Need Immediate Help!

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-16-2003
Need Immediate Help!
4
Wed, 07-16-2003 - 11:37am
My 10 year old niece spent the night last night, and is asking me questions about sex and religion. I called her mom to see how she wanted me to handle the questions, and she told me to use my judgement. Not very helpful! Now, my niece was molested when she was four, but she doesn't remember any of it. So, her mom told her about it! Also, her mom was molested several times as a child, and even told my niece about that! I have answered her honestly, giving bits of info at a time, and letting her ask for more info if she seems to want more; but the questions and comments are completely blowing me away. My oldest is five and I am not prepared for this! She seems to have access to information that she is way too young for. One minute she amazes me with what she says and thinks of, then the next she is very immature and actually "baby talks." Is this normal for her age? She is very intelligent and articulate, but almost seems to have two personalities! How much information is appropriate at this age regarding sex and religion? She says things like "I don't know if I believe in Christianity, I'm not sure what I believe in yet," and that she is developing (is 10 early), and makes comments about her dad's "magazines." I can handle questions about periods and boys, but I don't know what to say when she brings up her mom's childhood. Should I approach her mom about it? I am glad my niece trusts me, and I want her to always be able to come to me if she feels she can't go to her mom, but I don't know what is appropriate or not. Thank you for any and all advice!
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-02-2003
Thu, 07-17-2003 - 5:42pm
I'm glad that you'll be hanging around. This can be such a difficult age without the added pressures from your niece's past. Once again, I have to say how wonderful I think it is that you're willing to be so much help to your niece who probably needs as much support as she can get right now.

When you talk to your sister, I would approach the discussion from the standpoint of the two of you teaming up to help your niece. I think that it would be important to stress that you aren't judging what's being said and done around her home; that your only concern is helping your niece and that you wanted to brainstorm about the ways this could be done.

Good luck!!

Best Always,

Sherrie

Sherrie Rainbow

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-16-2003
Thu, 07-17-2003 - 4:32pm
Well, it was a long 24 hours, that's for sure. What I came to realize through talking with my niece is that she repeats a lot of comments that she overhears from her parents which she shouldn't be hearing. When I asked her what Christianity is, she couldn't answer me, etc. I mentioned to my sister that she needs to be careful about what she says that can be over heard, but I am not sure she sees why this is such a big deal. I did talk to some people I know with 10-11 year olds, and none of their children are talking about sex and God in this context. I would not leave my neice alone with my daughter all day because I do not want her telling her anything. I truly feel that she needs continuing counseling regarding the sexual abuse in her past. Not that she remembers it, but she is obviously having a hard time processing the information my sister gave to her. My only delimma is how to slowly talk to my sister about this so I do not upset and alienate her. We were not raised together, and met about 10 years ago, while I was in college. Thank you for your support and advice. Even though my kids are younger, I think I'll hang around here a bit so I am aware of the issues my niece is facing.
Avatar for cl_janetlh
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2003
Thu, 07-17-2003 - 3:20pm
ITA with Sherrie's terrific post. Your sister obviously trusts you, and more importantly, your niece does. It's wonderful she feels she can come to you with these tough issues. Take it slowly and see where she leads you. Most importantly, let her know she can continue coming to you.

Welcome to our board. I'm glad you found us for your own issue, and I appreciate your thoughtful posts to others.

Janet

co-cl

Janet


Jewish Family Life

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-02-2003
Wed, 07-16-2003 - 1:31pm
How wonderful that your niece trusts you and I applaud your desire to be there for her, she's a lucky girl!!

In your shoes, I would definitely talk to her mother about how questions regarding mom's past should be dealt with - since that can be such a touchy area. As for the rest, if her mom trusts your judgement, perhaps you should too ;-).

From what you wrote, I think you're doing a wonderful job with her. Some children, by virtue of their life experiences, can be more mature than others in their age group at times. My son had some harrowing experiences before he came to us at 5½ - I'm amazed at his maturity and depth of understanding . . . sometimes. He seems to transform from talking and acting like a 21 year old to behaving more like his 2½ year old brother (yes, I'm exaggerating a bit, but not much). Your niece sounds similar to my son and probably for the same type of reason - she's been through a lot. So, in my opinion - based on my experiences with Sean- I'd say it *is* normal. Sean asks questions about religion that completely knock me over. He is exploring his feelings and we talk about it. As for sex, we started discussing sex in general terms when I was pregnant with Scott. It seemed like a natural opening to the discussion and we wanted to let Sean know that the curiosity, confusion etc were normal and that he could ask questions about it. Though, most of our more recent sex discussions have been correcting things he heard from playground 'experts'.

You asked 'How much is too much information?' I really don't know - I've always pretty much felt that it's only too much if the child isn't able to process it and make it make sense to themselves. My usual course of action is to lay out the basic information and then see where the questions lead us - much as you described in your handling of your niece's questions. By doing this, I think that we go where he wants us to go, and we don't go into things that he isn't ready for yet.

I wish you luck, she's dealing with some tough issues and she'll need wonderful support people like you in her life.

Best Always,

Sherrie

co-cl

Sherrie Rainbow