His 7 year old is finding it hard

Dear Suzie, I am dating J who split from his wife who was pregnant in Nov05. I met him after split. J has a daughter aged 7 and a baby aged 10 mths (who live with their mum) My daughter is 6. His 7 yr old is confused about changes in her life – the split, J moving out, arrival of baby, moving house & school & me and my daughter.She is not eating properly, has tummy ache, gets up in the night up to 6 times and looks sad. The Doctor thinks its due to the above events. She seems likes me & my daughter but it must be hard for her to share her dad with new baby, me & my daughter. Myself & J have tried to make time for him and her alone but says she wants us all together. We are very worried about her. She has said she is jealous of my daughter, J has repeatedly told her he loves her etc. J’s ex is ok with me & is also worried. Please can you help

Imagine you’re 7 years old. Your Daddy leaves. A new baby arrives. Your Daddy presents you with a new Mummy-like person, with a daughter very near your own age, who also doesn’t seem to have her own Daddy living with her. No – in fact, she’s got yours.

Now, how would you feel?

Scared? Rejected? Frightened that it’s the fault of the new baby that Daddy left? Or your fault, for not being a good enough daughter? How do you feel abut the new little girl – jealous she has your Daddy full time while you only have him part time? Frightened if you spend time alone with your Daddy the new little girl will end up just like you, losing the Daddy she’s beginning to rely on? And if you also like her and love having a sister around your age, how confused will that make you feel?

And that’s just a glimpse into the mixture of emotions and confused thoughts I imagine she might be having. Kids try to make sense of the things that happen to them – when you’re confused and haven’t quite got a handle on the multitude of events, what sort of sense do you think they may be making of it? Yes, your doctor is quite right; her reactions are certainly about the situation; her behaviour a way of her acting out her distress.

I’m so glad to hear her two parents are on board and wanting to co-operate in doing something about this. All of you are part of the problem, and fortunately of the solution. I would urge that the doctor be asked to refer you all for family therapy with someone who can help you help her make sense of what has happened. If she can express her powerful feelings and have them understood, she will be able to move on to enjoy a life with two loving parents who live separately, and a caring stepmum and stepsister. It’s not the situation as such that is the problem but how you manage it and I’m sure you can all pull this round. Good luck!

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