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This room is dedicated to those who are facing the challenge of raising children without the support of a spouse. This is a place to share ideas and lend mutual support.

Saint Rita is known to be a patroness for abused wives and mourning women.
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I am in the middle of a crisis and there is no way out. My brother's wife goes to DA/AA and has been in a Rehab since May. It is my duty to help my brother take care of his 3 kids, ages 8,7 & 5. The 8 yr. old girl is having a complete meltdown, with anxiety attacks and taking every opportunity to lash out at me when she feels like it. during her episodes she'll cry and say how much she misses her mother. I am at a loss with this situation. we are not getting along, most days, because she does not want me to correct her behaviors. She thinks she is the adult and therefore does not have to listen to me. She refuses dinner if she doesn't like what I cook. She says hurtfull things to me all the time. So, I have a mini adult on my hands who is still a child. what advice can you offer?
the 7 yr. old is a boy.(Connor) He has started copying Allie as far as not wanting to be corrected. He is repeating the same things she says to me but he feels badly afterwards because he shows it through his eyes. He's not difficult to handle yet and I hope will not get as bad as Allie is.
The 5 yr. old boy, Matt, is a sweetheart. He helps me get dinner on the table and helps clean up afterward. He is a pleasant child who never speaks of his mother since he has been mistreated and injured throughout his young childhood by her.
Allie is the favorite child. Being the oldest she has had to raise the two boys so she has missed out on being a child herself. She carries her pink baby blanket with her in the car and sleeps with it and a teddy bear. She will be 9 in sept. Don't you think there is a problem with this or not? I think she needs to stop the blanket thing but since she sees Matt carrying his around she probably feels like she wants to have something to hug as well.

I have to have the children every night of the week, after picking them up from daycare. we have dinner together. In their house, they sit on the couch or the floor to eat since their mom gave their table and chairs away. My brother never bought another one. In my home, they aren't allowed to do that. I make them sit at the table all together. this was a shock for them in the beginning but now they are used to it. At their home, they help themselves to what's in the frig at any time but in my home they have to ask. I honestly don't know what's going to happen in the future with them but I do know that if my brother divorces his wife he better get a therapist to work the children. Next in line will be me after all of this is over. I am at my wits end and still have four more months to go! please advise me on what I can do to make our lives work together as an extended family.

Jun 23rd 2013 new
I might add that the only other relative who helps watch them is Kara's sister who is an alcoholic and works as a bartender. the kids spend a half day on sat. with her then I pick them up for the evening hours until their dad can pick them up at 11 P.M. This weekend though they spent the entire weekend at Jane's house. I will pick them up tonight around 8 then take them to their home to wait for their dad to come home from work. Tomorrow they go to daycare then I pick them up at 6 P.M. Dinner with me again, oh brother, I am not looking forward to that. I am planning on having hambergers since that is one food they all like. I hope the week ahead will not be a stormy one and somehow the sun will shine. My brother is very lucky that I am on my summer break but on the other hand I am not getting to enjoy my vacation at all. When I go back to work in Aug. this will still be going on. I'm not sure how much stress I will be able to handle.

I thought I'd post this in this room where there are single parents who can advise me on what to do for my neice and nephews. I certainly don't want to have them think of me as their "mean aunt" who gives them rules to follow. My daughter tried to help me with them while she was home and she even had a difficult time. They can be unruly at times. I also need a trick to keep them from fighting in the car. what I'm doing is I will pull into a parking lot for five minutes until they get quiet. so far, that seems to be working fairly well.
Jun 23rd 2013 new

Maybe I didn't read carefully enough, but what is your brother's role in all of this? I'm guessing he's working full-time? But what about when he's not working? How long has this all been going on? I mean, they don't even have a kitchen table....when did that happen? Why hadn't your brother gotten something to replace it?

Speaking as a single mom of 3 teens (ages 14, 16, and 18), but who started being a single mom when they were 2, 4, and 6 combined with me being an elementary teacher (mostly grades 4, 5, and 6) you won't gain control if you can't work out some serious rules with consequences (positive ones, when they adhere to the rules, and negative ones when they don't) if your brother isn't a part of the process, and follows through. Can you share more?
Jun 23rd 2013 new
1. Where is dad?
While he must rely on you, he also must be the leader of his family to the greatest degree he can, even if it's not much. He needs to shore up his role as leader -- and he needs to make it clear that YOU are the leader when he's not around.

2. The little girl sleeps with a blanket? GOOD.
She's a child. Let her be a child. Kids in a situation like this need as much normalcy and continuity as possible.

