You never expected your brother’s family to fall apart — but can it really be up to you to pick up the pieces? As a parent-figure to someone else’s child, you have all the responsibility and none of the authority. It’s no wonder you don’t want to get stuck raising your nephew — it’s hard, for everyone involved. But if your brother is unable or unwilling to take care of his own, then what is there to do?
Let go of the who, and focus on the how. Chances are, your stressful situation wasn’t caused by something you did wrong — so don’t internalize things that are out of your control. Think about what you can give, rather than what your nephew has lost. Children need stability and safety, and giving him that one thing will likely make up for a lot of pain.
Be choosy in your sample size. While it’s important to take others’ opinions into account, be careful not to solicit too much advice. Not everyone’s situation is exactly the same, and not every adult will have the same good instincts that you do.
Define your limits before you define your expectations. It’s easy to feel pressure to rise to a certain standard — both yours and your family’s. Before you commit yourself, decide the parameters within which you’re willing to award yourself grace.
Enjoy the beauty of independence. Yes, you want to give your nephew stability and security — but let him also find a way to flex his muscles. Let him get a little taste of independence, as he learns more about himself and develops his own character. Encourage him to find his footing as an individual in the world.
Allow for missteps. Even when you’ve gone out of your way to create your own parameters, mishaps will still happen. How you handle them is part of the key to success. If you’re consistent in your approach, children will learn quickly not to test your limits again.
Choose courage or choose chaos; but don’t choose both. Courage is what causes us to move forward even when we’re scared — and chaos is when we retreat from the fear. Make your choice — but try not to let fear dominate either.
Welcome change, but recognize its dynamics. Change means growth, and since life will continue to throw its curveballs, embrace a mindset that doesn’t fear the unknown. Take a look at things from different angles, and understand how these events can influence your lifestyle, relationships, and values.
Above all else, remember that you are not solely responsible. Many hands make light work, and you are far from alone in this. There’s no shame in asking for help — and if you can’t offer it, see if your family members, friends, and community can.
Raising someone else’s child may mean the road isn’t always the straightest — but it’s often the most fulfilling. Take a deep breath, take one step at a time, and trust that, little by little, you and your nephew will be making progress.
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