Take the 2-minute tour ×
Parenting Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for parents, grandparents, nannies and others with a parenting role. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Very soon my mother's brother will be released from prison. He is a pedophile. He was caught, plead guilty, etc etc...he is not someone I'd want around any child, certainly not my own.

My mother, for reasons that make NO sense to me whatsoever, refuses to acknowledge his wrongdoing, nor the danger he poses to the public and my family. Pre-trial, she initially hid the reason for his legal trouble to me (I ended up finding out via local news) and we ended up not speaking for two years because even after I insisted he not have any contact with my children (he moved in with her during the trial/sentencing which meant they couldn't go to her house,) she would bring him with her to my house, or, she would take them home with her when they were supposed to be out shopping/etc. I ended up having to cut off all contact with her since she couldn't be trusted. Then, my oldest was in pre-school and although he missed his Nana, he has young enough where he was easily distracted. I should add that my oldest is VERY close to my mother.

Now, with his impending release, I am concerned that it will go very much like it did before...I know via family members that she is making plans to have him move into the cottage next door to hers (which is too close for comfort, in my opinion). I anticipate that she will ignore my requests to prohibit my children's contact with him, and that I will have to a) explain to my oldest son, and perhaps my middle child, why my uncle is not welcome (at the least) and dangerous, and b) why Nana is not welcome either.

Also, how do I explain the danger of my uncle, without getting into gory details, so that he understands WHY all this is (potentially) happening.

I am planning for the worst while hoping for the best. I appreciate any advice folks may have for us.

(I have read the questions relating to "Stranger Danger" on this site already; I am more specifically focused on the impact of estrangement from family members on a child.)

Additional info (added for clarity): my uncle then and now sees no deviance in his behavior. He plead guilty, but, from letters I've received from him since he was imprisoned where he defended his "preferences and tendencies" as "natural" and "unavoidable" and "merely taboo", I am not convinced he feels any actual guilt. This leads me to believe he has zero intention of avoiding said "tendencies." He is obviously ill.

My mother (pre-trial) lost her ability to see my kids at all only after incremental losses over the course of a year. I made the conditions perfectly clear and she blatantly ignored them. I just couldn't convince her that ultimately they are my kids, and my husband and I are the ones who have the final say in regards to who they see and where they go. It concerned both of us that she was so determined to be right that she was willing to risk her grandchildren's safety. She was also willing to destroy my marriage in the process, as this whole thing was obviously a strain between my husband and I, and she would lie and tell him I "said ____ was ok" when in fact I had not.

share|improve this question
11  
(This should be obvious, but...) Thank you for sticking up for the health and safety of your kids to everyone, up to and including your parents. Not every parent does this, so mega props to you & yours. Never EVER doubt yourself on this, and who you choose to allow your children to spend time with. (Not that you're doubting now, but I want to make sure you know that you're 100% on the right path here and you rock.) –  Valkyrie Apr 18 at 10:14
6  
@Valkyrie thank you for your support, and no it isn't obvious to everyone. I get a lot of criticism for choosing my kids over my mother. Everyone has something to say about how awful it is for her and the kids, but, how much worse would everything be if something were to happen? Then I'd be the bad mother who let my kids hang around with a predator. There are some things that even family don't get a free pass for. –  Jax Apr 18 at 12:06
3  
@Doc his interest is in both boys and girls, (perhaps girls slightly more), particularly at the age of the cusp of puberty (which my oldest is approaching). He likes to watch, and teach, children to have sex and masturbate. I have three boys, ages 9, 4, and 2. No child is safe with him, at any age, of any gender. He is exactly the person that comes to mind when you think "predator." It boggles my mind how it is that he is being released; it's a vivid reminder of how ill-equipped out current system is for handling these types of offenders. –  Jax Apr 18 at 14:13
3  
As part of his release he IS supposed to stay away from kids. The problem is, my mother and he feel as though there's always an exception for family-in this and every instance. Even my mom's sisters, except for one (the one that is my kids' nanny thank goodness), feel this way. I've explained to them all that it's in his best interest to stay away from kids, so he won't go back to jail. I have already turned over copies of the letters to the parole board-it prevented his release twice already. –  Jax Apr 19 at 12:32
6  
You could try filing a Restraining Order to keep him away from you and your family. At least this will carry definite legal repercussions should he even come close to the children, much less actually interact with them. –  Doc Apr 20 at 5:09

7 Answers 7

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I would provide much less information to your children than you have listed here. It would go something like this.