3. Don't sweat the small stuff.
Whether you eat at table or on the floor is not important. Kindness to brothers and sisters (and aunt) IS.
I personally never had a problem with kids going to the fridge whenever. I always figured, at least they are eating.

4. You say, if he divorces mom the kids will need a therapist.
IMHO, they need a therapist NOW.

two cents
hug hug hug

Jun 23rd 2013 new
So sad. What you are experiencing is "normal" in the sense of "not unexpected".

I imagine these kids have been through hell, as some of the behaviors you describe seem almost feral. They need stability. And at least one good parent.

Sorry, but it sounds like your brother is essentially MIA here. Does he know what he's doing? That is, is he a parent or merely the paycheck? Is the mother still living at home?

It is common for the kids to want to protect the weaker parent, in this case the mother. Even is she has abused them (physically, emotionally, etc.), they'll miss her and want her. They probably need counseling to help process their inappropriate home life.

It can get better.

Your rule of action is Slow, Calm, Stable.

It doesn't matter if they say hurtful things. That is what they have been taught. You are the Catholic adult, and you see the bigger picture.

Tell them you love them (without condition). But don't expect an appropriate response, because they don't understand love.

If they are crying, let them cry. They need it to process their grief. You might be able to help them understand it by asking if they need to cry. (Usual answer: yes.) You might be able to help them control it by asking if 5 minutes (or even 10 minutes) will be enough. Tell them "OK. Then cry as hard as you want for 5 minutes." They should stop well before that.

Use "time outs" if they get out of hand. Time outs should be in a nearby area, but one that has little sensory stimuli (away from the others, on the stairs, or in a hallway, or on a chair, but no TV, no toys, no books, etc.). I'm not suggesting extreme isolation or sensory deprivation, but just pick a quiet place. The general rule of thumb is 30 seconds to 1 minute for every year of age, but you may adjust that depending on the situation. They can come out of "time out" early if they promise to behave. Back into "time out" for a longer period if they don't.

Be clear on roles. Their "job" is to be children. Your "job" is to be the adult.

The oldest is messed up because the parent-child roles in her life are messed up. It would not be surprising if some aspects of her emotional development are stuck at an earlier age due to ongoing trauma at home. You cannot force her to develop faster than she is able. Let her be a child. Let her keep her blanket and teddy. They represent stability and comfort; things that have probably been sorely lacking in her life. Counseling is probably necessary to help with her emotional development. See if a local Catholic Charities center offers such.

Your "job authority" might be enhanced if your brother is willing to tell his kids (with some authority?), and with you next to him, that they need to follow your directions while they are with you. Clarity helps. Equivocation doesn't.

Give them some light responsibilities (e.g., putting away toys, setting the table, clearing the table). See how they handle it. Time outs and/or loss of privileges if they don't.

You might be able to get the older one involved in menu planning (where you provide a number of healthy options and she makes a choice and maybe even helps out). If she doesn't want to eat dinner, fine. But no dessert. No snacks.

Car trick: books on tape (or CD, or MP3, or whatever). There really are some marvelous and complicated stories that are child appropriate (Black Beauty, Treasure Island, Charlotte's Web, etc.). Turn up the volume, if necessary. Or try a child-safe sing-along collection. Veggie-tales has several. The old Disney tunes are safe.

Car trick: Refocus, redirect. Get their attention, and then ask a question of the troublemaker. How was daycare? Do you need to go to the bathroom? Can you tell me how much is 3x7? How many hamburgers can you eat? How many hours until you see your dad? How many minutes is that? Whatever works. You want to get their focus off the fight and redirected to something safer, quieter.

Also, put the troublemaker in the front seat with you if it is safe to do so.

Little successes will soon become big successes.

Share what works with your brother. Unfortunately, any progress you make by the end of summer will likely be lost if the role of parent is not properly filled in their home.

Bless you for doing the hard work that these kids need. hug
Jun 23rd 2013 new
Dear Connie,

It is good that you are able to help out. I am sure your brother is overwhelmed as well. First of all the little ones need stability and boundaries, and most importantly love.

I would also suggest that they need to be in counseling right now, not if their dad divorces their mom. They are not stupid, they know things aren't normal and aren't right, but they don't have the skills they need to cope with them.

I would not try to take away Allie's blanket at all, nor would I make comments about her giving it up. It is literally her security and brings her comfort. And, she needs that right now.

