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Birth daughter struggling(13 Posts)
Our lovely 4 yo girl and 2 yo boy came home last autumn. Our 19 yo daughter (my step daughter) moved out the summer before and in with her student boyfriend, so she's only been at home a handful of times in the last 6 months. She was an only child before her siblings came and is polite in their presence and makes an effort when she's with us all. She and her boyfriend are actually moving town for his placement year in a few weeks.
As with all sibling toddlers our younger two are full of beans and naughtiness and have been challenging with words to each other (and husband and me sometimes) lately like 'stupid' 'idiot' 'you're going in the bin' etc. Our 4 yo has said 'fat pig' and most frequently 'daddy's not your daddy' to our older daughter. It happened again yesterday at the grandparents over lunch - out of our earshot. It's upsetting and we've spoken to the 4 yo about our family and how much we all matter and love each other. In the past she's apologised to her older sister, who she actually adores and speaks lovingly about her in her absence. She's doing great at learning about emotions and behaviour and being self reflective. In her big sister's presence, though, our 4 yo cannot seem to help herself before the naughty words towards her sister come out.
Partly I think it's because she and her brother have attached quite firmly to us from the get go and she particularly can be very protective. Partly I think this is typical younger sibling behaviour. Partly I think my older daughter, being polite, has not known how to challenge back and retort - she tells us later, asking for more discipline! Although we have previously said she can challenge back firmly. She's feeling it's unfair and that she's starting to feel pushed out of the family .
I do empathise with my daughter and will need to ensure she's heard and consoled. It's difficult because she's hardly ever at home anymore (once a month?) and so I'm worried that she doesn't get to develop a relationship with her siblings and therefore have a realistic insight into them - the rough with the smooth. There's also the issue that we cannot guarantee that it won't happen again. We are talking about 2 pre-schoolers from a difficult background who have moved home, family etc. From what we can see and know about them they're actually doing quite well, in this first year.
As well as the usual work about emotions, words, behaviour with our 4yo, I feel we need to support our older daughter with the same, as well as developing appropriate responses. I was slightly concerned with her saying that her younger sister 'thinks it's OK to...' because there's often nothing consciously rational about preschoolers behaviour. How to convey that to a teenager, who needs her needs met? When our youngest two also have needs. I don't want it all to be 'on them.'
I'm thinking family time together just to physically be in the same place and maybe do something collaborative and address how we act as a family might work - we talk a lot about being a team.
Any advice / thoughts from anyone that's experienced similar.
How much did you educate her about the experiences of adopted children/issues that may arise? Was she involved in the process? If not, that may be why she struggles now.
She's 19 and whilst this doesn't mean she isn't allowed to have feelings, I would hope she is capable of understanding that small children who have suffered trauma need a lot of patience and understanding.
I think you have to be realistic here. There is a huge age gap, she has already left home and will be moving away. With the best will in the world its unlikely that they will ever be best buddies.
It would be easy to tell her to grow up, she is an adult and these are two babies going through a traumatic time. But its not as simple as that - she is still young herself and maybe she does feel like she is being replaced. She will need to make an effort though, she is the grown up here.
I'm interested in your description of her as being 'polite in their presence' It doesnt really paint a picture of a big sister getting down and dirty in the sand pit. How willing is she to spend time with them, go to soft play, push them on a swing, watch endless episodes of Peppa Pig and Thomas the Tank Engine. Because thats what she needs to do.
The four year may well be confused as to how they can both have the same daddy.SHe's probably just trying to work out where you all fit in. And yes, now she's just got her brand new daddy, maybe she doesnt want to share? My 14 year gets in knots about grandad not being my dad ( he's my stepdad) and hes mighty confused about uncle D who is close to me in age but is actually nanny's brother.
Was she on board with you adopting ? Did she get any training or read any books? It might be worth spending some time with her explaining a few things.
Do you think she would feel the same about a birth sibling?
Thanks for the replies.
SaveOur - we did educate her and are aware that there is more to do. She's always been supportive and wants it all to work out. After years of knowing it was going to happen, though, the reality has hit her hard. Yes - I totally agree with her at 19 being capable of understanding about the needs of small children. I want to drive that home. She herself tells us she wants to adopt.
Ted - well observed. Polite was the most accurate way I could think of describing things. She has watched telly with them, come to soft play and their parties etc. There is still quite an element of her quietly observing. A year ago, her moving out and in with her first boyfriend by the summer was not something any of us including her saw coming. I agree she needs to get on their level more and muck in, although she is quite consumed with her boyfriend. She's fairly sensitive and I agree needs to understand where the little ones heads are at, without feeling she's being ignored.
well she's certainly not alone in reality hitting hard ! It probably wouldnt do any harm going over some of the stuff again, and an honest chat - is it what you thought it would be like. And let her know she is entitled to her feelings - we all are, but sometimes we have to put them aside. She is embarking on her new life now - and this is yours, doesnt mean you love each other less
Thank you. At the risk of repetition, yes I agree. Recap needed. She's mature in many ways, a late bloomer in other ways. Boyfriend, driving, p/t working, siblings, renting etc will open her eyes to the world.
