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Bad behaviour, bereavment & being the big sister

5 replies

Loolamadcat · 17/03/2012 16:30

Long story this one, so I'll do what I can to paraphrase.
1987 - Sister married and moved abroad, she & her hubby went on to have six children
2007 - 19 year old nephew killed in a car crash (niece was six at the time)
2011 - 51 year old husband died suddenly (niece is now ten). The family now consist of five kids and four grand children.

My niece, I'll call her Moni has always (like the rest of her siblings) been allowed to rule the roost, there has been little discipline and the children have always had to fend for themselves, making them fiercely independent.

When my brother in law died my parents went to my sister, and my mum shared with me that Moni's behaviour has really deteriorated to the point that she is practically uncontrolable. Little wonder when you think of the sadness she has encontered in her young life. The nearest sibling is a boy who is seven years older than her, and the sister to her nearest in age is nine years older and married with family. The grand children are aged between a few months to six years, therefore she is bang in the middle and doesn't know how to behave. My mum sat and chatted with her, and exlained to her that shee needs to be the big sister to the little children, and quite saddly she replied 'but I don't know how to be'.

I haven't been well and so haven't been to see my sister but am going out next week. I've found a great book on Amazon called Always and Forever, which I think will help the younger children, but am stumped as to what to take Moni - there must be a book that will help a lost soul, that I can read with her. There are books about growing up, but that's not quite what I have in mind.

My sister is right at the sharp end and has to deal with Moni's behaviour and I don't think she can right now, so I would dearly love to be able to do something that will help give them both some direction.

Any thoughts - would be so grateful to you :)

Loo xxx

OP posts:
CeliaFate · 18/03/2012 15:56

I couldn't read and run, but have no experience or wisdom to share really. I've found this which recommends books for her age group:

For Juniors
A Birthday Present for Daniel
Juliet Rothman (Prometheus Books, ISBN 1-57392-054-1)
This story of a little girl whose brother has died is intended for children aged 8-12. It was generally liked by humanist parents: "A difficult subject handled very well and movingly", "I liked the birthday ritual with the balloons as, for me, it symbolises letting go or acceptance", "In the event of a tragedy in the family, I'm sure it would help". But there were some reservations: "Honest and direct but the ending is a little contrived and I'm not sure about birthday parties for dead relatives." A humanist primary head teacher thought it would help children to empathise with others and to think about their own feelings in an honest and unsentimental way.

For older children
The Time of Your Life
Ina Taylor (Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 0-340-72546-X)
This new text book for KS3 has a balanced approach to the rituals and beliefs that mark important stages of life. In the section on death the author describes religious funerals and beliefs, but also looks at alternative and secular ones, and asks some pertinent questions in the "What do you think?" and "Things to do" sections.

Separations: Death
Janine Amos (Cherrytree Books, hb, ISBN 0-7451- 5272-4)
Stories, fictional letters and advice about feelings and coping, covering the deaths of a parent, of a sister, of grandparents and pets. Comprehensive enough to include most situations and to make a death in the family seem more normal. Humanist families found it honest, balanced and wise, and a family that had recently experienced the deaths of both grandmothers thought that it would have been very helpful at the time for their 10 and 12 year old children. A humanist head teacher found it "appropriate and sensitive" and liked its emphasis on continuity and moving on.

Billions and Billions
Carl Sagan (Headline, hb ISBN 0-780747- 220268
The final essay in this collection, "In the Valley of the Shadow" is a moving reflection on facing death by this eminent American scientist and humanist. Sagan describes his struggle with bone marrow disease: "I've learnt much ? about the beauty and sweet poignancy of life, about the preciousness of friends and family, and about the transforming power of love." Written for adults, but very readable and recommended by humanists.

I hope they can be of help to her. She's clearly angry and confused. I would avoid putting pressure on her to be a responsible big sister - she needs attention to her needs at the moment.
Is she the youngest of the 5 siblings?

Loolamadcat · 18/03/2012 21:40

She is...You're so right about not over loading her too, it's no wonder she is confused, and surrounded by so much sadness (and love) it must be a great deal for her to take in.

I just would like to be there for her, and to have something up my sleeve in case the moment presents itself. I have managed to find one book that sounds good, but will read up on the ones you have posted. Thank you for taking the time to share. I really like the balloon analogy...something nice about setting things free.

Thank you x

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ll31 · 19/03/2012 16:53

sympathies to you all - not sure though why you would be expecting your niece to be the big sister to grandchildren - she's lost her dad which tbh is probably or may be very much more devastating than loss of grandad. She hasn't suffered the same loss as them in other words.. Hope your visit goes well

Loolamadcat · 21/03/2012 19:03

With respect, I'm not asking her to be the big sister, my mum was trying to help her, as she's feeling very lost, understandably. Her cousins are much younger than her and when she is with them, her behaviour drops to that of the youngest child and finds herself in all kinds of scrapes. When she is with adults she is much happier and less likely to end up in a pickle. By encouraging her to be the 'big sister' to her cousins the hope was that she would get the chance to be herself rather than it quite being a child nor an adult. I can understand what she was trying to achieve, in the short time she was there, but it was more about encouragement rather than realising the expectations of others.

She could do with emotional support and bereavement coaching and I would like to leave something for her and my sister that will be useful to them and the other younger members of the family.

OP posts:
Loolamadcat · 21/03/2012 19:05

BTW, she was unmanageable from the word go, so she has struggled with how to behave since she was able to walk and talk....she's a monster but adorable - I could eat her her to bits x

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