As a parent...wwyd?

lovehadleyJune 8, 2009

I am wondering what advice you all might have for my DH. Step-parenting aside, if you were in his shoes, with BM and SS, how would you handle things?

To a certain extent, my DH's hands are tied. BM is not going to lose custody *at this point in time.* So she will continue to have a major influence over SS.

The damage she has already done is very sad.

Some recent disturbing things:

On Friday night, DH called to say goodnight to his son, and he asked him what he was doing. His SEVEN YEAR OLD SON said "I'm drinking alcohol." And cracked up laughing. DH said "____, that is not funny." And in the background he could hear BM laughing and then SS replied "Well, my mom thinks it's funny."

I mean, I just don't get it. What in heaven's name would prompt a 7 yr old to even think of saying that? I can't in my wildest dreams imagine my DD even considering saying that---not because she is a perfect angel or anything, but because the word alcohol is not even part of her vocabulary at this age. THANK GOD.

DH and I were both really disturbed by that whole exchange and really, it made us wonder what in the h*ll was going on over there.

Last week, SS was with us, and was trying to call his mom and she wasn't answering for awhile. (she did finally call back.) But in the meantime, SS was really worried that she was in jail. :( THAT fear has to stem from the incident he witnessed two months ago.

SS has started telling us that he is dumb. :( When we respond with how bright he is, and how smart, etc. he doesn't want to hear any of it. His self-esteem, at the tender age of 7, is already so low. THAT worries me because it seems to be a mirror image of his mom and the issues that have plagued her. DH thinks self-esteem (lack of) is at the root of her drinking, and self-destructive issues.

she is vehemently opposed to holding him back a year in school. BM herself repeated 2nd (or 3rd?) grade, and she is adamant that her son will not go through that. But the thing is--he is struggling so much. His report card arrived last week, and it was pretty sad, and DH is so worried. SS is not even meeting grade level expectations, as of this last semester. :(

When he started K at the private school, we paid for, they wanted to put him in JK. BM didn't want to, so DH obliged, and convinced the school to enroll him in K, which he was eligible for. It was a bad year.

When BM put him in her district, the GAL said "put him in K again." But BM freaked and had him evaluated at the district, and they said he could go into 1st. So he went. The GAL and DH were p*ssed, but nothing had been court-ordered, and once he was enrolled in 1st, no one was about to pull him back to K.

So here it is now--he has finished 1st grade, is transferring to our district, and DH really, really wants him to have a fresh start. Academics aside, this is his 3rd school in 3 years. The poor kid has had SO MUCH turmoil. It's time to give him a HEAD START and let him have some breathing room. Rather than see him struggle with making new friends, adjusting to a new school AND academics, DH would like to give him a break on the acadmeics, and let him repeat 1st. He wants him to be AHEAD of the curve, not constantly behind.

It all ties in with the self-esteem. The more he struggles in school, the more unhappy he becomes, and the less he cares about doing well.

It is so frightening for DH to watch his son headed down this path.

DH is meeting with the district admins. this week to push for SS to repeat 1st. Unforutnately, if BM doesn't agree, he will have to file a motion to modify. We're not sure if that can happen in time for school to start in August.

Any ideas? Advice? Thoughts?

Dh is worried and feels kind of trapped because, in truth, there is only so much he can do to help his son. And that is a terrible feeling.

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HAVE HIM REPEAT - only exception, if he is already very big for his age.

My D is one of the youngest in her grade. She has struggled many years, but finally in the last two years of HS pulled herself up, and will be attending a very selective college next year. My X did not want to hold her back a year - if you dont do it now, it will be impossible, yes give him some breathing room.

I know where you are coming from, you dont want him to just get by, you want him to be on his game, and enjoy going to school.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 10:11AM
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Nope, he is actually very small for his age, as well. This is another concern of DH's. I doubt he will ever be *big* because DH is only 5'9"ish, and BM is probably 5'2"

But he certainly would be more average sized looking if he were one of the oldest, as opposed to the younger end.

He is not super young for his grade---he has an early April birthday.

We do worry a bit with my DD being younger (her bday is May), but being in the same grade---that it would bother SS that she is moving on to 2nd, and he's not.

