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Dr. L
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1166
Experience:  Licensed as psychologist and marriage and family therapist
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How do you handle the ambivalence a 5-year old boy is feeling

Resolved Question:

How do you handle the ambivalence a 5-year old boy is feeling toward his new baby sister? He has verbalized that he thinks sometimes about hurting her and " doesn't want to have those thoughts because he hoves her."
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Dr. L replied 2 years ago.

Dr. L :

Hello,


 

Dr. L :

I would like to help you with your question.


 

Dr. L :

My heart sunk when I read your question. How sad that he feels the impulse to hurt her...but yet feels love for her.


 

Dr. L :

I can understand why you would want to better understand what he is thinking and feeling and also want to help him with this.


 

Dr. L :

What impresses me here is that he was able to voice his thoughts and feelings to his mother. That is a very healthy sign. In my experience, this type of conflict is quite normal for youngsters. Still, it needs to be talked about so that the child is validated and reassured that he is not having "bad" thoughts and so that he does not become fearful that he will do something bad.


 

Dr. L :

Your grandson needs to be thanked and praised for sharing his feelings with his mom. And..at the same time...reassured that changes in family life can be upsetting or hard to handle. Mom should ask him what he thinks and feels about having a person in the house. Is he upset by the baby crying? (that can be hard on everyone) Does he feel worried that mom or dad won't love him as much? Because of his age, I would not make this a long discussion...but rather mom or dad or you could have short chats with him about this.


 

Dr. L :

Certainly, he knows that loving his sister is expected of him. And he hears mom, dad, you, and other family members talk about their feelings of love for her. All this "love" talk is normal and natural...but it can also make him question how people feel about him and if there is enough love to go around.


 

Dr. L :

Giving him some special attention can be beneficial in this regard.


 

Dr. L :

I am imagining that he is involved in her life. At 5, he can feed her a bottle, read her stories, talk to her, hold her, push her in a stroller, entertain her in her car seat..that sort of thing. In addition to praising him for being a good big brother, it will be beneficial to remind him about his own infancy and replay some of the humorous and engaging moments in his own life. By talking about his own development, he will get a greater sense of how his baby sister will grow and how amazing it will be for him to be part of that.


 

Dr. L :

I see you are typing. I will wait for your response.


 

Customer:

Thank you so much. This is the first time visiting this web site. I am a retired elementary school counselor but when it comes to my own grandchildren, I don't like to assume the role! I especially liked the first line of your response. Sorry..I thought you were finished!

Dr. L :

We can chat as long as you need to.


 

Dr. L :

Yes...isn't it the truth....we have the skills and knowledge...but when it comes to our own family we aren't as confident of our skills! And..sometimes...we really need validation that we are correct in our thinking.


 

Dr. L :

I would have been frightened had I gotten that call from my daughter-in-law...it's heartbreaking to think that this little guy feels torn.


 

Dr. L :

Yet...it really is normal given the fact that he's used to the attention and focus he has gotten up until this point.


 

Dr. L :

I think that many kids struggle with trying to understand love...and feel a sense of jealousy when they see mom, dad, and others all giddy and excited about a baby.


 

Customer:

I think my daughter-in-law is concerned because they did not experience this when his 3-year old sister was born.

Dr. L :

The thing is that he was 2 at the time...and had less experience with love. Now that he is older...he is a bit wiser about family dynamics and likely understands that this life is going to change.


 

Dr. L :

If he had harbored some desire for a baby brother...that might be in play as well.


 

Customer:

As a matter of fact, he did!

Dr. L :

Remember that at age 5...magical thinking can be quite powerful. So..he may believe that he has the power to make things happen. That might be part of what he was trying to tell mom...


 

Dr. L :

Consider this for a moment.


 

Customer:

Thank you again so much.

Customer:

Oh...sorry again!

Dr. L :

If he gets upset because she is crying and no one can calm her, then he may engage his magical thinking by saying to himself, "The reason no one can quiet her down is because I was wishing she would shut up and stop crying."


 

Dr. L :

No problem...it's okay...sometimes the typing takes time to show up on your screen and vice versa...


 

Dr. L :

So...it might be helpful for you to be clear about why she is crying and to be sure he knows that he did not make it happen. Even saying...sometimes baby's cry and it's okay to just let them cry so that they learn how to soothe themselves. It might be hard on all of our ears...but she's perfectly okay."


 

Dr. L :

Does this make sense?


 

Customer:

Yes, it does. I guess this could apply to other things too. But what about the fact that he imagines himself doing bad things to her and how awful he feels about that? He even asked his mom to "take him to a doctor " to make the thoughts go away. He's a sensitive little boy and really always wants to be a "good boy."

Dr. L :

Yes...it can apply to all kinds of situations.


 

Dr. L :

If he is asking to see a physician to take away the bad thoughts...then I would want to respond to his request. Rather than trying to tell him he doesn't need that (which is questionable), I would fall on the side of reassurance. That is, I would set up an appointment with his pediatrician so that he has the opportunity to share his feelings and get validation from a professional that he is okay.


 

Dr. L :

When we are talking about a sensitive child, we do need to be a little more cautious in meeting their needs. I would let the pediatrician assess him and determine if it would be beneficial to see a child psychologist or play therapist to work with him for a bit.


 

Dr. L :

And...even more importantly, mom and dad should monitor his behavior. As you know..monitoring eating, sleeping, attention span, academic progress...all of those things will provide clues about his emotional life.


 

Dr. L :

While we all want to believe that he is just fine and is going through an adjustment period...why would we want to ignore his plea for help? By listening and acting on his request, he is learning a very valuable life lesson...my parents care about me and will help me when I ask for assistance. This is HUGE. And is part of his trust relationship with his parents.


 

Customer:

That is alot to think about but makes alot of sense.

Customer:

If this was an isolated incident, would the response be different than if he persistently or repeatedly would bring this up?

Dr. L :

An isolated incident...that's a tough one...


 

Dr. L :

I would take in to consideration how he talked about this...was he crying? did he look frightened? was he very emotional?


 

Dr. L :

Also...I would look at how he has interacted with her since her birth...has he seemed reluctant to engage with her? has he been eager to hold her and be with her?


 

Dr. L :

So..if he brought this up just once, it would be important to consider any other pertinent factors.


 

Customer:

Okay...I can't think of any more questions right now. If I come on this web site again, is there a way I can ask for you?

Customer:

And am I able to print out our conversation or send it to a file?

Dr. L :

Yes. If you post another question, please put my name at the beginning of the question. That ensures that it comes directly to me.


 

Dr. L :

Yes. You can print this chat from your account. Or you can copy and paste it into your word processing.


 

Dr. L :

I hope you have found our chat helpful.


 

Dr. L :

I can only imagine the heartache your grandson's thoughts have had on you..and his parents.


 

Customer:

Yes...it was very helpful. Thanks again. I may be back! :)

Dr. L :

I do think he is struggling to adjust to his changed life...but getting him an appointment with his physician may be the best way to address his concerns.


 

Dr. L :

Take care!


 

Dr. L :

Bye for now!


 

Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1166
Experience: Licensed as psychologist and marriage and family therapist
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Dr. L
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