My daughter is 2 1/2. Since my son was born in December, she has refused me and only wanted her father ("no not you, I want Daddy, I don't want you"). She is in constant need for her father to pick her up and be with her at all times, holding her. If he leaves the room, she screams for him not to go, and if he is holding our son, she demands that he be put back in Mommy's arms. Because of this, my husband has not formed a bond with his son and the rejection I feel from my daughter is overwhelming.
When we first brought him home, if I was nursing, she would try to get into my lap and lay on top of him. Now she just refuses to be near me at all. She LOVES her brother; she always wants to hold him and touch him. But even if I ask for a hug or kiss, I am not going to get one.
I am not sure what to do. I wonder how long this will last. The rejection is very painful; she has always been a Daddy's girl but has never refused me. Last night she had a cry so hard she vomited because I was going to give her a bath instead of her Dad.
Any advice would be welcome.
Heartbroken in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Pretend for a moment that your husband came home and told you, "Honey, I love you sooo much and it's such a wonderful experience being your husband, that I've decided to get another wife. You don't mind, do you?"
That kind of sums up how your daughter feels: How dare you bring this baby into my house! And she's communicating her anger, confusion, and hurt to you in the only way she knows know: by rejecting you. Here's the good news: It's a phase, it's very typical, and it will pass. Here's the bad news: It can take a while to pass -- months, not weeks -- and you can make it worse if you take it personally.
That means avoiding saying things like, "Don't you love me as much as daddy?" or, "You're making me feel so sad!"
There are two things going on here, from her perspective. She's asking not only, "Why did you do this to me?" but also,"Will you still be there for me, no matter how mean I am to you?" She's looking to know that you still love her unconditionally, even though you have this new baby, even though she's using the biggest weapon she has to hurt you.
Dad, of course, plays a role here, too. If it's your turn to put her to bed and she insists on daddy, he can't "rescue" her by coming in and reading; that sends a message that, (a) mom really isn't as good as dad is; and (b) she really does need dad and only dad. Instead, dad comes into the room, tells her firmly, "It's mommy's turn to read tonight. Tomorrow it will be my turn again," kisses her goodnight and leaves. If she winds up, you need to sit there and tell her, "I'll wait until you can stop crying and then we can read." Your job is to wait her out. The first time may be hard. It will get easier. (It's awful to have your child make herself so sick from crying that she's vomiting. A compromise might be for dad to sit in the doorway while mom reads: "It's mom's turn, but I'd like to hear the story; is it OK if I sit at the door and listen?" Then dad needs to be clear that that's all he can/will do. You may have to play around with this.)
You might also want to create some special "Mom & Me" time when you are with your daughter doing something she enjoys, probably outside the house. That gives dad some alone time with the baby and alone time for you with her. In the meantime, don't antagonize the situation anymore than necessary but don't bend over backwards in the other direction, either. Dad can and should hold the baby in her presence; to not to gives her way too much power. Click here for other strategies.
Child psychiatrist Judith Robinson of Tufts Medical Center says that even though this is a very common phenomenon, it's harder on some women than on others, and harder on some children than others.If your child can't bounce back once you are together, or you can't get over how sad this makes you, seek a professional consult.
By the way, whatever you do, don't leave her alone with the baby. Impulses come over young children quickly.
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