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Am I expecting too much from my 11 year old DD regarding empathy and kindness?

(13 Posts)
sandyballs Tue 02-Oct-12 10:14:41

Spent the last few weeks searching for a care home for my elderly mum who has alzheimers. She is now in a home but is agitated and keeps asking to go back to her own home.

We are in the process of clearing out her own home to pay for the care home. We know it's the right decision but I have found it very hard, particularly as mum isn't happy. Seems wrong to be dismantling her little bungalow when she's asking to go home. So it's all been a stressful time, lots of tears.

I have two 11 year old DDs, one of whom has been kind and caring, making me cups of coffee, trying to sort out herself as much possible (just started secondary), asking about her nana etc, coming with me to help as much as possible.

However, her sister has done her very best to stay completely away from hospital when mum was there and from any care homes, wouldn't visit any, doesn't want to see mum in the one she's now in. She reluctantly came with me to sort out some stuff in mum's house at the weekend and spent the whole time yawning, saying how bored she was, when can we go etc. She was stunned when I cried over some childhood bits I found.

I just worry about her lack of empathy and kindness, she's nearly 12, surely she should be a bit more understanding. Or is her sister (DT1) unusual to be like she is, maybe more 11/12 year olds are like DT2 and I'm expecting too much and comparing them unfavourably. I've tried talking to her about it all, but she puts up a brick wall and either gets cross or walks away whistling angry.

AmberLeaf Tue 02-Oct-12 10:17:03

Sorry about your Mum, I can imagine how hard it must be.

Maybe your DD isn't coping with it all that well and is acting this way in an attempt to shut it all out?

Ilovedaintynuts Tue 02-Oct-12 10:24:01

But you must realise people are different? Some people have huge amounts of empathy some people have next to none. I guess there is probably a spectrum.

My sister and I look similar but are completely different. She is almost completely lacking in empathy, avoiding ANY situation that involves anyone suffering or in pain. If someone is depressed she avoids them "I hate depressed people". She never ceases to amaze me with her coldness! But I love her. She's fun and has loads of friends. She works in an office-based job, working alone.

From a small child I was the caring empathetic one. Am now in a caring occupation professionally and give counselling voluntarily.

People are just different.

Although 12 is still young she still will probably develop more empathy as she matures but I suspect will always be less caring than her sister.

Ilovedaintynuts Tue 02-Oct-12 10:27:17

I have one caring child and one much less caring. The two year old remains to be seen. It's disappointing to see a lack of empathy. My DS can be so so cold. What can you do but love them for what they are and try to model caring behaviour?

Felicitywascold Tue 02-Oct-12 10:30:50

I would suggest that the behaviour she is displaying may be a coping strategy. She is likely to be outwardly putting on the 'I don't care front' as a form of protection.

Alurkatsoftplay Tue 02-Oct-12 10:32:51

Oh op, it sounds like a difficult time for you.

I agree with the previous posters- 11 year olds arent particularly empathetic people anyway but for sure, some people are naturally, kinder than others. You can tell and teach your less kind daughter what you expect but she won't have as much tenderness in her. That doesn't mean she won't do kind things eventually tho...

I am going thru something similar with my dad and I'm afraid I'm a bit like your less kind daughter. I can see my sister doing the right thing and I can't seem to muster up the same enthusiasm.

wintersnight Tue 02-Oct-12 10:38:05

I remember being utterly insensitive and hideous when my grandpa died when I was 12. I'm sure it was a coping strategy but I still feel ashamed to think about it now. But I can reassure you that I am (or at least hope I am) an empathic, kind person now. My mum never judged me for it for which I'm grateful now.

lynniep Tue 02-Oct-12 10:40:34

I think you are probably expecting too much. You can't 'make' a person empathetic (right word?) or expect them to feel something they don't. I didn't learn/have empathy probably till I was in my twenties. I didn't particularly 'care' for the situations of others. In fact until I had children (at 32) I still wasn't particularly caring. I suspect my DS1 is going to be like this. He shows no reaction to another person in distress. My DS2 is the opposite. If I say ouch he will come running and ask if I'm ok and get genuinley worried for me.

guanosoup Tue 02-Oct-12 11:00:18

You sound like you've been having a tough time of it all, its bloody hard when the roles reverse and we become the carers instead of the cared for.

