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I have recently taken custody of my sister's 4 young children, three girls ages 6, 4, and 3 and a 2 year old boy. She died 6 days ago of a heroin overdose.
Right now, I am still trying to grasp everything and I haven't really disciplined them at all. I did tell them on Saturday that there were rules with me- speak nicely, no hitting, eat good food, no tv at bedtime, etc. But I haven't really enforced anything and I haven't punished them for bad behavior.

I did not know these kids until last week. My sister and I were not close and I didn't even know the youngest two existed. So I am a total stranger to them. A stranger with rules when they have had none. I don't know how to handle it at all. I have no children, never wanted kids, and now have four. I am going to work on getting them to eat healthier as well as cutting out TV (I actually don't even own one but am buying one tonight, as I feel this is a 'pick your battles' type situation and tv is relatively low on the totem pole) and I know that that will help behavior. But for now, what do I do with them?

I was spanked as a child, and I am certain that my sister and her numerous boyfriends probably spanked these children as well. I haven't asked, and I don't intend to. But I know I don't want to spank them. I want them to behave because it's the right thing to do, not because they're scared of me. I live in a far from childproofed house and the kids have nowhere yet that is theirs. The two oldest are sleeping on a futon in my office and the babies are sleeping with me. Eventually I'll need to move things around and buy furniture, but again that's a fairly low priority. So I can't exactly tell them to go to their rooms, because they don't have one.
My biggest concern is the car. They have never been in car seats and I know it's going to be a struggle. Just the ride home in the boosters I bought for them (I knew nothing about car seats and will buy them better ones today) was a nightmare. Crawling out, kicking the seats, yelling. How do I deal with this? And how do I force a child into a car seat that does NOT want to be in one?

I have so many questions and already this forum has been helpful. But I think the discipline quandary is pretty important right now.
 

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Time - patience - and love. I have no advice beyond that as I have not been in a situation similar. Other mama's will have better advice. But I DID want to chime in & say that you are a WONDERFUL Aunt, what you are doing for these children is so commendable. Good for you!
 

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Kathleen,

You have a big job ahead of you. There are not enough
in the world for what you're taking on. Please feel free to pm me anytime if you just need someone to listen. I've worked with special needs kids and might have some insight....

That said- first off with these kids I'd find a GREAT therapist. Check finding your tribe. You need one who is natural friendly, AP friendly, GD friendly. Sometimes hard to find, but will be worth their weight in gold. Who KNOWS what all these kids have been through.

Next- the older kids are going to need a LOT of talking about how things are. The younger are going to need a lot of understanding and unending patience.

Now- carseats and other non-negotiables: honestly I'd go bribes at this point. Stickers? Small toys? TV time? whatever works. First off you have to keep them safe and second off they have to adjust with these HUGE changes in their lives.

I can't think of any other great insight at this point, but please feel free to post questions as they bombard your brain.

-Angela
 

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One other thought- at some point, sit down with all the children and let them know formally that in your house you don't hit- and that includes spankings. At some level (if that was part of the picture before) there will be some fear about that. Lay that to rest when you get a chance.

-Angela
 

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Wow. You are an amazing woman. I agree with Angela's advice, and wanted to send you a BIG
for both you and for the children!
 

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I know that's got to be hard. I'm sure that with time, things will get easier...the most important tool I have in disciplining my children is knowing them. I know what they like and what they don't like, what's important to them and what's not. You're in a situation that's going to take some getting used to, the kids just lost their mother and it doesn't sound like they've had an easy life before that. As hard as it will be, try to remember that the kids need some time to adjust to their new living situation and that you and they will need some time to get to know each other.

I think that therapy is a wonderful idea, and I'm sure that talking to the older ones about what you expect and what they should expect from you in detail (ie no spanking) would help alot, especially if that's something that they've had to put up with in the past.

Years from now they'll most likely not remember the carseat battles, but they will remember that when their mother died and their world fell apart their auntie who barely knew them took them in and cared for them.

