New Surroundings: The Movie

But will the movie of my life have a happy or sad ending?

Our elder counsels a letter writer who is having trouble settling into his new home with his dad and stepmother.

Dear EWC

A while ago now I moved into a new house in town with my dad and his new partner. As nice as it sounds its not all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes we have little fights about things like keeping my room clean and stuff which is fair enough, I should. But sometimes it’s about other things too sometimes I feel they don’t understand me. They aren’t in Year 11 trying to balance everything. Dad works but his partner doesn’t and sometimes she says that I “don’t understand the things she does for me” like cleaning and I “need to be more grateful”. I ask her how I do this but she says I should just be more aware. I try really hard too. So I feel like I am always walking on eggshells and Dad always generally agrees with her if its something about me. We had a massive fight a couple of months ago and she straight up yelled at me and Dad did nothing (which made me super upset when he didn’t say anything). I feel like I can’t get angry at her though and I have to be civil with her even though Dad says I can because 1. I feel he would just yell at me for getting angry, and, 2. I hate conflict and I am kind of intimidated by her even though she’s nice.

I used to see a counselor for my anxiety and talking about issues with my family. (But now I don’t because it wasn’t helping manage my anxiety). We used to have family counseling too but I just cried in the sessions all the time cause I felt I was causing all the problems and it was my fault and so my parents said to stop. Now I feel really alone at home and my nan and my mum who live a long way away say I can ring and talk to them but I feel like I can’t depend on them all the time. My friends don’t know either and I don’t feel comfortable talking to them Every time I visit them I just cry about home because it’s constantly up and down and I feel so alone by myself with no one to talk to. So I just sit on it. I’ve tried talking to Dad but it just isn’t getting anywhere and our relationship is growing further and further apart due to him spending and caring more about her from my point of view. Dad’s partner also says because of my mum and what happened, and how she had to leave at an early age when I was younger, I now have to start doing things independently (I such at time management). Also, she says I am very emotionally distressed due to my younger childhood (My mum has and had schizophrenia when I was younger) and that’s why I get upset easily and take this to heart and blame myself. Dad was also made redundant from work recently so we have all been stressed because we may have to move to the city which we hate for him to get a job. Sorry for this being so long. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Any support, advice or comfort would be amazing.

PicklesMarie replies

Whether Adapting to New Surroundings has a happy or sad ending may be due to the script you write for yourself! Let me try to explain. I have to point out that I am not a professional counselor, just an older lady who has experienced a lot. I’ll give you my perspective… and you feel free to reject it.

Yes, your parents don’t understand you. Probably you yourself don’t even understand you. Few parents can understand a teen. A teen doesn’t think like an adult. Their brains won’t be able to do so until they are about 25 years old. (No typo, truth… you can check it out!) So be patient with them… and yourself.

Further, you don’t understand your parents. Your stay-at-home stepmother may need some kind of recognition. An author named Gary Chapman talks about five ways that love (and I think recognition) can be shown: words of affirmation, gifts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, physical touch. Rather than reading his books, you can look online to find these ways of showing love/appreciation. It may be that your stepmother would respond to one of these ways of showing love, respect, and affection. Experiment.

You don’t understand your parents. Your stepmother stays home. I did that for a while. There is nothing more boring; you do the same repetitive tasks again and again and again. Maybe, you should try to bring some sunshine and novelty into her life once in a while rather than retreating to your room? Your father, who supported the family, has lost his job. Talk about a huge stressor! Is there any part-time job you might get?

As I understand it, anxiety is normal. We all seem to experience it. It can help us cope with life… unless it makes you freeze up, Now that you’re ‘older and wiser’, consider some therapy again, if it is on the table. Otherwise, consider talking to an adult you respect. Long ago before therapists and counselors, people talked to wise elders. Some who perform use their anxiety to help drive them to practice for special events. In other words, anxiety isn’t all bad!

You can and should learn how to manage time better. Look online for tips. See which ones work for you. I have found that doing distasteful tasks before I allow myself to do fun tasks works. Habits help too. I have gotten into the habit of exercising in the morning. It gets it done. In the early a.m. I tend to be on auto-pilot… just doing things without too much thinking. So doing things I’d prefer not doing early works for me.

I hope I’ve been of help. Feel free to write to me or any other elder at EWC anytime. We want to help.

Letter #: 436964
Category: Family

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