When this foster mom adopts three kids and has trouble with the 4 year old girl, she asks Reddit:
I recently got 3 foster kids F13 Diana, M9 Michael and F4 Emily. They are all siblings who were going to be separated so I got them to avoid that and I'm planning to adopt them because they are wonderful kids who I love very much.
Anyway the issue is with Emily. Emily is a very picky eater and if her food is not made in an specific way she will not eat it. For example her bread needs to be cut in a very specific way.
I have tried to cut it the way she wants but she never eats what I make because she says I'm doing it wrong. She will eat what Diana makes though eventhough I can swear Diana's bread and mine look exactly the same.
We have tried tricking her(me cutting the bread and pretending Diana cut it) but she can't be fooled. This is just one example, she is picky with so many more things.
Yesterday I had my friends over for dinner. I called Diana and asked her if she could please help me prepare Emily's food because Diana knows her best. She agreed and started helping me.
My friend asked me if Diana is always responsible with feeding Emily. I told her that yes Diana helps me with this a lot. She then called me an asshole and accused me of parentifying Diana saying it's my job to feed my kid not her job.
Am I really the asshole?
You're not helping either of them by continuing this. I get that it works and is easier, but it's not Diana's responsibility, and both girls need to learn that. This sounds like a topic that needs to be brought up in therapy (and if they're not on therapy, separately and all of you as a family, that's needed). Unintentionally, but yes, YTA.
NAH I get you are doing it to help Emily eat bit it isn't really Dianas responsibility. A 4 year old can definitely help prepare her own meals though. Would you consider getting cookie cutters with different shapes and having Emily cut her own sandwiches?
If you get metal ones tbey could be used fod other foods too (like shaping mashed potatoes fir example). Diana has probably been looking after her little siblings for a long time, she deserves to have some weight taken off her shoulders.
NAH.You're parenting children who have undoubtedly experienced a lot of trauma in their short lives, and you need to pick your battles.
Emily is trying to exert some control over her environment - everything has changed so much over her short life and she's not had any say in it. She may have experienced food insecurity, which might be part of it. She may also be looking to Diana as the only safe and consistent person she's always been around.
I would be trying to give Emily a bit of a sense of control over her environment, within a closed choice ("do you want peas or broccoli for dinner" - both of which are equally acceptable to you).
Sometimes even 4yos from completely stable backgrounds go through a phase of fussy eating.
Diana is old enough to be learning to cook, for her own independent living skills. It sounds like Diana is happy to do this, and so long as it's not getting in the way of her social or academic life, I don't think it's a big issue.
If this is the biggest issue in a household of three kids who have experienced trauma, then you are doing fantastically well OP.
I was parentified as a child. If you’d asked me about it at the time, I would have said it was fine/great, because I could not comprehend other options. If I didn’t take care of my little siblings, what would happen? They’d have to take care of themselves?!? They’re too little, that’s insane. (I was 9 with a toddler and an infant. I was also too little. No comprehension.)
So yes, check in with her directly about the food prep, and keep working on learning how to do it correctly or finding things that the little one will eat that you make. But also check in that she has enough time and space to do activities she wants to.
Is there a club or sport she wants to join but runs over dinner time so she dismissed it as a possibility? Does she go to friends houses for dinner ever? Is she able to do normal kid stuff for a 13 year old, and does she know that? (Even if it means she cuts up some bread ahead of time so she and Emily both have a safety net.)
Have you organized things so that helping with dinner is replacing other chores for her? It’s not inappropriate for a 13 year old to help with dinner regularly, it’s abnormal for a 13 year old to have to help with every meal, and you should be adjusting her other household participation accordingly.
She shouldn’t have to feed the baby every meal and do the dishes and vacuum the living room and and and. Think about what you would do with Emily if you didn’t have Diana to lean on. Do that for as many meals as you can.
I have ended up with trauma responses to preparing food, so please try to be careful with Diana, she’s in a tough spot. It’s a good thing my husband likes cooking.
It is not the 13 year olds responsibility to accomodate what is likely a trauma related behaviour in her younger sister.
It seems like a small thing - but what it really means is that you’ve thoughtlessly taken the way that’s easiest for you rather than the way that’s fairest on all three children.
You are as responsible for the eldests wellbeing as the youngest. As a former parentified older sibling, I cannot stress enough how much this will shape Diana.