I was in a similar situation a couple of years ago, Dad went into a home with alzheimers and his behaviour was very erratic. My two children reacted in different ways, my dd, 8 at the time was very concerned, and would come and visit him with me, whilst my son, then 11, became very withdrawn from the situation, and would not want to visit or see his grandad. I took thier reactions at face value, and realised that ds was finding the situation upsetting and couldn't cope with seeing the change in my Dad.
I just went with the flow and gave him the option of visiting, but didn't force ds to come with us, (he'd stay at home with dh but would give him an update of how Dad was when we got home.
Ds was similar when his other grandad died, and did not want to come to the funeral, whilst dd wanted to be very involved.
I think its just his way of coping with stressful situations, and he woukd be even more upset if I forced him to confront his feelings head on. Naturally, I did not bury the situation, but talked about it all in as a relaxed manner as possible, so the emotions were not buried, but gave him the opportunity to say or feel what was inside him.

Its very hard for little people seeing their parents go through such emotional journeys, and I hope things even out for you and yours.

DeWe Tue 02-Oct-12 11:13:17

I remember when I was 10 my gran started something (not quite sure what) which the doctors couldn't work out how to stop, and said if they couldn't she would die fairly quickly.

She was in a horrible hospital ward, mixed, lots of OAPs most looking at the end of life.
We lived over 200 miles away and df's only sibling was abroard with work and could only come back at intervals. So we went every weekend.
I get travel sick, and migraine-y on long journeys and found that it was usually just clearing in time for the next to arrive. To add complications I was doing several 11+ exams over that time and I'd do the exam to leap straight in the car and drive down.

I didn't enjoy going. We stayed in Gran's tiny house on top of each other. Ate fish fingers from the freezer and spent the rest of the time expected to stay quiet round her hospital bed, and that she didn't understand why she was there. And she spent most of the time complaining about something, and if she wasn't complaining one of the other people on the ward was usually...

But as children we weren't told that each time we saw her could be the last time. We moaned and complained at what we saw as an over zealous father dragging us there when (as far as we could see) she was perfectly well, if a little confused. It was only about 15 years later it was talked about. Dsis (who would have ben 13) had twigged it, on the basis of how often we went down there. But me and younger db didn't have a clue. We went when we were told, and this was just more frequently than others.

I think after we'd been particularly vocal about going "again", df turned round and pointed out we weren't going for our benefit, we were going for Gran's benefit. It didn't make us enjoy going, but it stopped most of the grumbles.

For my Gran, after about 3-4 months of this, the doctors discovered the issue and she lived another 10 years after that.

lingle Tue 02-Oct-12 12:50:38

I'm with the putting on a front idea. If for no other reason, you're distressed right now so this is no time to be making considered judgments about your girl's character.

they are twins? so even more than with most siblings, there will be a tendency for one sister to "corner the market" in particular areas - the whole "she's better at it than me so I won't try at all" strategy.

adoptmama Tue 02-Oct-12 13:38:20

People cope with grief in very different ways. Your DDs are coping as best they can with knowing the loss of their nan is that much closer than it was. It sounds as if one daughter is coping by mirroring your actions and behaviour and your other daughter is dealing by distancing herself from it all - denial perhaps, or just coping. Despite your own grief you need to avoid comparing - and finding one lacking - simply because they react in different ways to this sad situation.

I refused to visit my grandfather as a teenager after seeing him in hospital trying to make a run for freedom thinking he was being chased by Nazis. That memory is still seared in my mind. I never visited him in his care home, even when I knew it was likely to be his last Christmas. I did not want to see him as he had become with dementia. In my heart of hearts I believe he would have been ok with that decision too. On the other hand, I did visit my grandmother as she declined, but deeply resented my mother's decision to place her in a care home, feeling she could have been supported at home (and I am not saying I was right, it is just what I felt). I use these to illustrate the fact that even older teens and adults find the process of loss and grieving very hard. There is no right or rational way to react: we simply feel what we feel. We don't control what we feel. People also behave inappropriately at times because of grief or fear of grief - laughing at funerals for example - but it doesn't make the grief any less real.

I suspect your DD is doing her absolute best to distance herself physically and mentally from what is going on for the simple reason she does not want to deal with the emotions of loss and grief. Being around you as you clear the house, seeing her grandmothers possessions disposed of may be deeply distressing for her and her reaction to being pressured into accompanying you is to act in a passive-aggressive manner. Whilst your DD may also be emotionally immature - and this could also be reflecting in her behaviour - I would not be concerned it means she is lacking empathy, is unaffected by her grandmother's declining health or is callously disregarding your own grief.

sandyballs Tue 02-Oct-12 16:03:44

Thanks so much for all your replies, I'll have a read through and come back later.

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