  • Uncle Joe has a problem in his head and he hurts people on purpose. Not just people, but children like you.
  • I won't allow him near you in case he decides to hurt you. (Optionally: it's a very small chance, but even a small chance is too much.) I will protect you from him.
  • Nana loves Uncle Joe so much, and wants him to be happy, so much that she will break my rules for him. If I leave you with Nana, she might let Uncle Joe near you.

Until Nana agrees to help me protect you from Uncle Joe, I can't leave you at her house or let her take you places. It's really sad; I'm sad about it and I want you to have Nana time. I'm telling you about Uncle Joe so you understand I'm not being mean, and I'm not mad at Nana.

share|improve this answer
    
Good outline of an example conversation. Appropriate balance. Wish I'd had more time to include something like it. It expresses proper concerns toward the correct targets. –  user2338816 Apr 19 at 5:05
1  
@Chrys after much consideration of all the answers here I have accepted yours bc it's simple. This issue is so complicated for everyone involved. I'd rather say less and let them ask questions than overwhelm and confuse them with a lecture. –  Jax Dec 9 at 3:41
    
And, I'll probably not say that I'm not mad at Nana (because I am mad that my own mother is an idiot)- because that would be a lie. That'll be a conversation I'll have with my boys when they're much older. –  Jax Dec 9 at 3:44
    
@jax good point, more like "it's not just because I'm mad at Nana for the usual kinds of things people get mad about and then use their kids as pawns." Eg where Xmas dinner is or who got invited to a wedding. But doubtless you are mad at Nana for her lack of judgement and inability to see your children deserve protection. I hope this gets better for you. –  Chrys Dec 9 at 14:07

To me, the most complicated part of this is explaining a) why you don't want to forgive, or trust (or both) your uncle, and b) why you don't trust your mother's judgement on the matter enough to allow her to see your son. (Not that I'm questioning either element - you know the situation - but explaining the above to your child.) Presumably your child has an understanding of wrongdoing, and an understanding of forgiveness; but he doesn't have necessarily the tools to comprehend why you might not trust someone even if you did forgive them. He also doesn't necessarily have the ability to understand why you and your mother (his Nana) might have cause to disagree so fundamentally as to not see each other - particularly as he may 'trust' her as much as he trusts you (I suspect my oldest trusts his grandmother more than us, and I don't doubt we'll have hopefully-much-smaller versions of this issue as he ages.)

On the first part, I would be as frank as possible. Explain that your uncle did something wrong, that hurt some children, and that you want to make sure your son isn't hurt, so he's not allowed to see his uncle or be around him. If he asks what, tell him in as much detail as you're comfortable giving. Kids are smart, and more detail is usually better - if they see you're holding out, they'll wonder more and be more curious. Invite him to ask you any questions he has on the subject, but make it clear that it is not safe for him to be around your uncle, no matter what, and that if Nana does bring your uncle over, he should tell you right away the next time he can (but nothing beyond that, don't put him in a position of choosing between you and her).

On the second part - there's no good way to deal with it. You can explain to him that your mother isn't sticking to her word with you, and that because of that, you can't allow her to see him. This won't fix everything, and won't make him happy, but that's life - unfair and frustrating to most of us. There's no truly good way to resolve something like this.

If you can, consider allowing your mother to remain in his life, but only in highly controlled circumstances. She can come over while you're around (but has no key), and she can come to events or outings, as long as her brother isn't there - and if he is, the understanding is that you will leave immediately. No one-on-one outings, no going over to her house, no her coming over to yours. She's already broken your trust on this once; don't let it get to the point of not talking to her again if you can avoid it. Make sure she has a clear understanding of the rules, and also that she may not try to convince your son that you're wrong in this, or you will have to reduce her participation further.

share|improve this answer
1  
I read your answer and I added some information that I feel is necessary to know. When you are in a situation it is easy to overlook the details that are obvious to you...I appreciate your pointing out how trust and forgiveness are hard for children to separate. –  Jax Apr 17 at 22:59
    
+1 for a very thorough answer –  Valkyrie Apr 18 at 10:08
    
I wouldn't allow her mother near her children again. She supports abusers and so she is a menace to children. –  Cosmin Apr 22 at 11:32

What a horrible dilemma!

