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Normal behaviour from birth child?

(22 Posts)
BangPippleGo Mon 25-Dec-17 21:17:47

So as not to dripfeed, this might be a long post!

DH and I are adopting, and our very small child will be placed with us next week. DH has an older child (DSS aged 8) who is with us 50/50. DSS's mum T also has a toddler.

T has up until now been very supportive of the adoption. However at contact handover this weekend she raised some concerns to DH that have upset us both a bit. She said that earlier in the day DSS had acted out against his younger sibling when they were trying to play, he said he didn't want to but younger sibling kept pestering him and T told him to play with sibling, and he pushed them away. This then led to him being told off by T, to which he then told her that she doesn't care about him only his sibling. She has told DH that she is certain what he actually means by this is that there is obviously a problem in our home (not hers) and it's all because of the adoption.

Now I'm not denying he could be feeling unsettled by the impending changes coming up, but he has been very well prepared. So much so that both our approval panel and matching panel (plus all social workers involved) have really commended us on the work we have done with him this past year to prepare him. We talk to him very openly and honestly about the adoption and in particular any concerns we have so that he knows it is safe to talk about any worries.

Surely an 8yo child not wanting to play with their toddler sibling who keeps pestering him is not exceptionally unusual behaviour and indicative of a bigger problem? And him telling his mum that she doesn't care about him only his sibling is probably because he didn't want his sibling playing with him at that time but he mum kept insisting?

T has also said she is concerned that he is also losing his "time away from having a younger sibling", because he knows that when he comes to ours he can be an only child and have a calmer environment where there's not a younger child running around. This has really bothered me. She has asked if we have considered this when deciding to do what we are doing and if we had taken his feelings into consideration. Of course we do, but she is implying that bevause she went ajead and had a aecond child before we did, we are obliged to ensure DSS has a sibling-free household at ours.

I really think this has all been a huge overreaction to a very minor piece of bad behaviour that happened at a time when children his age are generally exhausted from school finishing and the excitement in the build up to Christmas. Should we be worried there might be more to it?

OP’s posts: |
wheresthel1ght Mon 25-Dec-17 21:44:38

You are both right to an extent.

Yes it is utterly normal for an 8 to shove their toddler sibling who is bugging them.

It is also normal for an 8 yo who is feeling insecure about imminent changes to act out. It would happen whether you were adopting or having a biological child. And it is also normal for that behaviour to be displayed at his mums rather than yours. We had similar problems with dss when I was pregnant.

Talking to him is the only option, allow him to be honest, tell him it is ok to be nervous about how it will all work out but that he can always talk to you.

It is entirely possible that he does feel like he has been pushed out at his mums and is worried the same will happen again.

We worked hard to include both dscs when dd was born and when I was pregnant. They were encouraged to come up with names for her, help buy things. I bottle fed for lots of reasons but there was also an element of wanting them to be able to help feed her. I would suggest finding ways to involve him as much as you can

And good luck! If you are conscious of the potential issues you will all be fine!

JustHappy3 Tue 26-Dec-17 20:15:54

Right so - all behaviour is communication and he's communicating to his mum that he's not happy with her suggestions. And she very neatly ducks that and puts all the blame on you. Got to admire her cheek.
Looking onthe bright side, it's good that you've got warning in advance that she'll be as much use as a chocolate teapot in the next few years.
I wouldn't waste any precious time or energy trying to tackle her. I'd focus first on dss - he always needs to be able to tell you when he's fed up. Have you put a gate or a lock on his room so he can have his own secure private space? Have you ring fenced some time each week for him to spend with his dad or you. Do you know how/when you'll get homework done? Have you been into school - let them know what's happening and see if they can access the school counsellor so he has someone to tell when he's fed up?

JustHappy3 Tue 26-Dec-17 20:18:27

Sorry posted too early. Those are things i wish i had thought more about.
Inlaws were unimpressed that we hadn't asked their permission to adopt and we got the "i'm only thinking about ds" line again and again - so i totally understand your utter frustration and irritation. But focus on dss not her.

Italiangreyhound Tue 26-Dec-17 20:38:04

Great advice from others.

bridensausage Tue 26-Dec-17 20:47:50

I agree with pp that it is normal for a child to act out if they are unhappy about something. It isn't just that the child didn't want to play.

However, I think wheresthe is more likely to have it right, because from what you have written there is no reason to not take what the mother says at face value. She has communicated that she is worried about her child and I would consider her worries at face value because she knows her child and that she will have instincts about where the issue is coming from, and if she has been positive up until now it is unlikely that she will be motivated by anything other than worry. There is no reason to suspect that she simply blames others for problems.

You have said that T had her second child first, and that you feel you have done the prep well, but unfortunately neither of those two things negates the fact that the child may be distressed about further loss of time and attention now, and they may not have told you about it.

Can you make sure you/his father spend some very, very special time with the 8 year old now, and also for you to sit down and think about how you are going to make sure the 8 year old's needs are met after the adoption. It might be worth discussing your ideas with T, and be open minded about discussing it with her and also being guided by her. You don't have to, but good relations in the wider family is best for all, including your newly adopted child.

