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Penny Rayas, MFT
Penny Rayas, MFT, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 395
Experience:  I have 20 years experience in the mental health field
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Please help my wife and I are at our wits. My 11 year old

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Please help my wife and I are at our wits. My 11 year old daughter (adopted by me the step-father) is a perfectly happy, good kid. She helps out around the house, with the 2 year old, and is really no threat to herself in any way we can tell. Yet she is trying to use manipulation and threatening herself in notes to counselors, and upsetting her friends by talking about cutting or taking pills (which she has not and we don't have any pills here). The counselor by law has had to contact social services, and agrees that this is an attention grab. We have stripped her room down to just a bed, furniture, and clothes as punishment. As of today a couple of her friends' parents have contacted the school worried as their children are now getting upset. She has a chance to have this nonsense follow her around and doesn't not understand the brevity or grasp that in reality there are children out there with problems, who are abused or who don't know if they will get their next meal. This is not the case in our household.
Hello there and thanks for asking JA. My name is ***** ***** I work with children. Can you tell me what happened before this last insident happened. Any changes in your family or your daughter's life? Usually children who say they will self harm have a of emotional pain. Do you know what triggered this pain? It can be very small such as an argument with a friend. Where is this young ladies biological father? Is he in and out of her life? Usually children that do those behaviors are afraid of being abandoned. I wonder if you have done any family therapy. When I have children in crisis I do family therapy counseling. It really helps. The counselors got social services involved because they are afraid of the threats that she will harm herslf. You may be right that she is looking for attention, so you may need to find ways for her to get positive attention.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Back in March she and a friend got in trouble climbing on a rooftop at the school. Standard grounding for a week.

Then came the first incident where she went to the counselor the first time and mentioned dreams about cutting herself.

Fast forward last Tuesday she brought up going to her real dad's. This warrants background info. He has been a minor part in her life yet to her he hung the stars and the moon. He recently separated from his girlfriend with whom he has a child, her half brother. He tells his daughter the truth about finding her cheating, then 2 weeks later they are back together, so yay! Besides being furious with the guy for telling an 11 year old that kind of situation like she was an adult, we decided that with her recent activity that their environment was not healthy for her to be going to. She asked if she would be able to invite a friend, and instead of getting her hopes up I was blunt with her and told her why she would not be going. Also note that this guy agrees the environment is not healthy and has agreed to maybe come stay near us to visit. She has all the attention possible, as does her 8 yr old brother and 2 yr old sister. I coach her soccer team, she goes with her mom on girl time outings. We do the same with the other two.

Hello there this makes sense,

I have noticed that children, feel the need to be near their biological parents even when the biological parent is not good for them. You did the right thing with setting your bounderies. You right her father was very inapropriate to tell her all this. I think family therapy will help you and your wife and step-daugther so much! With teenagers what I suggest is validating their feelings such as saying "I see that you are realy angry right now" and asking them to talk about their anger. Yes sometimes you will have to make tell them no because you want them to be safe. I think not getting emotionally involved with her emotional break downs will help. Keep say I see you are angry and if she gets really angry and screams say I think we need to calm down before we talk about this again. Lets talk about it in an hour. You negotiate things that she can do that are safe but will not negotiate things that you do not feel will keep her safe. Stay firm and calm. It is hard to stay calm I know but you are teaching her how to stay calm. Suggest some interesting activities with you and your wife when she calms down. A game night is a great reward. Reward behaviors you like. I also as my clients to come up with the house rules and put the refrigerator. Each family has different rules. Have a family meeting and talk about the rules. Then you have behavioral rewards if the rules are followed and punishments if they are not. Rewards can be such as 10 minutes of playing a game staying up a bit latter on weekends. Punishments are losing TV time doing an extra chore. Give her a choice to follow the rules and get the reward or not and loss a reward. It takes time and energy but it works. This system takes the argument out of parenting and it rewards good behavior.

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Hello Josh, I am wondring how the methods I gave you are working with your step daughter. Let me know if I can help you with anything else