As I see it, your problem comprises three distinct elements:

  • Your mother has little or no sense of what reasonable boundaries consist of. She also lies when it suits her purposes, and for some reason has prioritized her relationship with her son over the safety of her grandchildren

  • Your uncle has even less sense of boundaries than your mother, and there is a strong risk that he will attempt to prey on your children if he ever gets the chance

  • At least one of your children wants a relationship with their grandmother, and vice versa (and therein lies the complication)

The welfare and safety of your children must clearly come first, as you yourself have been at pains to emphasize. So any family visitations must a) completely exclude your uncle; b) even when these only involve your mother, must be fully supervised; c) cannot be allowed to take place at her house while your uncle is living next door or somewhere else close by; and d) will have to be terminated forthwith if your mother ever invites your uncle to be present, or brings him along.

I think the course you have been following sounds very reasonable and appropriate for the circumstances. It's a great shame that your mother's fecklessness has made her part of the problem surrounding your uncle rather than part of the solution; but your description of every aspect of her handling of the situation makes it obvious that she cannot be made to see your point of view or be trusted to behave responsibly without close supervision.

Because your eldest child is the one who is keenest to spend time with his grandmother, he is also the one who will need to be given the most detailed reason for not being able to see her as much as he would like. Maybe one way to explain it to him is to compare his grandmother's behaviour with that of some naughty and disobedient child he knows who keeps getting into trouble even after her parents have asked her to behave herself. At the same time, you could compare your uncle to a bully who likes to physically hurt people and who for that reason must be kept away from him and your other children -- the same reason that he was put in prison. Then leave it to your son to ask for more details if he still feels he needs them. And I would definitely avoid debating any of this with your mother in front of the children, in order to minimize the risk of it causing them to feel that they are being forced to choose between you and her.

However, before you get to the stage of discussing the situation with your son, you might consider asking the school psychologist (or other professional with pastoral responsibilities for the children attending your son's school) what they think would be the best way to explain the reason for your uncle's exclusion from the life of your family. That will have the additional benefit of making your son's school aware of a potential problem in the event that (for instance) your uncle turns up at the school one day on the pretext of giving your son a ride home.

Finally, pay no attention to the criticisms you are getting from your mom's sisters or others about the restrictions on your children's interactions with their grandmother. They're not the ones who have to take the responsibility for your children's welfare. If, given the circumstances you have outlined, your mom's sisters are unable to understand and accept your perspective on the safety of your children, then I'd also question their fitness to be around your kids without supervision.

share|improve this answer

Please forgive my posting anonymously, but I think I might be in a unique position to answer this.

Without going into too many gory details about my family history, my mother found out she was married to A Very Bad Man and, immediately, left him, taking my sister, her three-year-old daughter, with her. I was born later, in her second marriage, and growing up I was always aware that my sister had a different father and We Didn't Talk To Him. I didn't know why, just that he wasn't very nice, and my mother didn't want my sister or I near him. He would try to make contact now and then, send my sister birthday cards, but it wasn't until we were both a bit older that I remember my mother sitting me down to talk about what had happened.

At this point, my sister must have been around fifteen and I was ten or so. My sister's aunts, whose house we visited fairly regularly, were having my sister's father around, and he wanted to see her; she wanted to see him too, and while I couldn't say exactly what my mother's feeling on it was (at a guess: no, no, God no), I believe she decided it was safer to allow a controlled visit - even one she couldn't be a part of, stuck at work - than say no and risk my sister running off to meet him alone. She decided to send us both to dinner, knowing we'd look out for each other, and that her ex-husband's sisters, who she still knew well and trusted, would always be in the room with us. But she wanted to make sure I wasn't going to blithely wander off with her ex-husband, and she decided to tell me everything a day or so before we went.

I don't remember exactly what she said - which might stand as proof that this won't scar your children forever - but she told me that she left her ex-husband after he'd been found in the woods with an underage girl. She told me she had worried that he would do something to my sister, then, and while my sister's aunts were good people I could trust, she didn't want me to be alone with her ex-husband in case he did anything to me. I should tell someone straight away if he did anything that made me uncomfortable, and my sister and I were to watch one another and take care of one another.

