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Adoption guide for aunt

(16 Posts)
Adoptionguideforaunt Fri 30-Dec-16 17:54:56

my DB recently adopted a toddler around 4 weeks ago.

I have met him twice, once around 3 weeks ago when they came to visit my dad and once on Xmas day. We bought a very small toy gift when we first met him which ds(8) gave to him help him open. He wandered around my house with SIL fussing over him and I held back knowing it must all be so new to them and him. He had a small packet of biscuit type things which SIL gave him but he wanted to open himself so he wandered around with them for a while and several minutes after gave them to me asking/indicating for me to open them so I did. ds(6) played with him and new toy. Lovely wee boy.

On Xmas day at another relatives house we gave him his, again small as we thought best not to overwhelm but thoughtful and age appropriate gifts. He toddled about interacting with everyone and seemed ok. He sat beside his new mum and dad and ate. He had some fruit later which he dropped while SIL was in loo so I rinsed under the tap and gave back. I probably briefly interacted with him 2-3 times during the whole day/8 hours as it was a packed house!

I have now received a huge email from SIL (not sure if she has sent to others), with a critical tone, telling me of the importance of them bonding with their new son. That, as advised by experts, over the next few months we, including ds's(6 & 8), must not give or hand him toys, food, or cuddles (I haven't cuddled him at all as I don't know him well enough and I am not a pushy aunt!). We shouldn't even take toys from him if offered (so we wont have to give them back) so the focus is on bonding with them. We are also not to give advice (never gave any!) or think they don't punish him enough (he was very well behaved and who punishes a 15 month old anyway!).

I am 100% certain dh and I have not said anything inappropriate/critical of them to them or anyone else, as I just wouldn't do that to any new parent, but the way the letter is worded it feels that way.

I am likely to see this wee boy less than once a month or so due to distance (they rarely see our ds too). But it feels rude almost cruel to not accept a toy from a child if they walk up to you and offer it and how do I explain that to our ds's.

Is this standard adoption recommendation and I am not being understanding enough or is SIL interpreting some guidance very literally and being PFA?

OP’s posts: |
comehomemax Fri 30-Dec-16 18:15:00

It's very early days, and they are right to be trying to establish attachment with the child. It's called funnelling if you want to read more about it.
If you think about it from the child's perspective, they have already had at least 2 carers who have gone (birth family and foster carer) - they simply won't understand your brother/sil are now mum and dad. By being the people who deal with all the interactions, they will reinforce that relationship. We also asked family not to pass things to our son but to us and we gave him food/toys.

If he approaches you, don't feel you should ignore him but keep a distance - e.g. my son's foster carer always sits on a chair when she visits so she is physically a bit more removed. If he offers you something, just comment on it "that's a lovely toy" and gently direct him back to mum or dad. We used to hold him on our knee if others were talking direct to him so he retained the physical contact with us.

This is really early days for them. If you want to support them, maybe read through some of the threads here and you will get a feel for the impact of adoption n young children - it takes a long time and is very different to how you might parent a birth child.

Rainatnight Fri 30-Dec-16 18:29:29

Social workers advise new adoptive parents to do something called 'funnelling'. This is about making sure that all the care the child receives is from them only, so the child attaches to them because they are the only one to meet his needs. (And attachment is technically a little different from 'bonding').

What I don't know is whether that needs to go as far as no one else accepting a toy from the child - I wouldn't have thought so but perhaps someone else with more experience will be along to share their views

And it's also true that their parenting, including disciplining, will be different from 'normal' parenting, because children who've had early trauma, abide, neglect, separation, etc, will require a different kind of parenting.

A couple of things strike me from this, though. The first is that your SIL didn't tell anyone in advance - when I've visited friends with newly adopted children, they've told me the score beforehand, and I'll do the same when we adopt.

The second is that just before Christmas is a really hard time to adopt. It's an emotional time of year anyway, and it's so sociable that it does bring lots of chances for family visits that, for reasons describe above, are not straightforward. Four weeks in is very soon for that much socialising with family. My family live in another country and we're planning to allow them to come over only four or six weeks in (haven't decided which yet!)

So most of all, I wonder if your SIL is just stressed. If you think of the journey she's had to get here, a year or more of application, assessment and matching, and now she's the full time parent of a child who's still a stranger to her, she may well just be feeling overwhelmed. Just as a tiny example, we've just been matched, and I feel really quite stressed at having six weeks to finish up work, get everything in the house sorted, get in the right headspace, etc. If I'd been pregnant, I'd have had nine months!

So, you might want to cut her some slack just now, even if she does seem a bit PFA.

Rainatnight Fri 30-Dec-16 18:30:47

Sorry, it took me so long to write that, cross posted with comehomemax

Adoptionguideforaunt Fri 30-Dec-16 18:46:58

Thanks that is really helpful, I'll look up funnelling, and agree it is good to let family know in advance how to support them.

I was surprised she came on xmas day so soon after being placed as it was a big crowd, perhaps hindsight and stress has triggered the email.

They are lucky he was fostered at birth so hasn't experienced neglect/abuse, but obviously the separation from his foster carer will be really hard.

OP’s posts: |
sweetchilli77 Fri 30-Dec-16 18:57:36

Although i appreciate what they have said in an email, surely exposing the LO in family gatherings where this sort of thing would happened, would be a no no.

Maybe this email should of been sent before the gatherings.

comehomemax Fri 30-Dec-16 19:05:15

Unfortunately, being fostered at birth doesn't mean the child will be unaffected. To be removed at birth would suggest a high degree of stress and poor prenatal care - drugs, alcohol abuse, domestic violence amongst a myriad of other issues. The impact of those things, coupled with the moves and losses will be really huge. It takes a lovely by time to build those attachments. My son, removed very early, took 12 months before he would actually hold onto me when being carried rather than just sitting in my arms passively. Shouting on tv would send him into a freeze state where he would zone out and just glaze over - we could literally touch his eyeballs and he wouldn't react.

