I have a nephew who will be turning 2 years old in one month. His family situation is not the greatest. His father (my husbands brother) and mother have a make up break up relationship and he is always moving back and forth between his dads house and his mom’s house depending on whether or not they are “together” at the time. Mom is diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder. She has frequent panic attacks and often in front of the baby. There have been a few incidences where the police have had to be called when she was in the middle of a panic attack, and the poor baby has witnessed it all. She has been very detached from him since birth and I rarely ever see her interact with him in a positive way. I feel bad for him, because I feel like all he ever sees and hears are his parents fighting. My husband and I end up watching him quite frequently so that mommy and daddy can fight, and then make up and go out and party. Just this past week, my nephew has started calling me mom. I don’t know how to react to this. I tried telling him, “no, im auntie” but when I do that, he turns it into a game where I say “auntie” and he yells back “mom!” I have tried ignoring him until he calls me the right name, but that just makes him cry and call me “mom” even more. I don’t know how to handle this situation. I feel like if I respond to him, I am reinforcing that name to him, but if I ignore it, I feel like I am treating him like his real mom does and I don’t want to do that either. He has become quite clingy with me in the last week. When he is at our house, he follows me everywhere. To the bathroom even. When I cook he has to be hanging on to my leg in the kitchen, and I am the only one who he lets put him down to sleep. When he is tired or upset or hurt, he comes to me, not his father, even though his dad is staying with us, and is always around. I love my nephew and want what is best for him. I have worked with kids in the DCFS system and I know what happens to kids who don’t get enough love and support at home. I want to nurture him and give him all that he needs, but I don’t want to confuse him any more than he already seems to be. How do I handle this impossible situation?
Any advice you could shed would be greatly appreciated. Also, it may be important to note that his mother and I do not have a good relationship. She refuses to have anything to do with me, so talking to her is probably out of the question.
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