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Managing Relationship between my DS (3) and Adopted Nephew (6)

(26 Posts)
LetThereBeCupcakes Mon 23-May-16 20:13:14

Hi all - hope it's OK to post this here! I'm hoping will have some insight into how to handle this.

My SIL and her husband recently adopted a little boy. They don't live near us so we don't see them much. DH took our DS to meet his new cousin a few months back and they had a fabulous time. More recently, we went back and I met him too. All good.

Nephew has - quite understandably - a few issues at the moment. He's had a turbulent past. However my DS is only 3 and doesn't understand some of his cousin's actions. The last time we were there my DS was in tears on a couple of occasions because his cousin was "mean". I tried explaining that X was still learning some things and it would take time, but I think DS is just too little to understand. Just one example - Nephew won't allow DS to touch any of his toys, so DS spent a lot of time standing on the threshold of his bedroom watching him play and getting more and more upset. I understand Nephew's reasoning - he's probably never had his own toys before - but DS really, really doesn't, and was very upset. Tried taking some of our own toys but DS wants to play WITH his cousin, if that makes sense? I have to admit it broke my heart a bit - DS was SO excited to see his cousin and spent the whole time being very disappointed.

Just wondering if anybody has ideas of how to manage this / explain to DS? We don't seem them often but DH and his SIL have just arranged a holiday together so we'll be with them for 4 days solid and I can see me getting very stressed trying to keep the peace. Any advice?

MypocketsarelikeNarnia Mon 23-May-16 20:22:28

What are SIL/BIL doing while this is happening? What have they said to you about the situation before/after it is happening? How did you all plan for the play between them to work? How open do you think SIL and BIL are to those conversations?

With any interaction between children there needs to be some give and take. If your nephew is really not ready to interact positively with a younger relative at the moment (which he might not be) then is it fair to either of them to put them in that situation for an extended period?

Catvsworld Mon 23-May-16 20:22:54

I think this would likely be a issue even if he wasn't adopted op

The age gap for one thing and the fact that they are not used to each other I see my best friend weekly she has a 7 year old my daughter is 3 and after about 3 hours they start to get on each other's nerves I would try and take some time apart during the Hoilday little and often is my advise when you can see tempers getting short try doing separate activities with the children

RosieandJim89 Mon 23-May-16 20:30:43

How about buying some toys between the two families that they can play together on holiday? They are no-one's toys to take, they are for sharing and playing together. Definitely make sure you spend plenty of time outside riding bikes or running around without focusing on toys.

LetThereBeCupcakes Mon 23-May-16 20:31:53

Thanks, guys. TBH SIL and I have very different views on parenting. The particular incident I mentioned SIL was downstairs chatting to my DH (her brother). BIL was at work. SIL told the boys to play upstairs so the adults could chat, I was trying to listen from the bottom of the stairs so SIL didn't see me. She feels I'm over protective. When I heard what was being said I went up to supervise, asked nephew if DS could play with him, nephew said no so I encouraged DS to come away with me. We played downstairs before nephew followed us down and tried to encourage DS back upstairs with him, with I stopped. I think nephew WANTS to interact but doesn't really know how?

There was no prior planning unfortunately.

I'm not sure how to suggest time apart really? DH doesn't see his family much and is very close to them, when we're near them he wants to be close the whole time, doesn't really like me going off with DS as he wants him to see his auntie. He's more than happy for me to go off on my own but I feel I need to supervise really.

LetThereBeCupcakes Mon 23-May-16 20:33:35

That's a good idea rosie, I tried giving DS his own toys last time but that seemed to make him feel more "separate" if that makes sense? Some shared toys might do the trick.

Italiangreyhound Mon 23-May-16 22:16:34

Try not to take it all personally, it is sad but don't let it upset you too much and don't let the boys see you are too upset. There are issues because:

-Your nephew is probably grieving because everything he has ever known has probably been taken away from him, please try and see that side of it
-Your child is too young to understand
-Your SIL doesn't sound very clued up on potential problems
-Your nephew has only just come but is older then the existing child

Instead of ushering the boys upstairs and out of sight she should have set up some shared play, IMHO. I would suggest next time some painting, colouring, junk modelling, craft, cake decorating etc on a table in sight of adults. The adults take turns to watch/interact with kids
Or you could have gone out to park, playground, for walk etc and again designated one adult to give kids me while others talked then swap, IMHO.

