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Mon, Apr 12, 2010
The Straits Times
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Stressed over new sister

Q I have two daughters, aged four and one. My husband and I are both working so we spend the most time with them only after work and on weekends.

Lately, we noticed that our elder girl has been excluding her little sister whenever we spend time with her.

She was a lot more accepting of her sister in the early months after our second daughter was born. We suspect this is happening because her little sister recently tore up one of her books and will tear down whatever she has built with playing blocks.

How should we approach this situation?

A There may be a few reasons for your elder daughter's behaviour. Your identification of the younger sister tearing up her book and destroying her block construction seems to be one of the contributing factors to the stress.

Your older daughter is responding to a new situation in her young life.

This can be pretty stressful for her, as it usually is for any child with a new sibling, and stress can cause a sense of insecurity. After all, she had all the toys to herself and your undivided attention before her younger sister arrived.

Children have their own way of communicating with us and we need to listen to what they are trying to tell us.

You can ask her or even allow her to role play or draw freely and she might just tell you what is bothering her regarding her younger sister.

Also, try to involve her when you are spending time with her younger sister. Let her help with some of the tasks you do for the baby.

Another way is to read her stories about siblings and find out how she is in school. Does she mention her sister or family in school when asked?

Most of all, continue to give her lots of love and attention.

Ms Jessie Ooh, who answered this question, is a psychologist with the Child Development Unit in the National University Hospital's Children's Medical Institute. The institute provides comprehensive and specialised neonatal and paediatric services, as well as a 24-hour Children's Emergency service. Go to

This article was first published in The Sunday Times.

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