She let me ask lots of questions and, believe me, I did. I can't remember quite what my mother said to me when I asked why my sister's aunts still wanted to be around their brother after what he'd done. I think it might have been along the lines of, 'Because they're still family and even though he's done bad things, they still care about him.' I remember having a hard time wrapping my head around that; I saw things quite black-and-white-ly, people were good or bad, and you didn't like the bad ones.

I also remember being scared during that dinner. I'd never been in a situation where I couldn't trust an adult before, and as a thoroughly melodramatic child, it surprised me. I made sure to sit as far away from my mother's ex as I could, I watched him like a hawk when he talked to my sister, and when he turned to me, smiled, and asked if I wanted a glass of wine - an act which, as an adult now, I think was him awkwardly trying to endear himself as 'the cool guy' but which then set off a 'stranger danger' alarm in my head that had me shrieking no and immediately telling my sister's aunt about it - I panicked. But nothing happened. I began to take cues from my sister, her aunts, their children, and while I didn't relax, it certainly never became a big, traumatic experience in my life.

I don't believe my sister nor I would have been in danger from him, but I do think my mother's decision to tell me - with far more honesty than she ever had (or, in fact, ever did after) talked to me about sex - was the right one to make. She answered my questions and while it did put me on edge for that evening, the fact she didn't act frightened meant I didn't have to be frightened, or untrusting of my sister's aunts. She just told me the facts, and told me why she was telling me them; she told me she didn't think I was in danger but it was important that I knew. She told me to not get into any situation where I was alone with him.

I think that's the best way to handle things in such a horrible position as yours: be honest. Don't be afraid to talk about the details, but don't fearmonger because it will only be confusing if one trusted adult says something another trusted adult can disprove. I think sheer politeness stopped me from saying anything out-and-out to my sister's aunts, but when I burst into the kitchen and, very pointedly, cried, 'He tried to give me wine,' I'm certain we all knew the subtext. I said I wasn't comfortable with it, and most likely mumbled something along the lines of, 'mum said, about the woods', and they 'yes well'd that, and bustled off abashedly to tell him off for offering underage children alcohol, and they didn't try to assure me he was a good guy, really. I'm quite sure if I'd said, 'My mum told me he's an abominable monster who will leap on me as soon as a grown-up's back is turned,' however, they would have jumped to his defence.

I think you're absolutely making the right decision in telling your children. I think putting trust in each of them to watch out for the other would also be a good idea, as my mother did with my sister and I. As well as adding to my highly dramatic version of events, it made me feel responsible - so I was more aware - but also looked after. My big sister had been told to look out for me, and she was soooo going to get told off if I got kidnapped or murdered.

I'm so sorry that you've been put in such a horrendous position, especially with your mother betraying your trust, but please believe children can understand something like this, and if you trust them with the knowledge, you'll keep them safe.

I wish you all the luck in the world. I know family issues are far easier talked about than dealt with, and I can only imagine how hard this must be on you right now. It won't be an easy conversation, but the best advice I can give you is to let it be a conversation: let them ask all the questions that spring to mind, and let them know they can keep talking to you about it. Ask them to tell you if their grandmother or uncle try to talk to them when you're not there, and make sure they know they're never going to be in trouble for something their grandmother or uncle does - that you'd rather know, and not to keep any secrets.

share|improve this answer
    
Thank you for being so honest and telling your story. –  ChristopherW Apr 22 at 3:31

The clear answer is illness. Even a 9 yr old understands sickness. This sickness is one that can cause harm to others because ability for self-control is damaged. Until the illness can be cured, it's simply too dangerous for the person to be around.

The idea of illness in others can be very important in these circumstances. It's especially important as something a child can understand and accept while simultaneously avoiding giving any indication that the child has done anything wrong.

share|improve this answer

Some very good answers here, but I thought I had some value to add. My ex-wife's father was a serial molester and we took great care that he never interacted with our daughter.

  1. Before talking to the kids, explain very clearly the situation to all adults involved. Make a policy and write it down. (Understand the legal rules as well, and incorporate those.) Make sure you and your spouse are bought into the rules. Explain the rules to your mother, sisters, Uncle Joe, school, day care, and possibly Uncle Joe's parole officer, court officer to get a restraining order, etc. It doesn't have to be complicated, just something like (I'm just making up some facts for sake of an example):

    Uncle Joe is a convicted pedophile and his writings show he believes that behavior is still OK and justified and is unlikely to stop engaging in it. The terms of his release indicate that he is not to interact with children or go near schools or [whatever].