My ds was 3 when he came and dd was 9, I watched them like a hawk as they fought a lot!

Children with 'issues' probably do not need lots of unsupervised time IMHO. And most newly arrived children would have some issues.

Now my dd and her brother love each other but we did a lot of connection building things in early days...

we took them to fun places
we had a regular small soft play place to visit
they did dressing up together
they did junk modelling together

Plus please remember things you would expect of a regular kid sharing toys/being unsupervised etc not be possible yet for your new nephew.

Sorry if this sounds rude but ' I have to admit it broke my heart a bit' is a bit over the top, IMHO. Although you are, of course, entiteld to your feelings. It is hard.

It is always hard when our children are left out or not included but the reason is not the same as any other child being a bit mean (where one might insist on sharing).

The new child is not a playmate for your son but I know how you feel, our son was not a playmate for dd but it still felt hard when they did not play well! And of course this is one of the reasons why adopted children are younger than existing children within families!

Lastly we have a rule, any toys that cannot be shared must be kept in the children's bedrooms. Toys in living room, bathroom, things in the garden etc must be shared.

Maybe talk to your SIL or get DH to talk to his sis and suggest ways to work this out for next time.

It will get better! Honestly, I am 99% sure! thanks

Italiangreyhound Mon 23-May-16 22:17:30

Sorry She is SIL as in * she should have set up*....

MypocketsarelikeNarnia Mon 23-May-16 22:52:31

It's all very well for her to feel you're overprotective when she has a 6 yo and yours is only 3.

My Dc2 is 2.5 and there are some older kids I trust with her and some I don't. And even some of dc1's nicest loveliest 6 yo girlfriends have been known to accidentally bounce him off a bed or re appropriate a toy he's looking at so you be as protective as you need to!

Also bear in mind that yes, you need to be sensitive to your d nephew's circumstances but your ds doesn't have any fewer rights as a result of that so if there is any unpleasant behaviour you can still calmly and kindly remind everyone about 'kind hands', 'kind words' etc.

It shouldn't only be you supervising them though. What does your Dh say?

Italiangreyhound Mon 23-May-16 23:23:02

Totally agree with Narnia, your ds does need looking out for, 3 years is a big difference in age.

tldr Tue 24-May-16 00:58:06

Absolutely agree with PPs. I don't let there be a lot of unsupervised play between my 6yo and my 3yo and they live together! (And have 2 of most things...)

But if your nephew only arrived recently ofc they won't have experienced 3 for themselves and possibly don't realise how small/random/stubborn 3yos can be.

And that's without even taking account of any issues your nephew may have.

Next time, keep them where you can keep an eye on them. If you need to raise it before you meet, do that. You can couch it in terms of DS being 3 rather than DN being adopted.

Tbh, if it's a recent placement there's every chance that SIL and DH really need a break so they might be thinking more of that than anything else when encouraging play elsewhere. I know that was topmost in my mind.

UnderTheNameOfSanders Tue 24-May-16 08:04:03

What everyone else said.

Plus toys or games that need cooperation or turn taking.
But supervised and facilitated by an adult.
e.g. Simple games where the loser is the winner (like a pirate pop up game where you stick things in and eventually the pirate pops up), or kicking a ball to each other etc.

And encourage 'play along side' and sharing of buckets and spades but there must be enough for one each, so swapping rather than turn taking.