Keep reading and just offer open ended support that they can lead.

Italiangreyhound Fri 30-Dec-16 19:07:56

Adoptionguideforaunt Firstly, congratulations on becoming an auntie to your new nephew.

Secondly, please do not take this advice personally, it is very standard. It is a shame your brother and SIL were not able to send this info before you met your new nephew but sometimes things do not pan out exactly as we hope.

Thirdly, it does sound very general advice and probably was sent to a lot of people. It was not, I believe, intended to pull you up on anything but rather to inform you.

Four weeks on is very early. They may not have chosen to meet family so quickly but with it being Christmas this may have been hard to avoid.

It is up to you how you react but I think, if you can, be positive. Telll them this is useful advice that you will follow. That you wish them well. That their son is lovely etc (which I expect you have already said)

Explain to your children the situation and that it is temporary.

Hopefully your db or sil will tell you when things change.

Your washing the fruit and handing it back was a totally normal thing to do, as was helping with biscuits. Now you know that this is not suitable at the moment you can avoid such situations with a quick, "Let's find daddy as mummy is on the loo" or "Let's wait for mummy."

As these things happen in the future you can take pride in knowing you are helping your nephew adjust to his new family and that is a very special and kind auntie thing to do.


comehomemax Fri 30-Dec-16 19:11:17

Sweetchill, they may have just overestimated the child and their own resilience. I was desperate to have family meet my gorgeous boy but struggled sometimes to exert myself when they were there hence follow up emails from me too! I can still remember crying in the bathroom after a well meaning niece kept getting in his space and I didn't feel able to say anything - I felt like a fraud. It took a while to feel like I had permission to just say no. It's not dissimilar to the threads you see on the board where a new parent of a baby struggles to say no to grandparents wanting cuddles etc.

Italiangreyhound Fri 30-Dec-16 19:12:24

'In the loo' !!

I hate the phrase 'on the loo'. Although it is usually true!

hookliedandsinkedher Fri 30-Dec-16 20:52:18

Italian, you'd hate our house where it's "Off ferra pee." wink

OP- totally normal in adoption, yes. If your SIL is like me, she probably felt very anxious throughout, but felt she couldn't politely say anything, and struggled to manage it all, and had under-estimated how hard it can be.

I did. I didn't realise how explicit I needed to be about funnelling, and that people really needed it spelling out to them. Adoption had been everything I'd read and thought about for some time, and I forgot just how clueless others can be. I went to a birthday party too soon, because I underestimated how hard it would be. I've certainly sent a mass email after.

Don't take the email personally, it may well be one they have sent to a few people. But do take it seriously. Just a few months intensive funnelling now could save years of problems for your nephew. The most loving thing you can do just now is support your DB and SIL, it sounds like they are beating themselves up after the events.

What may be rude to you, may be in the child's best interests. They have to learn to make discriminate attachments, and it's such early days.

If you're interested, there's another thread on book recommendations. I would love it if a family member read anything about adoption so they could understand.

I've found funneling to be so hard, especially with people who know better than me telling me 'what harm can a cuddle do?!' Or 'but surely they needs more love, after what they've been through.' I've found the isolation imposed because people can't/won't understand to be hellish.

Italiangreyhound Fri 30-Dec-16 23:31:34

hook great post. How far you in?

We are just over two and a half years in and it is brilliant to see our son developing close relationships with relatives. It really is a long and waiting game but it does get easier.

JustHappy3 Sat 31-Dec-16 08:53:56

I think she's been a bit rude but everything she is saying makes sense.
She has definitely ignored advice and taken him out far too early. He probably had some kind of reaction/a really bad night and the anger you're sensing is probably directed far more at herself. It sounds like she's gone back to the drawing board and realised all the "rules" are there for a reason. She's just using a sledgehammer to go about it.
I would be the bigger person and let her off if you can. It's a very, very emotional time.
Just to reiterate what other people have said. He will be affected by his time in untero. They probably have a long list of conditions that he might develop. Please don't ever ask them about this though. I find it very frustrating when people tell me adopted dd is lucky - when she faced more danger/threats before she was born than most people have in their life.
But you sound a great aunt

Rainatnight Sat 31-Dec-16 09:32:18

That's a really good point, JustHappy. I wondered if she had some sort of reaction from him, or even a mild telling off/reminding from the social worker, and was sort of over-compensating as a result. Totally understandable if so.

hookliedandsinkedher Sat 31-Dec-16 09:57:11

I agree with happy, the clumsiness is probably down to her feeling stressed, tried and like a bad new mum. None of us are best at communicating in those circumstances.

I have sobbed down the phone to a friend after doing similar. She really isn't at her best just now, and although it feels like she's pushing you away, she probably needs you so much, but within the limits of what she needs to do for your nephew.

I also struggle when people tell me I'm lucky for getting one who hasn't had many placements, etc. I'm lucky to have my baby. But they have been through so much in their tiny lives that no baby should. But I can't tell anyone the details about it because it's confidential.

donquixotedelamancha Sun 01-Jan-17 16:52:53


The adoption process is fairly hard. Close friends of mine have just mentioned that they gave up the idea of adoption after watching us go through it - and we had a really easy ride compared to some. In the last year your DB and SIL have had their lives combed through and a lot of emotional ups and down, and have just realised that was the easy bit :-)

They are trying to express what they need, and if they've done so badl or if they go a bit mad (we did) then I think you need to give them a free pass for a while. I'd reply telling them you are quite on board with their need to bond and will give them some room, but emphasising that you are there to support them when they need it (as you obviously want to).

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