Oh! That is terrible but actually very familiar. Have your daughters ever been to a funeral?
My youngest stepson has some similar emotional issues, even the part about being sensitive to “yelling”. He believes that the world is against him and that everytime anyone gets angry at him he should die. We’ve explained to him that being angry at someone does not mean that you don’t still love them, but I’m still not sure at times that he understands.
He used to have what I can only classify as anxiety attacks and it was always about one or the other of his parents dying. He was 6 when this started and he still has them occasionally at 10. He has never been to a funeral before so the “cemetary scene” your daughter describes would not be something he could associate with death. But I’m sure if he had witnessed that before he would have the same pictures in his head…
When these first started I spoke with my mom (stepmom) about it who told me that I went through a similar stage where I was almost obsessed with death but I had been to many funerals by the age of 10.
Your daughters may have anxiety over the new stepmother because she talks badly about you all. Maybe she’s made threats about you where the girls can hear…No stepparent should ever do that and if she truly cared for these children she would not do it regardless of how she really feels for you. She should be ashamed of herself for teaching your daughters to hate and to fear. The legal stuff should never be discussed in front of the children because they don’t understand. Though I had every reason, my stepson’s would never have understood if I had had their mother arrested for assault. It’s the only thing that kept me from getting a restraining order against her. They would have hated me.
I do not know about her hurting herself but it sounds like you had the right idea of getting her into counseling. Keep her going. Don’t be afraid of her being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. My oldest stepson is on two medications for his ADD and anxiety attacks by his choice. We would like to eventually see him off of them but with adolescence looming directly ahead, it’s probably not a good idea yet. Everything during that time is so much more emotional anyway…He has stomach aches frequently because he worries about everything. Having bad “nerves” IS a big deal.
Personally, I have had anxiety attacks before. It’s really difficult to explain, but most of the time mine consisted of thoughts about how fragile the human body actually is and all the ways that you could die. The very thought of death would make me panic, make it difficult to breath and swallow, but that is the one thought that I could not quit having. I would wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to sleep for days, out of fear. I would go days without leaving my house except to go to work. I finally got some medical attention and they have subsided to a manageable level but I found one thing that worked for me. If I realize my anxiety level going up, I can turn on the TV to cartoons or find something mindless to do or concentrate on. It helps to take the focus off. It also helps to just realize that it’s happening and close your eyes and concentrate on one thought or memory.
My suggestion to you is to keep her talking. Explain that you do not guarantee that you can help but you are there for her to talk to. You could set aside some time every week for you two to spend together. Set it up so that she understands that during that time you will not be her mother, but her friend. She can talk about anything to you and you will not judge her. Maybe go to a special place or sit in her bedroom so that she feels more comfortable. You will have to work on talking to her differently though. You will have to work on responding in a different way than you would as her mother.
Your ex and his new wife should be included via mail or e-mail on what is happening. If they can not be sensitive to what your children are going through then you should make sure your daughters know how to reach you when they are visiting. If you do get that phone call, do your best to calm them down and see if things can be handled. Keep records of everything that happens. Do not be shy about asking the ex, in writing of course, that he and his wife please stop all negative talking about you or the children in front of them. You don’t have to accuse them or even tell them what was said, just ask them to stop. Tell them that your daughters are having a difficult time adjusting and that the negative talk is not helping. You can even tell them that the counselor made this suggestion. Make sure it’s all in writing.
I hope things do calm down for you some with the ex’s new wife. For what your daughters are going through, maybe there will be some comfort for you in the fact that you are doing everything possible for them. Hang in there…