I had a new baby (number 2) three months ago, and since even before the birth, my normally well-behaved, mature 5 year old daughter has developed behavior problems. I know it's because she's seeking attention but there's just no way to give her 100% of my time like she had before.
She's old enough and smart enough to know exactly what to do to bring the whole household to a screeching halt and make all the attention focus on her, and she doesn't seem to care if it's good or bad attention. It's hard not to get angry and yell because I KNOW she knows better, but then I feel terrible because I also don't want her to feel neglected or unloved.
I don't know how to balance it out and make her feel loved and also help her adjust to the fact that she DOES have a baby brother now and she needs to be a good big sister, and she won't always be the center of attention. Do you have any specific suggestions on how to do this?
Answer by Kristina Miller:
Congratulations on your new baby! You're right to assume that your daughter is seeking attention. More than that, she's trying to figure out what makes her special, exactly HOW much she is loved, where her place is in this growing family, and her place in the world. This is a wonderful opportunity for you as a mom, and your family as a unit, to help guide her to being a self-assured, confident, well-behaved child.
First, I would highly recommend setting aside one-on-one time with your daughter every week, for both you and your husband if it is possible. It could be Thursday morning breakfasts with Daddy, or Monday night game nights with Mommy, any time that you set aside specifically for your daughter, where you can give your undivided attention to your daughter and spend time playing and talking with her. This contact and your conversations will remind her that there is nothing that will ever come between you and her, whether she's good or bad that day, or whether you're tired or busy, or whatever. No matter how many kids you have, she's your big girl. She'll get that from the time spent.
Secondly, 5 years old is the age when many kids are able to get involved with activities outside of home. Is she involved with any classes, such as dance, tumbling or gymnastics, martial arts, piano...? Having something special that is all her own gives her the chance to feel unique, focus on something in a positive way, and work off some energy.
Lastly, I would involve her in as many ways as possible in special "big sister" activities. Try not to make them like chores, but special things that show her her unique place as a big sister, and let her in on little secrets (like helping pick out those "surprise" Christmas and birthday gifts for the baby). Give her some fun responsibilities like feeding the baby, but don't expect her to want to help change the baby or clean up his vomit just yet! You may even look online or in your local community for special play groups, videos or other resources that are specifically designed to help oldest children adjust to a new member of the family. There are many out there to choose from.
Of course, you'll always want to enforce your rules about speaking respectfully and being kind. The rules don't change even if your daughter is justified in her feelings, so stay strong, consistent, but calm. Maintain your cool. This, like almost everything else at this age, is but a stage.