For example: as the parentified older child I am overly wary, always looking out for everyone, I default to parent mode, even when it is not needed. I put others before myself to the detriment of myself. It is difficult to identify and care for my own needs because I’ve always been busy taking care of others.
Caring for my siblings as a young teen has changed the course of my life and it is really evident when you look at my siblings versus me. My siblings are doing ok because they had me as a parent.
It’s taken till my 30s for me to be even close to ok. I’m still trying to find my identity outside of being the parentified older child - feeling like you only exist when needed is a trip, and when the young ones no longer need you to survive, your left feeling useless and untethered.
You would be the arsehole if you continue this approach. Emily needs a trauma informed pediatric psychologist to work on her issues - coz I can guarantee it’s not just about the food.
You plan to adopt these children, which means you need to build healthy attachments with them. Your current arrangement does not do that. Please seek help.
NTA. Your friend is being ridiculous and some of these comments are so over the top. Traumatised children behave in ways others don't understand. Parenting traumatised children looks different to other families.
This is something those who don't foster/adopt don't understand. If these children have been in multiple homes, Emily IS little, she doesn't understand fully why they keep moving. Diana has probably made her good in a lot of the homes. It's a comfort to her and makes her feel safe.
Over time as she comes to feel more secure at home, have her and Diana teach you how to make it. Get Emily involved in making it with you. Practice by making the food with play food/playdough first to make it fun and sensory for her.
It sounds like you're putting what the children need first. As long as Diana is happy to help, there's no issue. We foster and our teenager helps make meals with me.
Cooking together can be bonding time and a time where you and Diana chat about her. If it's routine, it's easy to build in discussions all about her and her day/activities/ feelings.
There are some bizarre takes on here today and I’m really questioning if some of these people have ever met a 13yo or a child who has gone through foster care at a young age.
You’re so very obviously NTA. But also your friend is wrong. Having a 13yo assemble a plate for themselves or another family member is not parentification…it’s completely normal. Honestly most kids that age are fully capable of making meals from scratch albeit maybe simple meals!
But the actual issue here is Emily’s comfort. Nobody goes into foster care without there being a traumatic experience at the start of it whether that’s the death of a guardian, neglect, abuse etc. So obviously they’re all going to cling to the familiar, especially the toddler!! Especially when they not so long ago were facing the threat of separation!
We also don’t know from this post whether they faced food scarcity before they came to your home. If they were in a home maybe other kids messed with their food? Is she ND and facing sensitivities? Food is a sensitive subject all around and there are so many things that can be triggered by something seemingly simple.
Should this continue indefinitely? No. But right now Diana is Emily’s safe person. She knows the food she gives her is safe. You aren’t putting the burden of parenting on Diana by having her put together a plate to make sure her sister doesn’t starve. You can work on improving in the future at a pace that works for all of you, but right now you’ve done nothing wrong.
If this is also the only "parental" thing she's doing, I wouldn't worry too much. ABSOLUTELY, ask Diana how she's about it first before moving forward.
This is definitely something that should be brought up to Emily's therapist so she can work through it before it escalates to worse eating issues.
One of my siblings struggles with addiction and their kids (young teen, elementary aged, and a baby) were placed in foster care. I unfortunately couldn't take them in but siblings ex's niece took them in.
At first I was really proud of the girl, it was a sweet thing she did and she had just had a baby her own. Found out she had been using my nephew (young teen) to take care of the two babies and little one in elementary school.
We had to convince my nephew that it wasn't ok and to start screenshotting her messages and send them asap so we could get them moved.
However, the ex's niece used snapchat to send those messages so she knew when my nephew took the screenshots and tried to cause problems. Fortunately, we were able to get them in better placements.
It sucked by they had to separate him from his younger siblings briefly. Family's all back together now, though. Sibling is doing great and had moved back closer so that family can be more helpful and they don't feel like they're struggling as hard.
PS for anyone struggling with addiction, you can do it! You're not a lost cause! You do deserve redemption! It doesn't matter how bad your path is, I promise you deserve to find a life in recovery.
The most heartbreaking thing I ever heard was listening to my cousin and sibling talk about themselves like they were scum because they did shit they were less than proud of in the name of their addiction. Guilt and shame are normal parts of life but I promise that the pride in sobriety is like a growing flame.