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Downplaying half-sibling relationship

(20 Posts)
blondieblonde Thu 05-May-16 22:41:02

hi -
Me and DH have two little kids and he has two older teens from a previous relationship. The two older ones used to come EOW but have been withdrawing as teens and now hardly ever visit. They can be quite hurtful, refusing to take calls from DH and cancelling at the last minute (we live in a different city to them). Their mum also has not encouraged them, refusing to help them catch the train/coach or to let them ring up etc. They never send birthday cards etc. or even ask how their little siblings are. At the moment, they only call when they want money. For the record there was no wrongdoing from DH in the parents' split, though their mum is very scornful of us.
My oldest child (4) asks about them a bit as they used to be quite involved, and also I have always been very enthusiastic about their involvement and made my kids make them cards etc.
I've started portraying the relationship with them as more like that with cousins, uncles and aunts -- family we love who don't live with us, and whom we see sometimes. I am becoming more assertive about defining our family as us who live together, with 'other family' who we love living elsewhere, with them as one example.
Is this wrong? I don't want my kids to get hurt and I want them to have a normal, loving family situation growing up. I don't want them to emotionally invest in or think excessively about people who won't reciprocate. If they are described as the same distance as our (very loved, loving) other relatives then that makes it more normal to me.
What do you think?

Canyouforgiveher Thu 05-May-16 23:41:20

I'm not a step parent but I do have 3 teens and to be honest I think you may be overreacting a bit to your teens lack of involvement at the moment.

Teens are terribly self-centered and often not interested in family life. I have a friend who has triplets and when they were babies, she brought them to visit a family that had teens. She was very impressed with the teen remoteness/cool that could pretty much step over 3 identical babies crawling about their kitchen floor and say "can I have a tenner, thanks, bye". You'll have loads of people saying "no my teens are wonderful committed members of the family" which is great - for them - but most parents I know find the teen years hard enough just because of this - they are trying to disconnect from family/become independent etc.

If you live with them all the time you don't notice it as much - just that they like to spend all their time in their rooms and tend to talk to you most when they need money or a lift somewhere. My teens are lovely really but I honestly don't know if they would send dh or their siblings a birthday card if I didn't remind them. If their mother doesn't remind them (and she should, imo, just because they need to be taught how to be polite to their families) then I don't think you should take it very personally.

When they need to travel to visit you, then you notice that they aren't showing up but honestly they probably avoid their mother too by staying in their rooms.

If I were you I'd tell your 4 year old that teens are very busy with school and lots of stuff and leave it at that. I wouldn't be delineating shades of family. The truth is these are your dh's children and they mean WAY more to him than cousins or uncles etc. and your own children need to know their father feels this way because it would be awful for them to think he could feel anything other than utterly committed to his children.

And these are your children's siblings. Maybe they'll be close in the future, maybe not. same as any siblings. But for now I would just explain they are busy at the moment.

I do have a good friend who went through this. Found it very hard that her son who adored his much older brother got very little contact at a certain stage. but it was just the stage they were at.

MeridianB Fri 06-May-16 09:35:38

I agree with Canyou - this just sounds like a teens rather than steps issue. So long as they are pleasant to your little ones when they do visit then I would let it go.

Wdigin2this Fri 06-May-16 09:53:13

Teens are notoriously selfish and self interested....just carry on with your current plan, but don't invest too much thought or energy into it!

blondieblonde Fri 06-May-16 09:53:44

Ok, thanks everyone!

ImperialBlether Fri 06-May-16 10:27:44

I think it must be really hard for a teenager to see their dad with his new children and not feel some envy. They might find it easier to stay away than to see that.

BeautifulMaudOHara Fri 06-May-16 10:29:16

Yes it is wrong, YABU
They're teenagers, it's normal, they're still your husbands children and half siblings to your own children

Stardust160 Fri 06-May-16 11:47:47

I think it's wrong to denounce them as less than siblings. As it stands they are into there own friends and socialising. Not wanting to hang out with Mam or their Dad and younger siblings this is normal behaviour you feel it more and it takes more effort to come round. The truth of the matter is they aren't going to be as close if they haven't lived and grew up, plus the age gap will have an impact the type of relationship they will have.

crusoe16 Fri 06-May-16 14:12:18

I don't think you're BU at all. I know lots of teens who dote on their much younger siblings so I don't think you can call it 'normal' teen behaviour. It probably has much more to do with their parents' divorce and their mothers attitude towards their DF than being a teenager imo and it's probably irreparable.

I completely understand why you'd want to protect your DC from being emotionally invested in older siblings who couldn't give a monkeys about them.

Is there anything your DH could do to improve the relationship?

blondieblonde Fri 06-May-16 14:59:07

He has tried very hard crusoe, but they now tend to ignore most of his calls, refuse to meet up etc. Except for some quite random times, which are now quite few and far between...