And remember, everyone makes mistakes and everyone has rough days
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by alegna

That said- first off with these kids I'd find a GREAT therapist. Check finding your tribe. You need one who is natural friendly, AP friendly, GD friendly. Sometimes hard to find, but will be worth their weight in gold. Who KNOWS what all these kids have been through.

I strongly agree with this. You need help and really good help. This is a big undertaking and the kids need support.

Be patient and hang in, they are young and you've got lots of time to become a family.
 

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I am sorry for your loss. What a difficult situation. I hope you have a good support system-- I think that would be essential. Maybe the social worker could recommend a support group? You'll need a lot of patience and understanding with kids that have been through as much as it sounds like these kids have been through.

If you want to establish some rules for your new family I would do it together. Sit down with the kids and ask them to help you come up with a list of the rules for the house. Make them rules that apply to everyone--no hitting, for example.

Quote:

Originally Posted by alegna
Next- the older kids are going to need a LOT of talking about how things are. The younger are going to need a lot of understanding and unending patience.

Now- carseats and other non-negotiables: honestly I'd go bribes at this point. Stickers? Small toys? TV time? whatever works. First off you have to keep them safe and second off they have to adjust with these HUGE changes in their lives.
I agree with this. If they haven't had to ride in carseats before, it might not be a bad idea to offer some insentives like stickers or special toys for the car.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by alegna
That said- first off with these kids I'd find a GREAT therapist. Check finding your tribe. You need one who is natural friendly, AP friendly, GD friendly. Sometimes hard to find, but will be worth their weight in gold. Who KNOWS what all these kids have been through.
:

Kudos to you for taking on such a big job. You all are going to need a lot of help, and I think that involving a professional NOW is a super idea. Parenting these children is going to be different from parenting kids where they've been with gentle, consistent discipline from the start. Their world has been chaotic to begin with, and now ripped apart.

The other things I would add that you can do pretty simply.
Food - Hungry kids are cranky kids!

-Feed them every 2 hours, even the older kids, but especially the toddlers.
-As you work toward a healthier diet, allow sugary foods after protein foods, as that will reduce the sugar-lows.
-Put a bowl of fruit, pretzels or other 'healthy' snacks out and make it clear to the kids that they are free to help themselves.

Get out of the house for some large motor play time EVERY DAY. (No idea where the kids are while you're at work) - 2 hours of playtime outside in the AM and an hour in the afternoon can make a huge difference.

Get some art supplies -- lots of paper, crayons, playdo, etc. they might be able to work through some of their grief and disruption by drawing, modeling, coloring. Make sure it's ALL washable. Put throw covers on any furniture you're worried about. (Kids will color on the furniture - it's a 'fault' of our 2 year old!) The older ones can make 'cards' for their mom, the younger ones can

Good luck -- I second the idea of posting when you've got questions. There are a lot of really knowlegable parents on this board, and if you've got specific questions, it's a great resource. (And check out the 'book list' at the top of the page - reading (if you've got time) has really helped me think and learn about parenting.)
 

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I'm also an adoptive mother, and adopting older kids can be incredibly challenging. So HUGS. I've been there, done that. Sometimes I think that adopting my DS (who was 5 when he joined our family) was the worst decision I ever made, and other days I think he's been the biggest blessing in our family. You certainly have a hard road ahead of you, but the road is also rewarding.

The idea for finding a counselor is a good one. I assume that you will formally adopt these children? If so, usually a home study is neccesary. The social worker who does the home study should be able to talk to you about what you're going through, as well as provide other resources (references for counselors, special programs the children might qualify for, etc.). If you're just going to read one book, I'd recommend Attaching in Adoption by Deborah Gray. There are lots of other good books out there about adoption and older-child adoption. You'd also be very welcome on the Adoption board here at MDC.
http://www.mothering.com/discussions...play.php?f=165

I know that it can be hard to start out, not knowing what rules to enforce or how to start out. In my case, I think we just kind of muddled through the first month or so. We started out a little lax, but started enforcing the BIG rules within the first few days, and just went from there. I think that it's really important in your situation not to punish for bad behavior. One of the worst things that could happen would be for the children to realize that they get more attention from you when they act out then when they're "good." Positive reinforcement is going to be HUGE for these kids. Their whole world has just been turned upside down. Everything is different, and they're going to need lots of love and attention from you for the first few months.