You could buy a large parachute thingy for use on holiday which will need the adults too

LetThereBeCupcakes Tue 24-May-16 09:23:23

greyhound All of your suggestions are what I tend to do when DS has friends over – he doesn’t go and play in his room on his own. SIL seems to want the children out of the way, though – she’s always been like that with her nieces and nephews and it’s a bit awkward when it’s her house! DH sides with his sister so it ends up being me against them and I always end up backing down. But if I turned up with an activity ready to do it would be harder for them to argue so will try that. DS is just getting in to board games and I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy hungry hippos

It did upset me to see DS so disappointed. He has 8 other cousins, all quite a bit older than him, and in his 3-year-old head Cousins = amazing older children that dote on him and spoil him, so he was very confused and upset. Completely not my nephew’s fault – what I could do with is some advice on how to manage DS’ expectations a bit.

SIL doesn’t allow toys downstairs, apart from a few toy musical instruments in her study, and I hadn’t packed many toys for DS as we had a long car journey with 2 dogs to fit in – we were very limited on space. The imminent holiday won’t include the dogs so we’ll have more space for some toys / supplies.

Narnia DH doesn’t care, his priority is spending time with his sister. So long as the children aren’t in his way he’s not bothered what goes on.

tldr SIL used to work in a children’s centre so in her words “she knows all about kids”, hence her constantly giving me “advice”. hmm. I think the issue isn’t actually the children at all, it’s the adults involved – I can’t talk to them without being put down so anything I do has to be surreptitious or too quick for her to do anything about!

sanders I LOVE pop up pirates! Definitely need to get that one. And some outdoor games would be great.

Thanks all, I’m dreading the holiday a little less now!

MypocketsarelikeNarnia Tue 24-May-16 13:35:04

I'd be upset too. I remember being little and other children are do very important. I feel for mine if they are on the receiving end of behaviour - no blame there smile

Your Dh needs to step up a bit though. It can't just be everyone else having a lovely grown up time and you nannying all the children for them - that's hugely unfair!

Italiangreyhound Wed 25-May-16 00:31:11

Lettherebecupcakes re your dh and SIL not co-operating, work on DH, he really should be on your side.

Re "It did upset me to see DS so disappointed. He has 8 other cousins, all quite a bit older than him, and in his 3-year-old head Cousins = amazing older children that dote on him and spoil him, so he was very confused and upset. Completely not my nephew’s fault – what I could do with is some advice on how to manage DS’ expectations a bit."

Of course it upset you and of course you are right to express it. i just wanted to explain your nephew has lost everything he knows and (sorry, to be honest) it sounds like his new mum is not completely understanding of his needs. He's effectively sent to him room when guests come and expected to play with a new younger cousin. I think your SIL really needs some help understanding her new son's needs.

I think you need to explain to ds in age appropriate language that your new nephew is not like the others who have grown up in their family.
Maybe read this and give him an age appropriate version of it.

i think the key bit you need to get your ds to understand (I know this is very hard) is that it is not about him, although he is younger, his new cousin is able to act like the other older cousins. He will need time. Time to adjust, time to get used to being a cousin.

Re "SIL doesn’t allow toys downstairs, apart from a few toy musical instruments in her study, and I hadn’t packed many toys for DS as we had a long car journey with 2 dogs to fit in – we were very limited on space. The imminent holiday won’t include the dogs so we’ll have more space for some toys / supplies." our SIL sounds like she doesn't really understand kids. This is all quite worrying. please try and show her another way. Our social worker commented that toys were in evidence in our home and that this was a positive thing. I know all families are different but toys are children's things, if children's things are not welcome downstairs that kind of suggested (to me) children are not really welcome downstairs.... and what you said about her sending the boys upstairs to play etc. How long has be been with them now (may I ask, please)? If it is very early days this really shows a lack of understanding on your SIL' part.

Re "DH doesn’t care, his priority is spending time with his sister. So long as the children aren’t in his way he’s not bothered what goes on."

That all sounds really bad, to me. So you are left looking after your own small child and your SIL's child while DH and SIL sit and chat! Not acceptable really, is it. Please talk to DH and help him see this is not really the way to go.

Re "I can’t talk to them without being put down so anything I do has to be surreptitious or too quick for her to do anything about!" Who is the 'them' your SIL and her husband or your SIL and your DH? If it is your DH and he is putting you down then you really need to address that. It sounds very much unacceptable.

