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Woman refuses to attend family events because her child 'struggles' around toxicity.

Woman refuses to attend family events because her child 'struggles' around toxicity.


AITA for telling my family they're too toxic to be around my niece?

Primary-Stick-2264 says:

My husband and I (both 33M) recently became guardians of my niece Ella (15f) after CPS got involved. There's a lot of background here that I need to get out of the way first.

Ella's father is my brother Tom, and Ella's mom passed due to complications delivering my other niece Becca (8f). Ella was 7 at the time and blamed Becca for their mom's death. She quickly became very angry, expressing hatred for her sister and making comments about how Becca should have been the one to die or that Becca stole her mom from her.

Tom did not get Ella any help. I got involved and warned him that Ella was not coping well, and things would turn nasty. Tom said he was helping the girls' relationship, and that's all that would be needed. Then two years later, with no therapy and no improvement in the relationship between the girls, Tom married Sarah.

This is where things went from bad to worse. Becca adored Sarah and started calling her mom almost immediately. This only angered Ella more. She would get so angry at her dad, at her sister, at her stepmom, and tell Becca how dare she replace the woman who died because of her. She told Tom he was sick for doing that to her mom.

She told Sarah she was stealing from her mom, and she hated her and her ugly face, and she would never be good enough. These are things that happened out in the open and were witnessed by our whole extended family, but they also went on at home.

Sarah did her best to try and get Ella help, but Tom was not on board, and Sarah was not the right person to do it. CPS became involved after Ella called them on Sarah and wanted to get Becca and Sarah separated at all costs. She wanted to punish her sister for calling Becca mom and wanted to punish Becca too.

It became clear after CPS got involved that while Sarah was not a danger to Becca, Ella and Becca could not continue to live together in the environment they were in. I think they only took things so seriously because Ella told the social worker about wishing Becca and Sarah dead and telling them how much she hates her sister.

My husband and I stepped up and offered to take Ella, which CPS agreed to it. When I spoke to them about the rules and how things would be handled, they said not to set up visits with Tom or Becca for Ella and to get Ella therapy. But they did say, if we wanted to, we could attend larger family functions even if they would be there.

But it would likely be better not to. I already knew this. My husband and I discussed it, and we agreed we should all stay away while Ella is with us and is still struggling as much as she is.

I told my family what we had decided, and they did not understand why we couldn't have quick visits or make the effort to expose the girls to each other in short bursts. I said I felt it would be bad for both of them, but mostly for Ella, who I had to prioritize as she needed so much help. My family then claimed my big announcement was like a 'f$#k you' to them. Tom was enraged. AITA?

OP responded to some questions:

MerlinBiggs says:

NTA (Not the A%#hole). Tom has failed in helping her, so it's great she has you to step up. She's not ready to be around Becca and Sarah. She needs therapy, love and time.

OP responded:

Exactly and she's getting very intensive therapy right now and it's a lot. Bringing her around the people she struggles with would not be right for her. We have the therapist saying that as well. Which really made us feel more confident in our decision.

Mathalamus1 says:

Eh, let Tom stay mad. It was his mess that he failed to fix so the government had to step in. He isnt allowed to whine. NTA. I am curious though, does Ella behave better with you two?

OP says:

Ella still has a lot of struggles. It's no miracle cure just to remove her. But living with us she is not around the people her rage has fixated on and not seeing them has led to no angry outbursts. It will take her a long time due to how long this all was left to fester. But she's calmer in our home.

IslaKari says:

NTA. While I can understand where Ella’s feelings are coming from, she is taking it out on Becca (and to a different extent, Sarah) in a scary way. Their mom’s death is not Becca’s fault, and she shouldn’t have to hear that it is or that she deserves to die on a daily basis.

Also, Becca never got to meet her mom, and the fact that she was able to form a bond like that with Sarah is amazing and should be nurtured.

Ella is clearly harboring a tremendous amount of trauma, and she is creating trauma for Becca with her words and hateful feelings. Ella should have been in therapy immediately, and both girls should probably be in individual therapy ASAP. Hopefully, in time, that can lead to healing and family therapy, and when the time is right, they can be at family functions together.

Ella needs an outlet, but she also needs to learn that Becca is not at fault, and Sarah is not an enemy or a replacement for their bio mom. I’m sure Tom has been through a lot, but he did a huge disservice by denying Ella professional help.

You’re doing a selfless thing by taking Ella in, and I hope everyone can get to a place of healing. Until then, don’t worry about the extended family; you’re the guardian, and you know what’s best via instinct and assistance from social workers. Good luck.

OP says:

Ella is in intensive therapy as we speak. We have her with some of the best we could find. This will be a long process, though. However, I'm not sure Ella will ever reach a place where she will want family therapy.

The chances are it will be a long time before she can be face-to-face with Becca or Sarah (or Tom most likely), and she will probably be old enough to make the decision for herself by then. Maybe after enough therapy, she might, but we were warned that getting her the help might not mean sunshine and rainbows as the outcome.

We will always listen to the therapist, though, and do everything we can to make sure Ella gets to a better place, even if the rest of the family won't support it.

What do you think? Is OP an AH?

Sources: Reddit
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