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Family Relations/relationship between daughter and new baby

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Hello,  My daughter is 12 and we have an 8 month old baby.  My husband and I don't know why she seems indifferent and not wanting to help out or play with the baby.  The baby loves her but she mostly ignores him.  I know it is a huge age difference, (she is on her phone, etc.)  but even answering his basic needs she hesistates almost to where it seems to be "mean". Is there any way I can get her to be more involved or is it just how it is with the age difference?  Any advice appreciated.  Thank you
Janelle

Answer
Hi, Janelle, thanks for your question.

You asked, "I don't know why she seems indifferent and not wanting to help out or play with the baby."

Ummmm, have you ever heard of the word jealousy? I'm only half joking here, because I thought everyone knows what happens to the other kids when a baby shows up - all the adults so is talk about "the baby" - baby did this, baby said that, "ooohhh look at how cute that baby is!". The time and tasks required to take care of the baby are considerable, and you probably do not realize how much time and attention has been taken away from your daughter.

That's a BIG price for her to pay, and now, on top of that, you want her to take care of a baby that she did not ask for?

No, this is your baby, I think you should have to take care of it. It's asking too much of a child to require them to help raise a baby. If they want to, that's fine, but they should not be required to do so. There are plenty of other ways they can earn their keep by doing other chores around the house that directly affect their life - cleaning, cooking, etc.

Further, it's quite likely that all heck is breaking loose in your daughter's life, and you may not be aware of it. Years 11-13, for girls, are often horrible, wrenching years, with girls literally and figuratively beating each other up, and tearing each other down to nothing. IDK why girls do this to each other; sometimes I think that the fistfights that boys get into are more sane than what girls do to each other.

At any rate, whether or not you are ignoring your daughter, as fact, she is likely feeling ignored. You have to go out of your way to make her feel wanted and included, in ways that SHE views as being wanted and included.

This age is a turning point for kids. If they are not brought back into the fold, they can easily develop maladaptive patterns of behavior that will last a lifetime. The good news is that now is the time when you can reach out to her and still be able to make a difference in her life. So start now.

One last thing - do not be put off if she pretends she is not listening to you. Believe me, she is KEENLY listening to every word you say and watching EVERYTHING you do. She is logging every minute in her mental banks and comparing what you do and say to everyone else. So don't react to her - even if she tries to push your buttons. It's just a test to see if you still care (or do you love the baby more, she wonders?). Instead, pretend you know she is listening and choose the words you think will have the most positive influence on her.

It is very easy to think that 12 year olds are in control of their actions - they arent. It seems to them that they are just reacting to the world around them. It's like the dog barking at the wind.  

Family Relations

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Bruce Borkosky, Psy.D.

Expertise

questions framed similarly to 'what are some ways to respond when someone does/says X' are best. Questions posed in the form of 'why does my father do/say Y', or 'how would you diagnose my mother when she does/says Z' are difficult, if not impossible, to answer. I will probably reframe your question to fit the first question (what do I do). Nay question regarding any family member is fair game. Some of the most difficult are in the area of step-parenting and divorcing families.

Experience

I've been a licensed psychologist in Florida since 1994. I've evaluated and/or treated thousands of patients.

Organizations
American Psychological Association Florida Psychological association National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology

Publications
www.bruceborkosky.blogger.com

Education/Credentials
Psy.D., Miami Institute of Psychology, 1993 M.CS., U. of Dayton, 1984 B.A., Ohio Wesleyan U., 1978

Awards and Honors
Award for Years of Dedicated Service, Palm Beach County Legal Aid Society, 1999

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