Anytime that a new person is brought into the family, it is going to affect all of the relationships that currently exist.
One of the relationships that is the most affected by the addition of a relative child is the one that you have with your spouse or significant other. When a child becomes the main focus in the family, the couple’s bond can be diminished. Date nights, alone time, and romance take a back seat to immediate needs. There is personal value in spending one-on-one time with your partner, and your positive relationship will be beneficial for the child. If getting away is difficult, please visit our page on personal care to learn more about respite programs or other methods of self-care.
Relationships can change between you and other extended members of the family. If a particularly traumatic event, like a loss or incarceration, is the reason you have become the primary caregiver of the child, then family members may be at different phases of the grief, understanding, or loss process. Sometimes family members feel resentful that you are now the primary caregiver of the child. Whatever the situation is that you find yourself in, it is typically in the best interest of you and your relative child to have a positive relationship with other members of the family. Your family members can be there for support, assistance, and can act as positive role models for the child. Adult family members who are resistant to your requests for support may be more receptive if you show them how being involved will be a positive thing for the child.
Kinship Caregivers also need to manage the relationship that they have with the parent of the child they are caring for, whether that be their biological child, sibling, or other relative. In some cases, the decision for the child to come with a relative is mutual, and the parents work collaboratively with the caregiver. In other situations, the parent did not agree to the child being placed with you, and may resent you for acting as the parent to their child. When appropriate, children often benefit from maintaining a bonded relationship with their biological parents. If there is involvement with the court or if the child is in foster care, then you may have a parenting time order or visitation plan that will assist you in arranging time for the child to see his or her parent(s).
The child that you are caring for is going to be working on his or her own relationship with his or her parents, assuming they have not passed away. Because of this, it is important not to disparage the biological parent(s) in front of the child. For the most part, the child does not benefit when they see you fight with or talk down about his or her biological parent. Ideally, the child will be able to form an appropriate understand of who his or her parent(s) are, and develop or maintain a relationship with them that is positive.
While we have already addressed many relationships that change within the family, relationships can also change outside the family when you care for a relative child. Many kinship caregivers have said that their friendships change because of their new responsibilities. An individual or couple should not have to give up their friendships to care for a loved one. Ideally, a caregiver can help their friends understand how their lives have changed, but stress to them how they still want to be a part of the friend’s life. Some friends can even become huge resources and knowledge bases. A kinship caregiver needs to make sure that they take time to maintain adult relationships that are important to them. More information on maintaining self-care can be found on our Personal Care page.