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Raising My Niece And Nephew

by Michelle

My niece and nephew have been living with me for the past 7 years, they are now 12 and 10 years old respectively. Their mother has 3 other children she cares for and their father is in prison.

They came to me very broken, in want and in need. My niece is a passive person and uses passive aggressive behavior at its best.

My nephew displays very destructive anger after visiting with his mother/father. He runs away from discipline or when he is angry. He is the sweetest person in the world, but when he is angry he is a totally different child, like night/day. I have tried many different things, but it seems that he just needs to go through the anger and we must wait for it to calm down.

What I am afraid of is that he is going to hurt himself or others since he is getting bigger now.

When he is calm I try to talk to him about "next time", different ways of coping. He seems to really want to do something different, but when he gets angry you cannot reason with him and he doesn't want to "calm down".

What are some anger/coping techniques he can try? I've asked him to get on the tread mill and run, draw, he's in counseling, I make sure he has all healthy meals, sufficient sleep and exercise. We try to talk about all of the positive things in our life TODAY, right now. I tell him I love him 100 times a day, and try to be specific about what I love about him.

My niece seems to be doing a lot better, but she still has her moments. She has an artist personality, thinks outside the box. She tends to overreact to her brother's provoking (endless circle) and then tries to do the blame game a lot. Taking responsibility for her actions is something she is unwilling to do. She has to be told over/over again to brush her teeth, do her chores, homework.... Most children do that, but it's her passive aggressive anger.

Anyway, there is so much more to their stories. I just want to know what can be done to help direct his anger eruptions, her aggressive behavior to find some sanity.

They are really good kids. I try to tell them that everyday. It's not their fault where they have ended up. I just want the best for them so they will not fall 'victim' to drugs and alcohol later as their way of coping. They need to know how to cope now in a healthy way for their eternal benefit.


Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello Michelle, and thanks for telling your story here. The first thing I want to say is that your niece and nephew are very fortunate to have you in their lives. Your love and devotion to them is the most important thing of all, and that is very much in place.

It sounds like your niece is already making progress. As long as that continues, you are probably doing everything you need to. Take a look at this page on passive aggressive behavior and see if that information is helpful to you. Mostly, just keep loving her and doing what you're doing.

See is your nephew would like to draw or paint a picture of his anger. If he does, ask him to tell you about it afterwords. Play is another way that children communicate their feelings, and if you can observe him playing you may learn some ways to connect.

See if the two of them will play a "feelings game" with you in the evenings. Each of you take turns about what made you the happiest, the most sad, the most afraid and the most angry during the day. End this with each of you saying what you like about the other people present. Another version of this is the "High-Low" game, in which each person tells of their "high" and their "low" point of the day. This could be very helpful to both of them.

And keep doing all of the wonderful things you are doing, Michelle.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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