say "Wellllll... wasn't our weekend, couldn't say".

Any tips on navigating the communication with the teacher here? If I'm blunt, the situation is "We are not communicating directly with Mom about HW. Communication goes better when there is a neutral third party involved, and there is not one right now." Ideas on not getting sidetracked by "at whose house did SD11 do/not do HW"?

Excerpt
consequences when the homework isn't done - even if she wasn't with us when she was supposed to do it.

How did your SD respond to that? Did she pull any kind of "But you can't give me consequences for stuff that happened at Mom's"?

How did you frame it to her? And is she highly sensitive to (perceived) criticism?

Excerpt
That's really smart, the idea to get her involved without it being punitive.

Again, any ideas on tangible ways to do this?

I'm thinking of doing a Sunday p.m. email to the teachers, but telling SD11 we're doing it: "Hey, SD11, let me know what you want me to tell Teacher that you worked on this weekend". So then SD11 is in a (gentle) double bind -- if she truly did nothing, then I tell the teacher she did nothing, and at least she's being honest. If she did nothing but says she does, then the teacher will see what's up on Monday. And, best case scenario, she did all her HW, and gets to tell the teacher she did it all, and the teacher sees it on Monday.

Thoughts on how to take any punitive flavor waaaaayyyyy down?


Title: Re: Feedback on communication threshold
Post by: worriedStepmom on October 09, 2019, 03:51:39 PM
It seems to me that you're triangulating the teacher.  The teacher will know on Monday (or the due date) if your SD turns in her work or not.  It seems like having SD11 email is a way for you and H to prove that you helped her with it, without actually coming out and blaming mom for things not getting done on her weekend.  If the teacher emails asking why something didn't get done, and it was mom's week, I'd respond something like "on X day, SD11 will be back at our house.  We'll get to the bottom of that and make sure it gets turned in."    If the teacher is concerned, she can contact mom directly.

My SD12 has always been hypersensitive to criticism, although that is slowly getting better.   We can't be accusatory, and the consequences have to fit the problem.  (Mom does not provide any consequences.  Mom is also uninterested in schoolwork.)
 It is our expectation that they do ALL of their schoolwork.  No arguments.  Consequences persist until the schoolwork is completed and turned in.

In April SD12 threw a fit in front of her T.  It was a transition day, and I found out on the way to the appointment that she hadn't turned in a project that morning like she was supposed to.  Sorry, kiddo, you can't go to X activity you had planned tonight - you have to finish your project.  T supported that decision, then they spent the rest of the session dealing with her feelings about it.  After that, SD was more open to brainstorming ideas with us on how to make sure everything got done. 


Title: Re: Feedback on communication threshold
Post by: kells76 on October 10, 2019, 09:34:55 AM
Excerpt
It seems to me that you're triangulating the teacher.

Are you seeing that in the idea of "we email the teacher on Sunday night about what SD11 worked on"? Or in another place?

Just want to make sure I'm not building a triangle where I'm hoping not to...


Title: Re: Feedback on communication threshold
Post by: livednlearned on October 10, 2019, 10:43:07 AM
if we did give her consequences for that, then SD11 would know that she can't "get away with" stuff with us

kells76, I don't know if you can avoid coming across as punitive if the underlying perspective is that she can't "get away with" stuff. It sounds like you suspect she is playing off the adults? Or she's lazy?

Or is there something else ....

My hunch is that she needs someone to help her feel that not doing her homework is perfectly ordinary although not preferable, and how can caring adults help her manage not only the homework thing but whatever else is making it hard for her to remember, get it done, hand it in, focus, calm her body, etc.

A lot of adults struggle with the equivalent of homework, maybe rooted in procrastination or something else. It looks like people who study procrastination are starting to think it's an emotion regulation issue, which is interesting.

We did something with my son along the lines of, "Let's look at what's working ... in math class you do your homework in class and boom, it's done. That's ideal, because then you don't have to think about it. Are there other classes where you're noticing that getting homework done is working for you?"

In other words, Hey, you're doing this thing great over here. Let's wonder why together. Is the thing that's working here something that could work over there? How about we try for a week and you let us know if things felt easier, what worked what didn't.

S18 was also very sensitive to criticism. If anything, we had to help him dial down anxiety and negative self-talk, and draw out the part of him that felt remotely competent so he could built on that.


Title: Re: Feedback on communication threshold
Post by: kells76 on October 10, 2019, 12:32:52 PM
Excerpt
It sounds like you suspect she is playing off the adults?

Yeah, though probably not in a very conscious way. I think it's more about SD11 getting needs met in the way that feels most OK to her. So, if SD11 needs to feel like she's not in trouble, then she meets that need by telling us that she'll do HW at Mom's house, maybe telling Mom she didn't have any HW, and telling the teachers that she forgot her HW at Dad's house.

I don't think it's laziness, either. I think she is trying to take care of herself by doing stuff that feels good -- like hanging out with friends, reading, watching videos, etc, instead of something where, perhaps because of being the "not as good as SD13" child, she predicts she'll only feel bad no matter what.

A huge part of my questions about the communication threshhold with Mom is this -- SD11 is struggling with HW because she, in order to subconsiously meet her needs, tells different parties what will keep things calm. I am really torn between cracking that door to Mom so that SD11 won't keep meeting SD11's needs in this way that isn't going to benefit her long term, and finding a way to keep that door closed AND help SD11 at the same time.

If the adults weren't getting played (because they were talking), then maybe SD11 would have more incentive to get her needs met in a healthier way. That's a big concern of mine. And I look at myself purposefully not communicating with Mom (though communicating with teachers) and I wonder if I'm contributing to this.

Excerpt
she needs someone to help her feel that not doing her homework is perfectly ordinary although not preferable

I'm guessing you meant this  *) ?

Excerpt
people who study procrastination are starting to think it's an emotion regulation issue

Yeah, that would seem to fit.

I like the idea of "seeing what IS working"... I'll suggest that to DH. And, going back a bit, the idea of "doing HW is just an average thing that people do, not unique or high emotional intensity, it's just a thing that we do".