BUT with him switching schools, now would be the perfect time to do it, and we could play it off like "oh, this is a new school and this is just what you have to do, they want you to start in 1st."
competition immensely.

Also, with the kids in different grades, that might ultimately ease up the competition that is between them. It is tough with them being the same age, in the same grade, etc. I know SS feels that, even though we do as much as possible to not let them engage in any of it. But there is no denying it's there---it is kind of like having twins.

I think he would initially be upset, but would get over it quickly, and the long term benefits would far outweigh the short-term negatives.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 10:18AM
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My nephew got help back in Kindergarten Love. My sister was initially insulted and torked at teh teacher. SHe decided to go ahead and let him repeat rather than buck the system.

N______ is now eight and has been on thee A honor role consistently. My sister is so glad he got that extra year. In retrospect, she knows it helped him. Had he not stayed back he would probably be struggling and might have self-esteem issues. Instead he is one of the smartest little guys his class!!!

Sometimes what seems like a negative can turn out to be a real positive:)

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 10:24AM
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I think you can explain to SS that D has been in that school longer, and had he started there in Pre-k, he could probably be in same grade with her. I would also mention that it is much for common for boys to be held back a year (voluntarily). My Ds bday is in Oct (you're allowed to start in your bday is by Dec 31 in my state), and one of the youngest in the class.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 10:25AM
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I would look at calling the police when you have a call like that in the future and have them do a WELL CHILD check on the kids. CPS may also need to be contacted and explain what is going on over there.

I would also ask your lawyer to look at having the court order an evaluation of your SS for damage that she has caused him. A child should not know about drinking, about how to roll a joint what ever... Seems to me that a child that young would tell the tell if they KNOW more then a child who was never exposed to these type of things.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 10:28AM
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One of my sd's was held back and repeated 1st grade. She was unable to do the things the 1st time so everyone thought she would do much better the second time around. Not so...she did just as badly. Finally they had her evaluated for learning issues and finally, almost 6 years later she is catching up to her peers. Went through years of "oh its ADHD...lets put her on meds" to her working with resource teachers but being in a normal classroom setting. I would continue working with her at home on weekends and summer break, but sometimes she was just so burnt out!!

Now she is actually in a smaller class doing almost grade level work and is finally making progress. Just this school year she went up almost 2 1/2 grade levels in reading and about 2 grade levels in math!!

So before you fight to have him held back maybe talk to the school and have him evaluated to see just what is keeping him so far behind. Maybe he could do summer school and them move onto 2nd grade with some help from resource teachers??

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 3:04PM
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he has low self-esteem because it is typical for children of alcoholics. sad, but that's what it is.

I would call CPS next time he says: i am drinking alcohol. she probably drinks in front of him and he repeats it. not good. If DD said that when she was wiht X (and X doesn't drink) i would call him to the phone and have a serious conversation. DH needs to talk to BM about it.

yes let him repeat the class, not a big deal. plenty of kids do that. but also check wiht school if he can be tested, he might have special needs.

when he reaches more appropriate age like 9-10 take him to alateen meetings. damage is already done and he already needs help. and of course he blames himself. people who live wiht alcoholics often blame themselves. sad.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 4:37PM
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I think alot of kids that age go through that stage where if things don't go their way, they say they're dumb or hate themselves. But, I do think that being the child of an alcoholic exasperates it. Keep encouraging him. That's what he really needs.

And don't let your DH sink to BM's level by leaning on him for emotional support or happiness. He's already got 1 parent doing it and that's just not fair to a child. I'm sure your DH doesn't do that, but even little things can lead a kid to think their parent "needs" them. And it's hard not to fall into that trap when the other parent is doing it and getting all the benefits.

Have you thought of doing some tutoring programs this summer? Like Sylvan or Kumon? Maybe a little extra help this summer will help him be more prepared for next year. He's probably craving some one-on-one with someone who cares.

