What Do I Tell The Kids?
Two years ago, my sister admitted that she had a drug addiction and family took care of her 2 girls for about 6 months as she and her husband pursued treatment. The girls were told that mom and dad were sick and need to get better.
Fast forward 2 years, my sister is now divorced and asked me to watch the girls over their spring break while she looked for a new place to live. One week turned into two - with them missing a week of school.
Sensing that something was wrong, she admitted that she relapsed. I got the girls enrolled in school here and am pursing a more permanent custody situation.
The girls (age 12 and 8) still seem to think she is looking for a new place to live. Her phone calls to them have lessened - the last time she called was over a week ago. What on earth do I tell the girls has happened to their mother? How much do I tell them?
That's an incredibly tough question to answer. The sooner you can be honest with them the better, because children aren't fools and will eventually realise something is up. But at the same time it's about trying to balance that against their level of comprehension and how much they're likely to understand.
So going back to the 'Mom is sick' story is definitely one way to handle it, at least temporarily. But at some point you're going to have to expand on what 'sick' means to them because children need to know.
The worst thing to do in the long term is to keep covering up and making excuses, because that ultimately causes more damage and leaves lasting scars. Avoiding problems just doesn't work.
Bringing in a children's counselor to help you handle this and to help explain what is going on with their Mom may also not be a bad idea, because they'll know how to position what's happening in a way they'll understand.
It's a terrible position you've been placed in. At least the children are safe and with you, and the fact that you're looking to get more permanent custody is also great. Take comfort from the fact you're doing everything you can, and maybe a bit of outside help will make this transition easier. Best of Luck
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