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Dealing With A Middle Child

by Denise

My 12 year old daughter is now dealing with being the middle child. I have always gone overboard trying to satisfy this child but she still feels like an outcast.

I feel this child is has taken all my own energy.

My husband has a alcohol drinking problem that we are dealing with and I seem to react whenever I know he has been drinking.

My home seems to be in a state of disruption.

Thanks, Denise

Comments for Dealing With A Middle Child

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Underlying Family Issues - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Denise,
First of all, I am going to talk about you, rather than your daughter. It sounds like you are exhausted, trying to hold the family together, and trying to meet every ones needs.

I wonder what happens to your needs? If your husband has a drinking problem then you would be on eggshells when you know he has been drinking. Living in a state of high stress like that is not good for you.

You say you are dealing with it, does that mean he acknowledges there is a problem and is working to get control of it - or does it mean you are dealing with his drinking and trying to cope?

I hope it is the former. You can not really have a very nurturing relationship with someone who is under the influence of alcohol, or if you feel you have to modify your behavior to keep the peace if he has been drinking.

Obviously you can't change him, but you can make sure you are not enabling him to pretend there is not a problem. Confrontation when he is drinking is not a good idea - but being very clear when he is not drinking that he has a problem and you want him to get it sorted is something that needs confronting.

It may be you need some support and help with doing that - such as the support groups like Al Anon:

Al-Anon For Families

They put out a very good book about communicating with an alcoholic spouse - it's a bit dated, but raises a lot of the issues I am sure you are living with. They also have a magazine, and lots of information about helping the rest of the family.

You really need to look after you. When a parent runs on empty for so long, you end up with nothing left to give, so no wonder you are feeling you are exhausted dealing with your daughter.

You say she has taken all your energy, but I think your energy is so depleted anyway dealing with your husband's drinking, and how powerless you must often feel over that. We often switch our attention to a problem with a child when the
underlying family issue is too big to handle.

So the priority for you is to find ways to get some of that energy back, get some support and put yourself up to Number One for a change.

Part Two Follows . . . .

Underlying Family Issues - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Spend some time as soon as possible, making a list of the things you can do that nurture you. Maybe visiting friends and family on your own, maybe going for walks in nature, maybe a creative activity. Making sure you get time out and time to feed your soul will give you the strength to deal better with a difficult situation.

You may find counseling helpful, to give you more resources to cope better, and to have someone just for you, who will help and support you to create the kind of family life you would prefer.

Now about your daughter - I think she is the barometer for your family. There is usually one child that plays out the problems, and her struggles are really highlighting the toll your husband's drinking is having on the whole family.

You are bending over backwards to try to make her feel loved and important, but because she senses your frustration and how stressed you are she knows you really don't have the energy for her. Kids know when we are not being authentic, and trying to do it right for a child when we simply don't have the reserves just doesn't work.

Of course you love her deeply, and her well-being is very important to you, or you would not have written in to me. But I think in the short term, you need to get some of your own needs filled, and spend time with your daughter when you
feel you do have some energy to give.

I think it might be helpful, if both of you start going to Al-anon meetings. There are meetings for teenagers, and she will start to see the way she is reacting will most likely be more because of her father's drinking problem than because she is the middle child.

It is very common for children of Alcoholics to feel unloved, misunderstood, and that no-one cares. They will also sometimes act up to deflect the attention to them so Mum and Dad don't fight.
Children also blame themselves for problems in the family, so she probably has a lot going on.

Part Three Follows . . .

Dealing With Underlying Family Issues - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

Counseling might be a good thing for your daughter too, it would take the pressure of you trying to be the one to help her to feel loved and accepted. It would also be a place for her to express some of the things she can't raise at home, either to protect you or her Dad, or because she does not want to face them.

The Al-Ateen meetings, would also give her a peer support system of other kids living through a similar situation. Learning you are not alone in how you feel is a really powerful way of starting to shift to a more positive outlook. In time she will start to take responsibility for creating a positive future for herself, instead of blaming you or her father for not being the perfect parent.

You are doing the best you can in a sometimes very difficult situation. Maybe it is time for you all to get more help and support so you can flourish as a family, instead of feeling like you are going under.

I know you and your family can move forward into a much happier, more contented family life. You don't have to carry the load of the family on your own, so I really encourage you to get whatever support you all need to help your family to heal and thrive.

Best of luck with it all Denise,
Annie Desantis

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