    Uncle Joe is not allowed to be near or interact with our children in any way, regardless of what other family members are with him. Contact or communication of our children with Uncle Joe is not to be allowed by anyone. You are not to discuss Uncle Joe or the situation with our children. If you become aware of any attempt by Uncle Joe to contact our children, you must report it to us immediately.

    Any breach of these rules will result in us reporting the incident and all participants to [Joe's parole officer, the cops, CPS, whatever's appropriate in your locality and situation] and force us to not allow our children to be in your care. We love and value all our family members but the safety of our children is our highest responsibility.

  2. Then explain to the kids along @Chrys' lines that

    Uncle Joe is sick in the head and sometimes hurts children. He went to jail for a while but isn't better yet, and still might hurt kids. He's coming back to live near Nana.

    The law, and Mommy and Daddy, want to keep you safe, and we say that he can't see you or talk to you, even with Nana or anyone else. You need to tell us if you ever see Uncle Joe, if he calls or writes or texts or emails you, or if anyone else talks to you about him. (Or other kid-simplified version of the policy in #1). You won't get in trouble, but if he's talking to you he's doing something wrong and we need you to tell us.

    Nana loves Uncle Joe and wants to try to help him, but she doesn't understand the rules and might let Uncle Joe see you, so we can't let you go with her right now. She will still come over here and visit you. (Hopefully you can get her to agree to that).

  3. Then enlist your oldest's help. Talk to him separately, say "I need you to help watch after your brothers and sisters on this." Nine is just on the cusp of likely to understand more of what's going on - all eleven year olds nowadays totally know what a child molester is, believe me - he may or may not, but don't assume he doesn't. Answer more of his questions with more depth than the young ones. (Edit: Upon quizzing my 11 year old, she assures me that "mature fourth graders, most fifth graders and all sixth graders know about that stuff.")
  4. Observe and enforce. Your sisters might be giving you lip now, but the ramifications of getting CPS etc. up in their business because they let a pedophile visit some kids should keep them straight. Your mom seems to be a little unclear on the concept; it's not impossible she's a little off center herself. But if you are strict, and explain "you are all about Uncle Joe, so look at it this way - if he talks to our kids he's going back to jail for a parole violation, so do yourself a favor and just quit it." Don't "progressively" do things - that hasn't worked, you need a hard line and you need to exercise all recourses every single time the rules are violated. Check in with the kids from time to time - more with the nine year old, but every once in a while with the rest of them. In a happy, peaceful setting, ask "hey, I just wanted to make sure you're staying safe, has anyone had any problems with Uncle Joe trying to talk to them?" Don't make a big deal about it, you don't want them to start obsessing or getting night terrors over the whole thing, but do check - it also gives them an opportunity to ask more questions. "Explaining" isn't a one time thing with kids, it's a process, especially as they mature, cross-talk with one another, overhear things, etc.
share|improve this answer

Honestly, get a restraining order using the letters that covers both your own house and your mother's. These letters demonstrate risk and possibly intent, and he should be (for his own sake as well as the safety of your children) restrained from being within (say):

  • 500m of the children's usual residence
  • 500m of the children's school(s)
  • 500m of the location of any regularly scheduled activities of your children (e.g. swimming pool, gym etc)
  • 500m of the children's grandmother's house, unless within the boundaries of his own residence.
  • 500m of your children in any other location.

I would aim to serve this on him before he is released, in order to prevent him living next to your mother's house. There should be established patterns of behaviour before visiting any location your children might be at (for instance, phone and confirm that your children are not visiting on the same day). Any and all breaches should be immediately reported to the police, however minor or accidental they might seem.

If this doesn't break privacy laws in your abode, you might talk to the owner of the cottage next to your mother about who the tenant would be on the cottage - it'd be easy for the landlord to cancel any agreement on the basis of him being an unsuitable person for tenancy given the frequent proximity of vulnerable children.

share|improve this answer
3  
This all seems like good advice, but the question is about how the situation should be explained to the children, which your answer doesn't address. Could you please update your answer to include information relevant to communicating with the children, since that is the primary focus? –  Beofett Apr 21 at 15:43

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.