We’re looking at a pretty rocky next few days. A pattern of behavior has been unfolding, and I’ve been holding off on writing this post because I wanted to see how it played out.
Whenever you take in sibling
s, you’re also taking in all their baggage and embedded family dynamics. Agencies try to keep siblings together, because there is evidence that children do better when they can stay connected to their family on a daily basis. A bit of the familiar. If you watched the ABC Family show “The Fosters”
, you got to see how important the siblings of the two sibling groups in that family were to each other. That idea generally makes sense, and I understand the psychology behind tha
But as with many things we’ve seen with these girls, I’m not sure that conventional wisdom holds true in this specific case. Jill and Grace are about as similar as apples and oranges. They don’t like the same music beyond a few pop hits, they don’t wear the same clothes, they talk differently, one likes to read and the other has read maybe 3 books in her life, one is thoughtful and introspective and the other is purely a physical and emotionally reactive being.
However, Jill has always been the “parentified”
one, as the oldest girl. Grace, who is only a year younger, has played the role of “the bad one” in their family. To say that they have been treated differently is an understatement. Please check out the embedded links of parentification
– the effects can be pretty gruesome in the long term on the psyche of a child.
Interestingly, the way that plays out between them is that Jill can’t stand seeing Grace get any kind of positive attention or any kind of praise. She goes nuts. She needs to have all of that positive attention on herself, like it’s a zero-sum game. This goes for how they see the tension between whether they want to be with us or be with their mom. We try to tell them that it’s not either/or, but rather both.
Tonight in therapy we’re going to address this need of Jill’s to tear Grace down. Now, there’s a secondary issue, which is that Grace is going through some medication management issues, and we had a melt-down with her last night.
Interestingly, as soon as Grace was in trouble, Jill started being “nice”. She really can’t fathom that both girls can be in our good graces at the same time.
It’s worth noting that we don’t see this kind of competition coming from Grace. She is used to being “the bad one” and the one who gets blamed for anything that goes wrong, so when she’s in trouble, it’s just normal. When she’s not in trouble, she kind of has an emotional freak out, and often then either gloms on and texts us all day, every day, or she has the exact opposite reaction and needs to get us mad at her again.
So when you take in siblings, you take in years and years of their family dynamics. You need to be ready for a roller coaster of an experience, and learn how to not take it personally. That’s my challenge… how can I keep their emotional issues from affecting our core triad of me, Leonard and Ziggy? How can you care about someone a lot, but at the same time recognize what is and is not in your power to control?
It went surprisingly well. Grace stormed out at some point, but since coming home things have been fine. Jill stayed and listened as the therapist and us explained how they can have both us and their biological family in their lives. I think she heard it. I hope she did.