I think it is unfair and also unrealistic to tell her to get down and gritty and to be the grown up. 19 is still very young. She is still finding her own way and she won't know much normal kids of that age let alone children who have already been through some very difficult things (unless she has studied child development and it sounds as though she hasn't).
Instead I would give her a cope of Penelope Leach's From Birth to Age Five or similar so that she can read up on children generally and she can also see some of the activities which would fun to do with a 2 year old and 4 year old. It is an easy read, and a lovely book, and will give her insights into what it would be like having her own child, whether bio or adopted, too. And you can read it together, talking about the bits about comprehension and play to learn, where a 2 year old and 4 year old might be at and the sort of games and activities which they would thrive on, and also the difference trauma can have (depending on the child), the affect on the brain, on different parts of the brain.
Your average 4 year old is going to have pretty good comprehension, though, I think you might be underestimating pre schoolers although you are possibly talking about your pre schooler. There is a vast difference between 2 and 3, and then 3 and 4.
"won't know much" should be "won't know much about"
My DD was 18 when I had a second child (naturally not adopted). It was a massive change for us all, babies and young children are very time and energy consuming,.
I did think things were hard for a while for dd1, even though technically an adult at 18, we have always been close and the new baby did shove a bit of a wedge between us in some ways for a while. She had me to herself for 18 years so it was quite hard. As a Mum I too felt torn, my children had such different needs it was so important to try and address hers.
We are a few years on now, my youngest is 8 and they are very close. In some ways obviously their lives are poles apart but we do all live together and they get on well. Helpful for childcare but obviously this is occasional as she has her own life to get on with too.
Interestingly, we are now exploring adoption to hopefully get a child of a similar age to dd2 which if it does happen would change everything again too.
I think she is still young and is bound to feel a bit replaced by the new arrivals. She may not even be able to express this because she feels bad for thinking it in the first place. And let's be honest when you are young it is all about you and your needs.
We adopted one of our foster children a couple of years ago. Our eldest daughter was moving out to get married around the same time and only lived with our adopted son for 6 months. He has v complex needs and requires a lot of care and my daughter admitted to me recently that she feels ignored if she comes to visit and my little one needs some medical care that means I have to tend to him . She felt selfish admitting to it but it was how she truly felt. She feels that she has slightly lost me as it were and she is 27 ! I felt such guilt that I hadn't realised she felt this way even though I try to spend time with all my kids on an individual basis.
So my advice is to spend time doing girly stuff with her ( or whatever she enjoys. We love spa days and afternoon tea hence the girly comment ! Other gender relevant experiences are also available ha ha ). Give her time to adjust and reinforce that she is still just as important to you and her dad as ever. And give her the chance to talk about how she feels if needs be. Good luck and congratulations x
I think what you have to remember too is that at 19, most young people are pulling away from their family and younger siblings as university, work, relationships etc take over. You’re basically asking your daughter to do the opposite. Therefore she may have that internal argument with herself- why should she spend so much time and get to know them when she isn’t going to be there? If it’s only monthly she’s seeing them, then she’s almost a stranger to them, because at that age a month is a long time to small children. I know a few families who have a oh age gap and it’s worked well, and I know three where it didn’t go so well, and there has always remained an almost ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality. Just because of the difference in ages.
*She will need to make an effort though, she is the grown up here.
I'm interested in your description of her as being 'polite in their presence' It doesnt really paint a picture of a big sister getting down and dirty in the sand pit. How willing is she to spend time with them, go to soft play, push them on a swing, watch endless episodes of Peppa Pig and Thomas the Tank Engine. Because thats what she needs to do.*
OP, you made the decision to adopt with your partner, which is entirely your prerogative, but how much was your stepdaughter involved in the process ?
You adopted children, she may not have wanted siblings. She is accepting them for your sake, but I'm guessing she didn't go to you and your SO and say "Hey, I'd love siblings, why don't you adopt ?"
She's beginning to start her own life (leaving the family house, having a boyfriend, etc). It's very normal. There is a HUGE age gap between her and her siblings, so it's unrealistic to expect them to be close (and this would be true with biological children as well). If she wants to play and spend time with the two babies, that's great, but trying to make her do it, or laying such expectations on her (spoken or unspoken) will only lead to resentment.
My best advice is that, on the rare occasions that she's home, why don't you focus more on family activities ? Play board games together, and by together I mean everyone, organize excursions, go to the museum, go to the mall, to the swimming pool...
Doing things together as a family is the best way for all the children to have fun together, rather than just leaving them together and expecting them to manage things on their own. When your stepdaughter is home she needs to be having fun, and to spend quality time with you (her parents), as well as with her siblings.
@malyshek I think you have taken one part of my response out of context. If you read my post properly, I said very much the same as you.
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