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Parenting Through Challenges: Helping Kids Cope with Major Life Changes

Dear Katherine,

Our second baby arrived shortly before the pandemic began. While my older son seems to care for his baby brother, I worry that alongside the major adjustment of having a new baby, he might link his brother’s arrival with the negative aspects of the pandemic. Considering my son’s strong-willed and opinionated nature, these events have understandably added stress. I‘m seeking advice on how to support him and help him navigate these two major life changes separately.

Bad Timing

Bad Timing,

In challenging times, our hearts go out to you. It seems like your older son is navigating through big life changes, and we commend you for empathizing with him during this trying period for your entire family.

Raising more than one child introduces a world of both joy and challenges. As supportive parents, our ultimate desire is for our children to harmonize, but older kids may face difficulties adjusting to sharing attention and affection with a new sibling. This adjustment period is normal, and in your case, it’s compounded by a couple of other factors.

Primarily, your older son’s strong-willed nature adds complexity. Autonomous children, by nature, might attract disapproval, especially when adjusting to sharing attention. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as negative attention reinforces his feeling of favoritism towards his younger brother.

Adding to the complexity, your older son’s world was disrupted by the pandemic shortly after his baby brother arrived. Apart from adapting to the routine shifts with a new baby, he also had to navigate the stress of COVID-19.

So, how can you navigate these challenges and how to help kids cope with major life changes?

The initial step is recognizing the unmet need causing tension within your older son. While he loves his brother, he likely needs reassurance that your love for him remains unchanged despite the new addition to the family.

Once he understands that gaining a brother doesn’t mean losing anything, he may view the situation positively, separating it from the negativity of the pandemic.

Here are parenting tips to assist you during this adjustment period and how would you support your child:

  • Schedule one-on-one time: Dedicate time exclusively for your older son, reassuring him that there’s enough love and affection for everyone.
  • Explain the candle metaphor: Illustrate your love for both children using a lit candle, showing that the brightness of one doesn’t diminish when the other enters your heart.
  • Be more communicative: Acknowledge your busy schedule and, when one-on-one time is challenging, express anticipation for the next special moment. This verbal reassurance boosts his self-worth and emphasizes your love.

In your situation, Bad Timing, your strong-willed son’s expression of need signals a strong foundation in your relationship. Embrace these moments for growth and connection.

Love and Blessings,

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