I would suggest that you figure out how to get a table and chairs. I say this, because my kiddos who are all grown now, still talk about dinner at the table. For awhile we didn't have one, because our table wouldn't fit in the dining area. My kids really missed that. When we do family dinners now, they want to eat at the table. And, I can say, growing up we always ate together at the table and it was a time of bonding and sharing and we often spent hours at the table afterwards or on the front porch if the weather was nice. Kids need this and they need to see normal.

Allie may see you as usupring her mother's place, and no matter how dysfunctional a mother is, they are the mother. She may also be expecting you to "abandon" her as well, so they push it along, trying to make it happen by being unruly and rude, etc. Easier to push you away then for you to walk away. She's angry and confused and needs you to be there, unconditionally. Correct her yes, but don't let her see you disapprove. Does that make sense? Gotta love her no matter how badly she acts out. Find some way to bond with her, keep trying something will work.

I never worried about kids being in the fridge either and had a basket of snacks on the table that anyone could access at any time. I never did make separate dinners, if the kids didn't eat, they didn't eat. I suspect it is mostly a control battle at this point, not having anything to do with whether they like the food or not. Perhaps you could ask each one to pick out a meal, and no matter how odd it my sound go with it, sometimes the best meals are a hodgepodge. Can also try the brownie bite rule, you don't have to eat it all if you don't like it, but you do have to take a brownie bite -- because taste buds change :-) so something you don't like might become something you do like later.

Her roles are out of whack and she can't allow herself to be a child, until she knows the adults in her life can be adults.

I will keep you all in prayer. You can do this. And, those babies need you. Hugs, Lauren
Jun 23rd 2013 new
Have a sit down with your brother. He needs to make your role clear to his children and that disrespect will not be tolerated and then there should be consequences for bad behavior. It is sad that the children are in this situation, but clearly a lack of boundaries is the norm and until another norm is established it will not change. He does the children no favors by placating them out of guilt. If he refuses or does not follow through, then you have to decide whether the continuing "duty" is worth your peace which may have to result in a reduced active role and thus a more prayerful one.

Good luck and our prayers are with you.
Jun 23rd 2013 new
Have a sit down with your brother. He needs to make your role clear to his children and that disrespect will not be tolerated and then there should be consequences for bad behavior. It is sad that the children are in this situation, but clearly a lack of boundaries is the norm and until another norm is established it will not change. He does the children no favors by placating them out of guilt. If he refuses or does not follow through, then you have to decide whether the continuing "duty" is worth your peace which may have to result in a reduced active role and thus a more prayerful one.

Good luck and our prayers are with you.
Jun 23rd 2013 new
Hi Connie. I have seen many of your posts in the past and enjoy your comments. Bless you for helping. Now I have read some books on a topic similar. The truth s the children are to have discipline from their parents, not step parents, nor others. To not get confused, they must understand that dad is the disciplinarian, not you. Not sure hoe much time is able to allocate here, but if my babysitter cannot get a hold of me, she calls their dad and he talks to the children on the phone. Then you follow his recommendations if they don't behave, and the kids know the recommendations or consequences came from their father. It makes them less confused ov roles since their world is not the same anymore.
Jun 23rd 2013 new
I am going to talk to Chuck about buying another dining set. He does have one that our grandfather made with all the chairs but he's not using it. I will tell him how important it is to have family sit down meals like we did when we were kids. I didn't want to make him sound like he's not in control and not helping me with the discipline. He has told the kids in front of me that they will behave for me or they will be spanked by him. Of course, they "tried me" on that so I told him what they were doing in front of them. The next time they were with me, they behaved and were polite. He told them that the next phone call he got from me would not be pleasant for them. He wasn't going to tolerate them disrespecting me in any way. I have chosen not to tell him how they are behaving because I want them to do it for me, not for fear of being spanked by dad. the kids are into telling on each other so he knows what they've been doing while with me. I just haven't talked to him about it lately.
He is a loving dad. As tired as he is he makes sure he takes them on an all day outing on the weekend days. Not many dads would do that for their kids when in the same situation. The kids haven't seen their mother in 30 days but have spoken to her on a phone a few times and they are exchanging letters and cards. Allie is visably upset which worries me a lot. I will try harder to reach her, to make her my best friend. It's not easy for me when she's giving me "those looks" though when I ask her to do something.
I love the car ideas that were presented here. I'll make sure to follow through with those ideas. The best news I heard tonight is that Chuck is quitting his late night job to get a 9 to 5 one, next week. He has one already lined up. Thank goodness for small favors. I will most likely have to continue to have them for sleepovers on some weekends . chuck has worried about him ruining my summer vacation since all of this began but he didn't have any way out except to have me babysit. I think I will suggest that we all take a vacation to Disney World on his next weekend off!
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