I really hope the holiday will go well, it sounds like you've got some strategies in place. Sorry if I've been tough on you, I know it must be hard for you and your ds, and your SIL and DH sound like they have some very challenging ideas but my heart goes out to your nephew and I just wanted to express that, not to belittle your son's feelings, that's not my intention. thanks

Italiangreyhound Wed 25-May-16 00:39:10

" that it is not about him, and although his new cousin is older, his new cousin is not able to act like the other older cousins."


Your SIL sounds like she doesn't really understand kids. (I know you said she worked with kids but really she doesn't seem to understand. My son is a bit older than your nephew, not much, and when he first came at three almost four, he would never have gone to his room to play)

Sorry missing/wrong words there!

LetThereBeCupcakes Wed 25-May-16 06:40:22

Thank you so much, lots of useful advice there. The link brought a little lump to my throat. DNephew arrived mid January, so about 4 months ago.

I think I've got what I need to explain to DS, now, and I'll be much better prepared for the holiday. Not expecting plain sailing by all means but we'll get there.

Yes, there are massive communication issues with DH and his family. None of them talk and they all dislike me (I think because I "stole" their precious boy - DH has 3 sisters and their dad left when they were young). I try my best though <sigh>

Italiangreyhound Wed 25-May-16 09:15:25

Thanks for the update. It sounds hard. Your dh's first loyalty should bebtp you and your son. Hope he works that one out. You sound lovely and hopefully you can help him see that. wink

tldr Wed 25-May-16 09:32:40

Totally not what you asked but tbh I'm a bit hmm that they're a) planning a holiday so soon and b) planning a holiday with people outside the immediate nuclear family.

Both those things are against most adoption wisdom. I wonder if they're struggling a bit. I'd have chopped off an arm for extra adult company in the early months but I knew it wasn't in DC best interests. (Though I suppose if it's a summer holiday they'll be 6mo in.)

Anyway, just musing. Have probably crossed a line into total busybodiness here. But maybe just something to keep in mind -- I'm not proposing you go in shouting 'you're obviously struggling, you ought to be funnelling!'

MypocketsarelikeNarnia Wed 25-May-16 09:53:23

Well you're not doing anything wrong. So if she offers her nuggets of shit wisdom feel completely justified in saying sweetly 'oh no, that's not how I parent at all!'

And your Dh might need to man up a bit now there are children involved. You can ignore shitty family dynamics when you're just a couple but put kids in the mix and you're going to have to come up with something a bit better. I have exciting experience in this area smile

We're here - feel free to rant/use us as a sounding board smile

Papergirl1968 Wed 25-May-16 10:09:18

I'm an adopter and would say it is essential to supervise adopted children, not allow them to play upstairs, especially if the placement is fairly new. They very often can have challenging behaviour including aggression and sexualised behaviour, and often have difficulty sharing. The three year age gap would also mean your Ds is vulnerable as dn is likely to be bigger but young for his age.
For the holiday I'd be taking them swimming, playground etc, and having some time apart as well as together, ie each child off doing their own thing with their own parents. Be aware too that being away from home might well unsettle dn. Six is old in adoption terms and therefore I suspect things are not going to be easy.

Italiangreyhound Wed 25-May-16 17:40:18

Oh yes hadn't't thought of holiday aspect. To be honest we did have a family holiday about 4 months in but it was quite simple and as we was the youngest by far he was well looked after by older sis and two folders cousins. Looking back I wonder at the wisdom of it but it did work out fine.

We took bedding, plates, toys etc for ds, stayed with my sis and had a pretty child focused holiday.

Actually DH was massively involved as Mr and my sis do like to natter! But I think you need to make sure your eh knows it is your holiday too! Totally second time away just you, st and ds. Hope it goes well.

Italiangreyhound Wed 25-May-16 17:40:38

me and sis!

Italiangreyhound Wed 25-May-16 17:41:29

You, th and we, of course!

Italiangreyhound Wed 25-May-16 17:41:52

Oh bloody phone! DH!!!

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