I noticed your post in the other thread about holding your niece, in which you have said that it will mean that you will have less time to focus on your niece after the adoption. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the 8 year old has picked up on your thoughts and thinks you and his father will have less time to spend with him. I note also that you hadn't mentioned the little boy as part of the family in the earlier thread.

I hope it all works out well.

Italiangreyhound Tue 26-Dec-17 21:09:02

Just for the record we are parents to a 13 year old and a 7 year old. The 13 year old birth daughter was 9 when we adopted ds (then three, almost four).

Our daughter was so delighted when we adopted (she wanted a sibling). It's been tough, they certainly have a bond but it is tough at times. Very tough, mostly because dd is pretty hard work.

The bigger age gap helps but it is best if ds does (as much as possible) things that dd will like. It was possible to get dd to watch Fireman Sam with ds in the early days but then they started watching and doing things more like dd liked (dd was quite young for 9 so it worked). Now as a teenager she is not really so interested in him. But still loves him a lot.

It's not any parents' responsibility to keep a home with just one child so they can go on feeling like an only child, when they are not.

I think T is projecting her own feelings onto you. She choose to have another child and she tried to force her 8 year old into entertaining the toddler. Maybe your step son fears you will do the same, or maybe he doesn't and this is all really about him his mum and his sibling.

I agree with others, focus on your step son and making him feel comfortable etc is the best thing. Your husband's ex partner/ex wife or your step son's mum or whatever is not part of your decision making process.

My biggest bit of advice is don't give your new child any hand me downs, furniture, clothes or anything, from your step son unless your step son really wants to give them. This caused massive rows for us!

Good luck. And try not to worry, sounds like T is making trouble based on her own fears and really it's so unfair of her to do this so close to the arrival of your little one. I would not engage in any conversations about your little one, only about your step son and how you can all make him feel loved, special and valuable.

BangPippleGo Tue 26-Dec-17 21:36:23

Thank you all for the advice it is really appreciated.

Briden I really don't think DSS has picked up on my anxieties around DN because that was just a funny 5 minutes I had on a weekend that DSS wasn't with us. I didn't mention DSS on that thread because it wasn't really relevant - I don't feel at all I secure about my relationship with my DSS because it really is solid. I've been parenting him for a very long time and we are exceptionally close, I adore him. We have already planned some days out for next year - some that will be just him and his dad, and some that will be just me and him. We have also 'ringfenced' his two hobbies, in that he has one that is a shared hobby with his dad that will be "just theirs" and one is a hobby I share with him that will be "just ours".

I know his mum knows him inside out but I really don't think he is worried about the adoption. He is incredibly excited and keeps asking when his little brother is arriving. We have made a point not to mention it to him over Christmas but he has kept bringing it up - "I can't wait until next Christmas when LO is here and we can open our stockings together/see Santa together/I can show him all my cool toys". He's even decided that at the weekend, to make room for his new toys from Christmas, he wants to go through all his old stuff and decide what he can give to his little brother. I just really don't think he is hiding any anxieties from us about it.

OP’s posts: |
wheresthel1ght Tue 26-Dec-17 21:43:32

It sounds like you are doing everything right op. Just bear in mind that just because he is saying he is excited doesn't mean he isn't also nervous. It is possible that he isn't feeling like he can mention that to you and his dad.

As long as you hold that in your head when you deal with any potential issues it will all be fine I am. Sure.

BangPippleGo Tue 26-Dec-17 21:50:16

Thank you wheres. It's tricky because I want us to talk openly and honestly. So for example I have asked him if he is worried at all and he says no. I said "are you sure? I have lots of little worries. I worry that sometimes things might get a bit much and I might lose my temper, or that LO won't be happy in our home". I said this to reassure DSS that it is ok and safe to talk about our worries and that we are not going to turn around and tell him off or accuse him of not loving LO...but instead he just ended up trying to reassure and comfort me that everything will be ok! And obviously I don't want that to burden him!

Might be worth mentioning too that DSS does open up to me and tell me things that he won't always tell his mum and dad. It was me he confided in when he was being bullied by a group of "friends" at school, and when he was being teased about his appearance. And he has told me that he will confide in me because I listen to him. I'm not saying this to brag or to dismiss the role of his mum, who I really do like and who is a bloody good mum to him - I just hope that he would feel he could talk to me about any worries he has about the adoption too sad

OP’s posts: |
Italiangreyhound Tue 26-Dec-17 21:56:38

Sounds like you and dss have a fabulous relationship. I am sure you will be fine.

bridensausage Tue 26-Dec-17 21:59:11

It is really good that you get on so well with dss' mum. Is it worth asking his mum a bit more, in a really nice way about why she feels dss is upset it? It sounds as though she isn't saying "don't do it" more that she thinks there is a problem which needs to be sorted out. Which there may or may not be.