I don't really think it's normal teen behaviour either. I have several friends in the same situation and older kids are quite pleased to come and stay, and celebrate birthdays etc. I agree it is because of the divorce/mum's attitude etc. & probably irreparable

I can't have my kids invested in people who never respond. Like we've had a nice birthday party each year for the DSC, but it's getting to the point where I'm not encouraging my kids to make them a special card/present as they never even get a phone call on their birthdays, or it even mentioned when we do see them. I think my kids should be able to feel secure and complete in a unit at our house. I'm pretty sure the DSC never mention my kids to their friends.

blondieblonde Fri 06-May-16 15:30:34

I should stress this doesn't mean I would withdraw from loving/celebrating DSCs as usual!

greybead Fri 06-May-16 15:33:00

When I was a teen at university, I didn't ask after my younger brother much even though he was my full brother and we still see plenty of each other as adults.

They are teens, they have their own lives. Don't take it so personally.

LittleLionMansMummy Fri 06-May-16 15:40:33

I don't think it's usual teen behaviour either. Dsd1 started doing this and she's now been completely nc for over 4 years. My advice is for your dh to tackle this now before it is too late and he loses them completely. My other dsd is 16 and still sees us most weekends and has a very close and loving relationship with her brother, which we've taken great care to encourage by not distinguishing them as half brother/ sister. She's fully engaged in our lives and is in no way selfish or self centred. Honestly, don't listen to 'it's teenagers being teenagers' without doing everything possible to maintain a relationship. Can your dh not physically go and get them eow?

WannaBe Fri 06-May-16 15:40:36

I really wish people wouldn't constantly lay the blame on the mother for the fact that children choose not to visit/stay etc. If they live in another town then it's highly probable that their social lives are in the town where they live for the majority of the time, so given the choice they choose to stay where their social life is.

Four year olds really aren't that interesting to teenagers even if they're full siblings, most teenagers would choose to be out with their mates than home playing with a four year old unless they were being paid to do so. wink.

newname99 Fri 06-May-16 21:31:31

I think parents should encourage caring for siblings.They maybe selfish teens but the act of caring for younger children should be encouraged.
You are in protective mode for your children so yanbu but ideally their dad would tackles the issue with them. Its actually the sdc's lost, younger siblings can be a great source of fun.

LittleLionMansMummy Fri 06-May-16 23:16:35

Living in a different town and having a social life is one thing, refusing to take calls from their father is another entirely and doesn't sound good tbh.

swingofthings Sat 07-May-16 17:37:06

I agree with WannaBe, the problem might be that they are bored at yours if activities evolve around the little ones and they rather be with their friends at home. My DD started to say that she didn't want to stay overnight at her dad. It turned out that it is because as must teenagers, she likes a lie-in in the morning, but her little sister would go and wake her up to be entertained at 7am. Her dad then said that he was very grateful as it meant he could have a lie in and she didn't want to upset him so wouldn't tell him that it upset her and therefore found it easier to come up with excuses not to go overnight any longer.

Not saying that it is the same in your situation but there might be reasons that are not obvious to you.

UrbanYokel93 Tue 10-May-16 13:48:19

Hi Blondieblonde

I don't think you are "wrong", it sounds to me like you are trying to protect your children from hurt and rejection in the best way you can.

My husband has two daughters and they are completely distant, very similar to what you describe above. He tries all the time to see them and they don't want to know. Partly this is "because they are teenagers" but it's also because of their mother. The way I see it, they're in a difficult situation and it's easier for them to say no thanks than take a challenging path i.e. maintaining contact with their father when this is frowned upon at home. I'm not excusing their behaviour, but it is what it is.

I'm currently pregnant with my first child, who'll be their half brother/sister. I suspect the same situation you described with your children will happen to our child. I come from a family that had a lot of conflict. We want our child and my husbands daughters to have a good relationship and involve and love them all equally. I expect it will not be plain sailing but we will do our best. If my own child was upset and wondered why their sisters didn't want to see them, I would be honest and tell them in a simple way that it's not because of them or anything that they did, that sometimes people need some space and will be in contact when they are ready to. It's not ideal but we can only do our best.

navylily Tue 10-May-16 15:59:10

I think you might be overthinking things really. If your DC don't see the DSC very often they'll figure out for themelves that they're not close family. They won't need you to give them as examples of people we don't see much. If they happen to say that they think of them a bit like cousins then it's fine to let them know that that's OK. And equally OK if they want to tell everyone their family has 4 children - even if that doesn't fit with what you see happening very much.

Children don't have the same expectations of what "a family" is that we may bring with us, from our own childhoods. They adapt to what goes on around them. If your DSC don't visit much and there aren't many opportunities to spend time with them elsewhere (on holiday, or in their own city maybe) then they won't be that close to your own children probably. That's OK, but there's nothing you need to do to protect them as it's happened already, gradually by the sounds of it, and they'll make their own adjustments to their sense of how important they are to them.

It would be wrong to suggest to them that their dad sees things the same way though - the DSC are his children too and he no doubt loves them just as much, so your DC will need to learn that that's the case. But they don't have to share their dad's love of the DSC (and nor do you).

navylily Tue 10-May-16 16:00:58

If you do need to give any kind of explanation why they don't see them often I would just go with - their mum lives a long way away and they're nearly grown up now, so don't spend so much time with their dad. Little kids will understand that.

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