QUESTION TO THE INSTITUTE FOR ATTACHMENT AND CHILD DEVELOPMENT:
Dear Institute for Attachment and Child Development,
At home, John doesn’t do simple chores. He claims to forgot his chores even though we write them on a list for him. He is grounded and still continues to do the things we’ve told him he can’t do. He stays in his room and makes loud noises just to upset us more. Josh also acts out in school and constantly tells us that he wants to fight his classmates. My husband often works until 9:30 at night so I’m the one that is home with him. He acts out more when it’s just the two of us.
This has become my own personal hell. Josh’s mother doesn’t want him because she says she can’t handle him. I also have a son that is 14-years-old whom I have joint custody with his dad. He used to stay with me every other week. However, he doesn’t want to come over anymore because he doesn’t want to be around Josh. My husband and I recently got married in November but we barely talk unless it’s about Josh and his issues. My husband and I both are depressed. All we do is cry and get mad. Nothing we’ve tried with Josh is working. In fact, the situation only gets worse each day.
What do you suggest we do?
Your challenge, yet most promising quest, is to try to “normalize” Josh’s behavior. In other words, you’ll need to find the reasons behind why he acts the way he does. There are several possibilities to explain Josh’s behavior. He might have trouble accepting you as his stepmother, have grief and loss issues, an onset of a mental illness such as genetic mood disorder, or attachment disorder.
I can’t say exactly what Josh needs since I’ve never met him, you, or his parents. From the limited amount of information you’ve provided, however, he presents as an angry kid who has given up on himself. It sounds to me like he’s crying out for help. Josh needs a break and so do you. To place Josh outside of the home temporarily seems warranted. However, you’ll need to discover the root of Josh’s behavior in order to find an appropriate placement for him.
My first piece of advice is to find a facility or clinician that has expertise in the areas of concern I mentioned above, i.e. grief and loss, attachment disorder, etc. You may want to take a look at the Attachment & Trauma Network, Inc. (ATN) website to see if there’s an attachment specialist in your community to rule attachment disorder in or out. We can help with the possible attachment disorder assessment if you can’t find an expert in your community. I wish you the best of luck! No matter what happens with Josh, remember to take good care of yourself.
Executive Director at the Institute for Attachment and Child Development