I would stick with natural consequences rather than imposing punishments for undesired behavior. With the car seats, I would simply inform the kids that car seats are non-negotiable. You will not go anywhere until everyone is buckled in. If kids un-buckle themselves or are kicking the seats, pull the car over and act bored. "Boy, it's too bad that it's getting late and we won't have time to go to the park unless we go right now."

I would suggest not making food a battle. I make one meal for everyone. My kids can choose to eat it, or not. Same with snacks- we have a mid-morning snack or an afternoon snack. The same snack is available to everyone, they can choose to take it or leave it. Of course, I do take my kids' preferences into consideration. I don't make food I know they'll hate- they're usually able to find one thing they want to eat between the main dish and side dishes.

As for not having a place to send them to their rooms, I don't think it's an issue. If a child is having a hard time and needs some time away, it's easy enough to say, "please sit in this chair until you're ready to be kind to your brother" or something similar. Sometimes if my kids aren't getting along while I'm making dinner and not able to supervise them in another room, I'll ask them to come and sit on the floor in the kitchen in opposite corners. While they're sitting, we'll talk or sing- but the kids are physically separated, and still close to me.

I think the idea of sitting down for sort of a family meeting (or sitting down with each child separately), and talking about your expectations is a good one. You can discuss what you expect from the kids, tell them that you don't intend to hit them, and also give them an opportunity to tell you what their expectations and wants are. It's so important to have an open dialog, and to establish the base of a relationship on which trust can be built.

My four children are almost the same ages as your children, I can only imagine what a challenge it would be for them to be suddenly transplanted to a new family. Since my kids are about the same age, and I also have experience adopting an older child, feel free to PM me if you have other specific questions. I'll try to find the answer or point in the right direction.
 

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I read your other thread in Parenting and just want to start off by saying I am sorry for your loss and I think you are doing a wonderful thing. It must be difficult and it seems like you have a very level head.

I think it's smart to not try and enforce too many changes at once. They have already been through some huge changes and it's probably a good idea to try to disrupt their lives as little as possible. It may take a while to get them interested in things other than TV (they have probably been babysat by it quite a bit and it may feel like an old friend to them) and to start to like healthy foods.

I also think it's great that you are anti-spanking. Maybe some parenting books would be of help. My favorite is "Unconditional Parenting" by Alfie Kohn. Those kids need lots of unconditional love. Perhaps some mothers of older adopted children will chime in with some good titles.

Good luck!
 

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I haven't been there, done that. But I'd pick three rules to start with-- no hitting, use nice words, and one more like maybe please tell me the truth. Later, I'd add a new rule one or two at a time.

I might go easier on the food because it's going to take time to get used to a complete change. And I might skip buying the t.v. since you don't have one, and see if I could get them into periods of organzied play, free-time, quiet time, reading books and playing games. That way, it fosters them working organically and together as a group, and relying on themselves as for a sense of family and friendship. And when it's time to go to bed, they may be more willing to go since there's no t.v. and they're bored, or tired anyway! LOL. Or they may start accepting stories as bedtime entertainment, since there is no t.v.

There are lot's of suggestions on this board, but overall take it slow. It will take time for them to get used to you, to trust you, and to want to follow and love you. But something tells me it will happen if you're patient with them.

I'm sorry for the loss of your sister. What a tragedy. I wish the best for all of you at this very trying time.