I know lots of high school kids who do that sort of thing for some extra cash during the summer. If you went that direction, you could have a more flexible schedule.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 5:25PM
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As to SS's outrageous statements -- If you don't think they're true (like the "I'm drinking alcohol" stuff), I'd ignore it and downplay it. Kids love to get a rise out of parents and stir the pot -- especially in a divorce situation -- so showing concern only for the stuff that sounds plausible and downplaying his other fears may help reduce his anxiety level. Calling CPS when you have no physical evidence OR real belief that there' imminent danger will only go to reduce your credibility when your hearings finally do roll around. Is there a neighbor you know well enough to ask to check on SS if there's an "iffy" situation?

On the hold back issue -- Research TENDS to be against it in most circumstances. But there's also no doubt that now is the very best possible set of circumstances for a grade retention. That, and SS's small size argue for it. And if immaturity is the problem, then time for a second chance may be the solution. But as Mom2emall relates, if immaturity ISN'T the problem, then holding him back doesn't address the real problem at all, and would only damage his already-fragile self-esteem.

The advice to have him tested is good advice. Trouble is, the timing's LOUSY! His current district will say there's no time; and his future district will argue that there's no reason. If they're two schools in the same district, you may have a chance, but you'll have to work FAST. (If you want the school to test him now, say so in this thread and email me privately and I'll give you the specific legal wording you need to make it happen -- even if the school resists.)

Can you arrange a conference with his teacher to sound her out about exactly where he is having trouble and what seems to be the problem? Maybe ask to have the school diagnostician (they should have one) or special ed. teacher sit in the conference with you and add their insights. Tell them that holding him back is being discussed, but that either way, you want to do some remedial work over the summer to help him succeed next year, and what do they suggest you do?

It might also be a good idea to have his current teacher write a note (or email) restating that she recommends holding him back and why. That would be a valuable document to have come court-time.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 5:52PM
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"What in heaven's name would prompt a 7 yr old to even think of saying that?"

He has his mom's support. His mom is immature and making it a game for him. He thinks it's fun & probably has no idea what it really means... but he's getting a reaction, isn't he? His mom is reacting with laughing along with him.. dad is reacting by telling him "that's not funny", but to him.. it is funny. He is controlling mom & dad with what he's saying. He has 'power'. I'd suggest dad practice saying "that's nice" or "okay" and change the subject. Unless dad really thinks he's drinking alcohol (which he may... a mom like that would think nothing of giving a kid a sip) but the more power he gives it, the more they will do it (trying to goad/engage dad with their funny little game) Playing those games, makes them feel like a team.. them against dad. In the end, it will be destructive for mom because she is going to lose her son's respect. Mom is on his level, not the parental level where child has respect for parent. Dad needs to stay on the parent level and not play the game with those two.

As for his self esteem, when you try to convince someone who thinks they are ugly or stupid or whatever that they are not, all it does is makes them think you're just saying that. I wouldn't give it any attention at all. When he says "I'm so stupid", instead of telling him he's not, ask him to help do something you know he can do... like say, "well, I don't know about that... you think you can help me find my keys?" or something along that line. If you're going somewhere, get him to help find landmarks or street signs and when you get to the destination, thank him for all his help i finding the place/keys, etc. It might help him to see that adults don't always have all the answers and know everything and him helping you will make him feel smart/brave/etc. when he accomplishes it.

As for holding him back, you have no control over what DH and BM do. It seems the more DH says he needs to be held back, the more adamant BM is in saying no way. The teacher should be the one telling BM because she is the one that is there day in & day out with SS and she's a third party. If I were your DH, I would stop pressing to hold him back and maybe suggest that he might benefit from a learning center (like sylvan) and tell her how much her half is going to be. I'd probably say something like "I've been thinking and maybe you're right, our son shouldn't have to be held back and be embarrassed as the oldest kid in the class next year... however, I know you are as concerned as I am about him keeping up and succeeding in school so I guess the best thing to do for our son is to share the cost of a learning center. It's going to be $XXXX.XX. What do you think?" and see what she has to say...

I think her egging her son on to say the alcohol thing is a dig at DH for making her do the evaluation. As hard as it is... I'd try to ignore it. Document it, but ignore it. It WILL come back to bite her in the ass... eventually. Karma!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 5:55PM
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