I received an email from my husband's nephew and his wife yesterday. They are thinking about having their teen nephew move in with them to give him a chance at opportunities that he has otherwise missed out on. They very much want him to have a chance to stay out of a life of hardships and make something of himself.
So, they asked me....How did you do it with yours?
What a humbling question. Really, whether we are looking at it from a parenting, step parenting, or foster parenting perspective......we try our best, but the bottom line is that each child ultimately chooses their future. We can equip and provide opportunities, but they have to choose to step into those opportunities.
Here is sort of a break down of my advice to them:
1)As Mom and Dad you must be unified. You have to walk into this like-minded and in 100% agreement. This like-mindedness includes being able to have down time to talk things thru as they happen.....develop strategies..."football huddle" . In being like-minded, you have to respect each others differences.
For you, you need to understand that (the nephew) is your husband's blood relative and that carries a lot of heart and devotion. At the same time, your husband has to appreciate that because you are not pulled by "the blood tie" you can look at things more objectively at times when Jason can be too wrapped up in heart.
If the situation becomes a division of responsibilities, like: "fine this is your thing. You take care of (nephew) and I will take care of the boys.", in the long run it will submarine your marriage.
If you were to split your responsibilities in half, the boys could resent you or your husband spending all of your time with (nephew).
(nephew) could play you against each other if you aren't in the same frame of mind.
You or your husband could become resentful that all of the attention is going to (nephew) instead of your family.
2) I have learned that it is a fine line to walk in mothering and fathering these big guys. For our guy, he lacked so much nurturing as a child that he craved it like crazy from me. He craved the hugs and wanted to drown in my devotion every day. But at the same time, at this age...mentally they are instinctually geared to pull away from their "mom" influence because it is time to be a man. They find themselves torn between wanting the attention and pushing away from the attention and they confuse themselves. You have to be sure you don't ride their rollercoaster. Don't take it personally. Label attitudes and emotions for what they are and remember to look at the bigger picture instead of just that moment.
3) A major thing with parenting is being able to let them fall and make their own choices. As parents we need to be able to do this with our own children as well, but especially with those that God puts on our hearts later in life...like these teen guys. Because he has been without consistent positive influences, making choices and learning and growing from those choices in a positive way. Discipline and consequences for actions can't be "because I am mad at you" but instead very calmly be "a result of choices made".
4) Along with that ability to let them learn from their decisions, you have to be able to let them go. This is the hardest thing. For some people, they don't get how good they have it until it is gone. If (nephew) doesn't want to receive direction, if (nephew) expects your attention simply because you are family and wants to milk it....you both have to be strong enough to let go. Again this comes with being like-minded.
My guy got to a point where I had to say, "I love you and that will not change. You are a part of our family and your picture stays on our wall. you are not obliterated from our lives, but you are bringing yourself to destruction. If you want this for yourself, with a broken heart I will let you...but not at the sacrifice of my family."
You asked me about house rules:
We had some basic things like letting us know where he was every day. I would stress that it is not like a prison thing. It is a respect thing. When I am not home, you like to know where I am and when I will be home. It is mutual respect that people have no matter what age they are.
Because of our other children at home....no long term visiting in each others rooms.
Speak positive and encouraging...no put downs.
Make sure everyone in the house gets at least one hug from you each day.
If you see something that needs to be done....do it. Integrity is what you do when no one is watching.
We always tried to make the rules a matter of life living. Obedience is something we need our whole lives. If it is not family, it is our boss, our neighborhood, government. Respect and rules will be there our whole lives.
I know...It is alot of words. How else does one sum up the highs and lows of parenting?
Do I dare to insinuate that I have the corner market on all knowledge pertaining to raising kids and I got it all right?...absolutely not.
I simply dare to say that this is my personal experience.
Take it or leave it.