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children feeling like an outsider in the family

(20 Posts)
conclusionjumper Sat 08-Mar-14 12:53:08

We have a child living with us that is not 'ours', part of our wider family.
His grandmother has just emailed me to say she thinks he feels like an outsider in our family and that it makes her sad. I just feel under such huge emotional pressure, I try very hard to make him feel welcome although his behaviour is often very challenging, like many teens. He is doing really well at school and has lots of hobbies. He has an underlying sadness which is understandable really, these is a lot of stuff he will have to deal with at some point. I have to email her back but I'm just filling up with anger, it's not my fault, he would be much less unhappy if he'd been given counselling back when he would have been more receptive to it (he wouldn't consider it now). I don't think this is anything he has told her, just how she perceives it.

LastingLight Sat 08-Mar-14 13:30:49

You sound like a lovely "substitute parent" who tries your best for this boy. He seems to come from a very difficult background, and with the underlying sadness you say he has it could be very difficult for him to truly become attached to someone. It is anyway a teenager's job to start separating from the family and become independent, which must be very hard if you weren't securely attached in the first place. It's a pity that he never got therapy and won't go now as it really sounds as if he needs it. Try not to take the grandmother too seriously... she is probably dealing with "stuff" as well and maybe projecting her own insecurities onto the boy? If you want to respond I think you can do it in one of two ways. Either politely tell her that you are doing the best you can and you feel the boy is doing well under the circumstances, or ask if she has any suggestions on how you can make things better for him.

conclusionjumper Sat 08-Mar-14 13:40:12

Thanks Lasting. She came up to visit for the day and we went out to lunch, with our 4 year old DS. We discussed DN a bit (she brought him up till he was nearly 13 when he came to us) but I was quite positive. I expressed my concerns for him but was very positive as well. She has written to say I was wrong to say those things in front of DS because he will end up repeating them to DN and make him feel 'even more of an outsider than he already does'. I don't know what she wants from me.

TeenAndTween Sat 08-Mar-14 13:41:45

I would think any teen parachuted into a family would be likely to feel like an outsider, however welcoming the family is. He won't have been brought up the same way, with the same rules, jokes, expectations etc.

It sounds like you are doing great.

The Adopters or Foster Carers boards may be able to give you some more assistance.

yourlittlesecret Sat 08-Mar-14 13:46:12

You have taken on a very difficult job. Please, for his sake, try not to let the grandmother's email make you angry. I agree that getting her onside would be the best approach. Ask her advice.
You say he wouldn't consider counselling. The very phrase "counselling" is bound to be off putting to a teenage boy. My DS2 has recently had a very traumatic experience for which he was offered "counselling". He refused to entertain the idea. However he has been happy to talk it through with a trusted adult (who happens to be a trained counsellor) because that isn't counselling is it? wink
Is there anyone who could do this for your boy?

LastingLight Sat 08-Mar-14 14:36:06

Perhaps grandmother feels she has lost some of the purpose in her life now that her grandson is no longer living with her and she is trying to assert control in some way. I'm not making excuses for her, just trying to understand where she is coming from. I do to some extent agree with her about talking in front of your young ds. It's easy (I've done it myself) to get drawn into a conversation and realise later that actually your child should not have heard that. But it's water under the bridge, hopefully he wasn't paying too much attention to you.

A psychologist I know of once colluded with a child's mother to make the child believe he was going for art classes, and she worked in the therapy around their activities. I'm not sure if you would fool a 13 year old but maybe you can try to find a counselor who is willing to be creative?

conclusionjumper Sat 08-Mar-14 15:07:24

Lasting I agree we shouldn't discuss these things in front of DS, although I have to say my strong gut feeling is that he is not at a stage yet where he could pick up on our conversation, unless we were talking about Star Wars. What irked me is that she said he would go and tell DN what we said (not now, maybe, but in the future) and he would feel even more unwanted. This implies that we talk about him in this way all the time, when in fact it was only because she was there, usually we don't discuss him as I am completely paranoid he will overhear (walls, ears, etc.). More importantly, he is not unwanted, so that's not something we would say. This is the crux of my annoyance. He was a hormonal, depressed, x-box obsessed, school-refusing pre-teen when we got him and is now A* student aiming for oxbridge, friends, etc. I just feel she brings everything down.

conclusionjumper Sat 08-Mar-14 15:08:42

I'm actually more worried how it will impact on DS, hearing DN rage at me and use all manner of insults when he's angry. I am very strict on this, but stuff does happen.