Faith
 

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I love that you're putting so much thought into your new role. Especially coming from a spanking background, so many people would just do what was done to them. I agree with the others who've suggested special toys for car rides, and not getting into the car seat power struggle. As far as TV, they've probably watched shows that are completely inappropriate for them and I'd just get PBS and let them watch it whenever they want. On the subject of food, I'd probably fill the refigerator with all kinds of healthy food (including yogurt, applesauce, peanut butter, carrots...) and let them know that they help themselves to any of it. That way, they have some control without compromising health. Take them out for a special treat of smoothies or frozen yogurt once in a while. I highly recommend Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting, along with many others listed in the GD forum. Hang in there
 

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God knows what those kids have experienced.

Patience. Patience. Patience.

They need to have plenty of room to vent about their overwhelming situation.

Quote:

Originally Posted by KHalton
I want them to behave because it's the right thing to do, not because they're scared of me.
Ah, intrinsic motivation. Unconditional Parenting, by Alfie Kohn is the best take on achieveing this. It's the most fundamental look at nurturing intrinsic motivation that I know of. For some, his advice is difficult b/c it requires new thinking about parenting. However, your newness to this gig may prove easier in this regard. In either case, it's a worthy read.

I'll dig up a link to some favorite books...

http://www.mothering.com/discussions...d.php?t=454617

I like this thread b/c it's not overwheming with thousands of books. It gets to the favorites fast!
 

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OMG, I have not been able to stop thinking about you since I read your first post at Case Against Circumcision. I admire your courage and pray you will have all the patience you'll need. There's so much about parenting I'd love to share with you!!! I have 3 kids myself, but did have the chance to get used to the changes gradually. I learn something every day and yet there's still so much...

I can't imagine what becoming a mother overnight is like. YOUR kids are SO LUCKY to have you in their lives. Your sister's illness and passing is a really sad story. In the end, you'll be the best thing that could happen to the kids.

I recently read a fantastic book: it's called Unconditional Parenting (by Alfie Kohn). Bottom line: love them and then love them some more.

It's great that you're researching eerything before making big decisions and as you face the great task of reshaping their lives. In particular, I'm so glad you decided against circumcision: I live in Germany. Here most people don't even know Americans do THAT and are appaled when they hear about it. It's quite frankly considered barbaric (it IS barbaric).

Many hugs to you and please know that you're in our minds - I've shared your story with my family and everyone is extremely moved. I have the feeling you've instantly become the most popular member at these forums!!

Welcome and please know we're there for you. Ask away and we'll do our best to help you along.

Cristina

ETA I see aira recommended the same book! It really is good.
 

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You are doing an amazing thing!


I don't have time to write right now... but I just wanted to say quickly that you might want to consider putting the kids in 5 pt harnesses.

My 6 year old has been in a Husky Britax (close to $300) 5pt harness, it goes up to 80 lbs. 5 pt harnesses are the safest in a crash. There are some dramatic video of the difference of what happens in a crash with child dummies. It was so dramatic, it made me a convert!

I hate the bottom booster. It makes squirmy kids MORE squirmy! Not safe. I only use it when my son has a playdate or something.

If you are going to do the booster, at least get a solid shell booster so the strap is more secure.

My 2 year old is in Britax Marathon. Flight attendants and race car drivers are in 5 pt harnesses.
 

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HTML:
That said- first off with these kids I'd find a GREAT therapist. Check finding your tribe. You need one who is natural friendly, AP friendly, GD friendly. Sometimes hard to find, but will be worth their weight in gold. Who KNOWS what all these kids have been through.
Yet again, thirding or fourthing what Alegna said. You seem to have a good sense of "first things first" and "one step at a time."

I just wanted to send you good wishes and encouragement as I admire someone who takes up such an enormous challenge.
 

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I would suggest trying to get some counseling for the oldest children or looking around in your area for a group for people who take over the care of a family members children. You are all going through a huge adjustment and it may help to have people to meet with and discuss things with on a regular basis.
For the car I would suggest five point harnesses, kids music, and letting them have food to distract them. I would also review car rules before getting in the car, let them know that it is not okay to get out of the car seat in the car and that you cannot drive when they do this and pull over and put them back in the car seat each time they get out and put them back in the car seat. It may help to tell the older ones that it is the law and read some books to them about following the law.
 
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