Sad young girl needs family love
Dear Amy: My great-niece is 11 years old. I’m very concerned about her. She’s lived with her grandparents, since she was very young.
She recently found out that her mother is pregnant by a new boyfriend and is going to have a baby girl.
I asked my brother how my great-niece is handling this and he said, “Not very good.”
My concern is that she stays in her bedroom all the time and seems very withdrawn and unhappy. She used to be happy and smiling. Any help on how to handle this very difficult situation? — Worried Uncle
Dear Worried: Now is the time to surround this girl with love, affection and attention. You can probably imagine how conflicted and hurt she is feeling — her mother is now starting another family. This will revive every abandonment sadness she has ever had, and will likely introduce more feelings that she can’t articulate and doesn’t know how to handle.
Privacy is important for young adolescents, but isolation will contribute to her sadness. Attempt to talk to her about this. Don’t assume she is happy about this news, and don’t force her toward a happy narrative (“Hey — you’re going to have a little sister!”). Instead, ask her, “Can you describe how you are feeling?” If she is inarticulate or silent, don’t correct her. Reassure her and enfold her in her family’s embrace. Watch a favorite movie together. Go bowling and iceskating. Put her first.
If there are safe ways for her to see her mother, she should be offered this opportunity.
Books will help her to process and tackle some of her sadness and worry. I highly recommend the site amightygirl.com for book suggestions. Read together.
If it’s possible, she should also see a counselor with experience in working with children.