Your dss' feelings may be conflicted, may be both positive and scared, and he may not be able to pinpoint how he feels exactly, and it may be this or something completely different. The joys of parenthood!

BangPippleGo Tue 26-Dec-17 22:03:00

Your dss' feelings may be conflicted, may be both positive and scared

He wouldn't be the only one - I'm bloody terrified grin

Hopefully we will get to the bottom of it this weekend. I don't want to keep hammering on at him about it if he really is insistent that he is fine, but I will make sure he knows that it is ok to be worried and scared and that talking about our worries can help us to feel better.

OP’s posts: |
Italiangreyhound Tue 26-Dec-17 22:05:30

I think talking to T is a good idea but I am not sure how much store I would put by all her comments.

"T has also said she is concerned that he is also losing his "time away from having a younger sibling", because he knows that when he comes to ours he can be an only child and have a calmer environment where there's not a younger child running around. This has really bothered me."

This sounds very like she expects you and he boy's df to provide something she cannot, a home with no younger sibling. If she is just musing on this, fine. But he reality is no, you cannot provide this as you and your dh are having a baby, and whether that baby comes via adoption or you were in the last week of pregnancy, no you cannot continue to be a single child home.

So by all means talk and listen to her but she sounds like she has some unreal expectations and she is 'blaming' you for something that happened at her home with her child, IMHO.

BangPippleGo Tue 26-Dec-17 22:10:42

So by all means talk and listen to her but she sounds like she has some unreal expectations and she is 'blaming' you for something that happened at her home with her child, IMHO.

I do agree with this. We have younger children in our house a LOT and DSS loves playing with them but he does get bored of it, and often after a while playing he will ask if he can do something by himself, to which the response is always a rather bemused "well, of course you can, you don't need to ask!". The same with his toys. He's generally happy to share his toys with his younger cousins but if it is something special then No, he is not expected to share it - because it is his. And I just get the feeling that this is perhaps not something that is happening in his mum's home (because what he does there is his norm, which explains why he feels the need to ask permission to play by himself) and that is why he acted out.

OP’s posts: |
wheresthel1ght Tue 26-Dec-17 22:21:59

@bangpipplego I have a very similar sounding relationship with my dss. Both him and dsd will come to me before either of their parents. Has caused the odd issue with their mum.

I am sure he will talk to you when he is ready. It may not come out til the new chikd is with you, it may never be an issue. But as long as you acknowledge that it could be then it will be ok.

His mum's warning sounds like it comes from a good place. It might be that she is actually acknowledging that it is an issue she didn't see happening and doesn't want you guys to have the same issues so is forwarning you. It is a hard place to be in, he is only half related to his mum's new baby and not at all to the new child in your lives so it is understandable that she is worries if she has read his behaviour as rejection of her child.

Why not get him a diary or notebook where he can write down how he is feeling, maybe as a "your new brother may like to read about how you helped us get ready for him" way, might give him a way to express it if he is worried

Italiangreyhound Tue 26-Dec-17 23:11:21

BangPippleGo you sound very smart and clued in.

We always said to dd to keep private things in her room and ds does not go in her room, without permission etc, and vice versa.

I know it sounds over the top to people who may kind of live in etc other's pockets but we needed boundaries to protect both kids.

bridensausage Wed 27-Dec-17 09:26:27

It sounds like he is loved and wanted by both families which is lovely.

It also sounds like you may have in part solved the mystery about the acting out, you think it is because the rules in your house about playing with younger children and sharing toys are different from his mother's rules?

If so, is it worth talking about that with his mum so that you both understand each other's reasoning? I don't think it is unusual to have different rules in different homes, and understanding where someone is coming from helps to put it in context with dc too : )

But if dss is also reacting emotionally to something, saying he isn't loved as much as an older child, in a way that is good because he felt safe enough to say it, but it does sound as though that goes beyond the different rules about playing. If he isn't talking about worries at the moment then possibly giving him reassurance that his is loved by everyone in both families and always will be, might help too.

Italiangreyhound Wed 27-Dec-17 11:15:35

OP will your step son be part of introductions before baby comes home? I do hope so and expect so. My dd was so excited when she met her new brother she said it was the happiest day of her life! It's not been plain sailing but it started well!

During introductions we took both kids out to Colin places. With a baby that may be harder but may be possible.

We we t to a small, quiet soft play place and an outdoor place.

Good luck.

Italiangreyhound Wed 27-Dec-17 11:16:16

Fun places, not Colin!

BangPippleGo Wed 27-Dec-17 13:45:37

He will be part of intros smile we have 8 days, Wednesday to Wednesday, and DSS is spending the weekend meeting his new brother. He's very excited!

I get what you mean about the different rules. He's always been very adaptable with that but it won't hurt to go through it again.

OP’s posts: |
Italiangreyhound Mon 01-Jan-18 02:42:32

BangPippleGo I want to wish you all the very best fit the adoption and all the new relationships.

I hope your dss copes brilliantly with everything.


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