Dear Savvy Auntie,

When I was 15, my sister met Eric, my oldest nephew's dad and my nephew A was born soon after. They visited us when A was around 6 months old. I later found out that my sister and her now ex-husband were getting divorced and I didn't see my nephew again until he was around a year and a half.

I saw him again in 2008 on a trip to their state just before his half sister, H, was born. Since then, I've Skyped A and even called him a handful of times but that all stopped when I found out that my sister was pregnant for a third time with my second nephew who’s a year old now and currently resides in a foster/adopt home. I haven't seen him in person since I saw him in the NICU the day he was born and that keeps reminding me of my situation with A as far as not seeing him.

My sister is no longer able to care for her kids at the moment. Her youngest will be adopted out soon, H has been with my mom, the other grandma's, and my care since she was 4-6 weeks old. A, now 7, lives with his dad, in another state.

It's made it really hard to want to stay in contact with my A even more than it was before J, my 2nd nephew, was born. And now I could possibly have a chance at seeing A after contacting him or his dad. I don't want to not see A and hurt him but I also don't want to see him just because I don't know if I'm emotionally ready to see him given what I've gone through with J, dealing with CPS, my mom's problems, and my sister's problems as well.

I'm in a win/lose situation. I miss A and J so much. Not seeing A would kill me inside but then seeing him knowing that I most likely wouldn't be calling him anytime soon resulting in him being hurt would kill me inside too. I've always thought about the kids needs over my own. I can't think of a solution that wouldn't hurt him and I both.

Conflicted Auntie

Dear Conflicted Auntie,

It sounds like your sister needs a great deal of help and is unable to put her children’s best interests above her own; how painful for you and your family!

Since this is the situation, you may be the sturdy, reliable, and responsible person in your nephew’s life. I strongly advise you to try to see your nephew as it just may change your ability to stay in contact with him after you leave via phone,, and letters. Perhaps you can establish a special connection with him...silly nicknames, favorite foods, even a TV show.

These are just examples of how to make and keep the contact. As he gets older it will be easier and easier.

If I am proven wrong and your suspicion that it will be more difficult for him comes to pass, at least you can feel good that you tried. I believe it is better to err on the side of contacts, communications, visits, and warmth; as children absorb this and then have an inner “file cabinet” where they can access healthy loving emotions.
I wish you the best,

Natalie Robinson Garfield

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