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Advice - Stepson , age. 9 moving in from abroad

12 replies

Hammyhamster92 · 08/01/2021 23:43

Hi, I've name changed for this as it's very identifying.
My DP is originally from a small island in the carribean, but has lived in the u.k on a work visa for the past five years, and has recently obtained ILR.

He has a nine year old son at home , ( currently being cared for by his parents). His son's mum sadly died when his son was two, and do and his son lived with his parents until do moved to the u.k

Dp and his family had always planned that his son would come and live with him when he was settled, ( I understand that this may sound shocking, but grandparents looking after children whilst the parents established themselves in the u.k is very much the cultural norm there).

Tbf, dp would have had him come over last year had covid not happenned.

Now , I'm pregnant , and we really feel it is important that his son comes over before the baby is born, so he gets to spend some quality time with his dad, ( they facetime each day and prior to 2020, do visited twice a year, and I went with on xmas 2019).

Now this does not technically involve adoption in a legal sense, ( hisnson is coming here as DP's dependant, I will not legally be adopting him and SS are not involved), but this seemed like the board that would get it.

How on earth do I welcome a child from such a climate / culture shock and do all I can to make a feel welcome when he will lnaturualyl be missing his grandparents /cousins/aunts / uncles so much.

I'm also so worried that starting school during all the phases return restrictions is going to be so much harder.

He also knows about the pregnancy ( I am 14 weeks), and says he hope's it is a boy. I'm really worrying that it will be a girl and that, ( combined with everything else ), will be a real dissapointment too far for him

We have a list of boys names three, and a list of girls names , (four), and were going to let him pick his favourite , ( off of the pre approved list!) ti mak sure he feels included. Is that a good idea or likely to back fire in some way.

Just want to do all I can to help him settle. He says , ( we video chat daily), he is very excited to come when ,( covid allowing), he can, but obviously the reality may not match his expectations.

Any advice appreciated .

OP posts:
Jellycatspyjamas · 08/01/2021 23:56

How lovely that you want him to be welcome.

It’s worth thinking about simple things - what food might be miss, can he bring his own belongings, favoured toys, clothes etc. He’s coming in winter which is a huge adjustment so keep the house warm, lots of warm clothes. Does he use particular toiletries, soap, washing powder that might not be available here - things that sound and smell familiar. My son had a particular breakfast cereal he liked so we made sure we had that available. He ate it every day for two months before making other choices.

The trick with transition is to give enough familiarity to help get used to the new.

The British Red Cross have an excellent service to support families who are being reunited after long periods of separation, it would be worth talking to them too.

Hammyhamster92 · 09/01/2021 09:47

Thanks Jelly, all good suggestions r e washing powder and soap I wouldn't have thought of that. His uncle will be supporting him over on the journey, so I'll ask him to bring them over.

We are decorating the bedroom for him, and getting him to virtually choose wallpaper/colours, so hopefully he'll have a good idea what it looks like.

OP posts:
Hammyhamster92 · 09/01/2021 13:04

Also, any info on settling in what will obviously be a very different school system to what he's used to, ( although fortunately this is an English speaking country and he is currently doing well at school). I'm hoping this may be something some international adopters will have experienced, ( again, this isn't an adoption, but seems to be the board that best fits...)

OP posts:
Mumtolittlesausage · 09/01/2021 17:29

Regarding schooling it may be worth contacting his current school and asking the to send a copy of the curriculum and what he's been doing recently so you can the compare to the school he will attend and give the school an idea of his understanding

Porcupineintherough · 09/01/2021 17:52

Not an adopter but have had young (16, 17) Nigerian friends of the family come and stay on study visas. Food is a huge one. Does/can your partner cook traditional/typical dishes from his homeland? If not, can he learn - quickly. Even having familiar soft drinks and biscuits can be a huge comfort.

percypetulant · 09/01/2021 18:23

It sounds like you'll be getting off to a good start, given you're aware enough to ask here!

I agree with washing powder, snacks, drinks, keep things low key. So hard with a pandemic on top, though, especially with school. That may give him time to catch up, or just chill if he's ahead, though, although at nine, I wouldn't stress about school, especially just now.

Regarding the baby, I would empathise - "a brother would be cool!" And then reframe- " but we can't choose, and a little sister would adore a big brother to look up to, just the same." It might be worth finding out the sex, to help prepare him, even if you'd rather have a "surprise".