LastingLight Sat 08-Mar-14 15:32:24

It sounds as if you've done an amazing job with him. If you don't feel grandmother can make any valuable contributions then just tell her thanks for your input, we will certainly keep it in mind, and then proceed to ignore what she said. Don't let it get to you.

In any family, regardless of whether the kids are bio, foster, adopted etc., siblings influence each other. In a 10 years time your ds might be the difficult teen (although one hopes not), being observed by younger siblings. Keeping boundaries strong and reacting appropriately to bad behaviour is all you can do, with both of them.

AtiaoftheJulii Sat 08-Mar-14 15:54:27

Possibly grandmother feels bad that she's no longer caring for him, so finds it hard to be positive about the progress he's made living with you. Maybe one of those situations where you type/write out a ranty detailed reply and then bin it instead of sending it - I can't see there's much to be gained from actually trying to respond to her (either you'll sound defensive or you'll make her feel defensive, probably both!). Tough situation - I hope he continues to do as well as he is.

mathanxiety Sat 08-Mar-14 20:19:36

I would wonder if she was a bit jealous or maybe felt you were unconsciously criticising her (maybe she is a very defensive sort who sees criticism in every word people say, and have to hit right back). Presumably when she was in charge the boy was refusing to go to school and retreating into the world of x-box. She knows there is no arguing with As in his reports, so she picked the one detail she felt she could use and whacked you over the head with it.

I agree with writing a ranty reply and not sending it. I also think you should send her a neutral reply along the lines of 'so good to touch base with you wrt X' that ignores her criticism of you completely. I wouldn't 'dignify that with a response' as the saying goes.

RandomMess Sat 08-Mar-14 20:26:18

Your MIL is projecting on to you! She knows how well you are doing and it makes her realise how badly she did IYSWIM, she's not ready to face up to her failings - far easy to make it all about yours wink

conclusionjumper Sat 08-Mar-14 21:27:54

I know what you mean random, she sent him to live with us because she couldn't cope with him, and she says I'm making him feel unwanted?

I haven't replied to the email. DH says I'm being ridiculously over-sensitive and she is just worried about him because he seems a bit sad. He is a bit gloomy, but he also has lots of good things in his life and ultimately these things will give him the self-esteem he needs.

Perhaps I can just fudge a reply and move on. She is a very nice, intelligent woman but a little childlike.

RandomMess Sat 08-Mar-14 21:30:22

I remember your story from way back when, your MIL lacks emotionall intelligence. I would just try and brush over her criticisms, a sort of "all teenagers have their dark days" type of thing.

LoveBeingCantThinkOfAName Sat 08-Mar-14 21:40:05

She is probably a bit jealous at how well he is doing now

cory Sun 09-Mar-14 08:55:37

She is projecting her own insecurities. You can't change her, you can only control your own reactions to her= by nodding gently and ignoring her.

RandomMess Sun 09-Mar-14 14:33:43

I've been thinking grin how much is that comment to do with your MIL no longer being the central woman in the family? You are, she has been usurped - both her son and her grandson now have their lives intertwined primarily with your life rather than hers.

Had her dd still been alive then she would still be the central woman IYSWIM?

bothfeet Sun 09-Mar-14 16:44:56

I know random - there's a symmetry isn't there grin.

Flicktheswitch Thu 13-Mar-14 07:04:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mathanxiety Fri 14-Mar-14 15:08:08

This is true, and teen girls have been known to go troglodyte too.

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