First know that this is normal. Your child’s behavior is an indication that a need is not being met. Trust your gut and it will tell you what it is. Any child needs reassurance during this phase so ask yourself, “How can I best reassure my child?”
Your usual way of reassuring her may have lost its effectiveness. Only you know her best – her personality, her temperament. Look for clues that tell you what will work best to nourish her soul and help her feel most secure in your love right now.
In an attempt to turn things around for the better, here are some things to consider. She may need:
- Extra attention – Any child will thrive on this but some children need to have it pointed out that this is special ‘mommy & me’ or ‘daddy & me’ time. Start naming the special times you share together as such and make a concerted effort to focus all of your energy into tuning-in and making the best connection you can. You will know when you are on the same frequency getting great reception both ways. Just ten minutes of concentrated and undivided attention can go a long way.
- Acknowledgement and validation of feelings – Giving your child permission to voice her feelings, however negative they may be, will go a long way in easing whatever jealousy might be brewing. This is a great time to help her acquire a feelings vocabulary that extends beyond, happy, sad and mad. Introducing other feelings and labeling them will help her to understand her own feelings better and get more comfortable with them. Remember to encourage drawing and other forms of artistic expression – this usually works well with young children. After completing her work of art ask her to tell you a story about it.
- Specific information about what is happening – Some children are very practical and they function best when they know exactly what is going to happen. Find out what her questions are or guess what they might be and give her specific and factual answers that respond to her curiosity or fears without adding too many unnecessary details.
- A description of his role – Young children are very perceptive and he knows that things will be changing soon but he may be unclear as to how it will affect him. Without being able to put it into words, he may be wondering how he will fit into all of this. What role do you see him playing? – The role of active big brother, directly involved in the care of his sibling? The role of Mommy’s helper – indirectly helping by being your assistant? Or the role of Daddy’s helper – spending more time with dad as a way to balance lost time with mommy especially in the first weeks? Any or a combination of these should be considered. What role do you see your older child most comfortable in?
- An invitation to become involved in the preparation – Making her feel useful may also help to minimize any territorial attitude she may be developing. Children love to be engaged, it makes them feel important. Just make sure she is able to achieve success in whatever you ask her to do. Pay attention to cues that she may not be invested in getting involved and honor that by asking what she would like to do instead. Forcing the issue will never work in getting her to the place you would like her to be.
The key to all of this is tuning in to your child and paying attention to what works instead of what doesn’t work. You will know it when you hit the jackpot but this may fluctuate on a daily basis so don’t give up too easily. What you focus on grows, so make it positive. Trust what your inner voice is telling you and hang in there.