It sounds like he's had a lot of loss in his life, but lots of protective factors, too. Please feel free to continue posting on this board if you'd value input from adopters- we're used to parenting when there's been loss.

Haffdonga · 09/01/2021 19:07

I was involved (socially) with a family that had an almost identical situation, except a different country and a second language was added into the mix.

To be honest, it was very difficult for them all. In part I think because unlike you, the step mum in that situation hadn't fully considered (or understood) the effects of culture shock that the child was going through.

From what they told me, they all struggled with unspoken expectations of the roles they would all play. I think the father in the situation had expected his partner to fully take on the role of mothering his son and would create the whole nuclear family ideal. But the mum had expected the father to be the primary care giver of his child. The child themselves was pretty messed up by losing his primary carer grandparents, being incredibly homesick and suddenly finding himself in the home of step siblings who were hostile. The 2 parents had very different attitudes about a whole range of issues such as table manners, Christmas presents, bedtimes - you name it.

It's so good that you are asking these questions now because it shows how aware you are of the enormous step you are all taking, I'd advise you to have some very in depth conversations with your partner now about some of this stuff including

  • Will you BE mum or step mum? (e.g. who will primarily be the source of love, telling off, eating your vegetables and doing your homework?)
  • What role will the grandparents play?
Haffdonga · 09/01/2021 19:53

Sorry, cut off short but wanted to say good luck. You sound very caring. and wishing you all happiness together. Smile

Didkdt · 09/01/2021 23:02

Could you do an introductions style book, some sort of toy in pictures of everything in you everyday life garden pets living room bedroom car, local shop even then send electronically the book or post it and then when he arrives give him the toy.
If he’s comming in winter a sunshine lamp might be helpful and warmer clothing than you think.
Food would be helpful get his favourites in don’t mention that’s what you’ve done just let him see they are there
In adoption they often talk about the honeymoon period when it seems it’s all going so well from the start you don’t know why everyone was so worried and then your child starts to test the idea you’re completely committed or they feel secure enough to let their feelings out. Stick with keeping things simple, experiences and expectations on both sides.

Also don’t take anything personally. He’s probably built up an idea in his head of how things will be as well and it will be easier for you to adapt your expectations than it will be for him
My tip top tip is reward yourself things won’t always go smoothly (in any family) remind yourself of the successes and move on from the mistakes and emotional outage that there will be.

Somuddled · 09/01/2021 23:37

Another thing you could try to keep familiar is games and TV shows.

I've assumed from your post that you will multiracial family? If so, recently someone recommended this book to me, though I can't vouch for it as I've not read it yet. It's called 'Raising Multiracial Children'. That might give you direction for longer term family dynamics and choices.

Jellycatspyjamas · 10/01/2021 09:25

One thing I would say is that your partner needs to prepare himself for not really knowing his son, and to think about how to rebuild that relationship. By that I don’t mean he’s done anything wrong but 5 years is a very long time in the life of a child and remote contact isn’t the same.

His son will be grieving the loss of his grandparents, experiencing all kinds of untrue shock and moving to new people who are going to parent him. No matter how well you prepare him, he’ll be terrified - as would you be if someone plucked you from the U.K., dropped you on a small Caribbean island and told you to get on with it.

He will need lots of stability, room to cope, help with his emotions. Expect his emotions to show through his behaviour - you’re asking a huge amount from him to cope with a move like this and a new baby so really think about how you want to manage his behaviour etc. There’s some good writing around parenting traumatised children (abd he will experience this as traumatic to some degree even if he really really wants it). Look for stuff by Dan Hughes or Susanne Zeedyk both can explain the way you might see him react and how to response.

I’d not put him into school too quickly, give him time at home with you and your partner to get to know each other and to adjust. School will always be there once he’s settled down a bit.

It’s such a lovely thing for them to reunite, but it won’t be without it’s challenges for you all. I wish you every good thing with it all.

Hammyhamster92 · 19/01/2021 10:50

Just wanted to say thanks all for advice, really appreciated . We're currently looking at dates / quarentine / covid tests / legal travel restrictions so all exciting but nervous at the same time.

In response to a previous poster, we'll definitely be finding out the baby's gender at the 20 week scan to prepare DS as much as possible .

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