Ask Your Family Therapist: Terry J. Basile, MFT

Ask Your Family Therapist: Terry J. Basile, MFT

Happy Spring and welcome to the parenting question and answer column for Growing Up Chico Magazine. Here, you get to ask those special questions that are in the back of your mind that you might be reluctant to ask a friend or relative. Or perhaps you would like information on dealing with inappropriate behavior, school problems or sibling conflict. I guarantee that your question will help many other parents. My answers are based on my experience as a mother and my work for over 35 years as a therapist for children and families. Please send your questions to: info@growingupchico.com and the most interesting question received will win a copy of my book, Let’s Color Your Feelings! Remember, we keep your name and personal information confidential. I also want to let you know that I am excited to introduce my new website, www.parentingwithheartandmind.com, that provides parenting information, blogs and more details on my book. I hope that you will find it enjoyable and useful to your family.

As a couple, it has been hard to manage visits with family in two distant towns. We are about to have a baby and are worried about how to manage our time visiting. How do we do this so no one feels left out?
This is a point of conflict for many families, so you are wise to be considering this in advance. I would first suggest that you pick a period of time that you will be staying in town with a new baby, one to three months are usual. So that takes the need to manage visits until you are more rested and confident as a parent. Limit visitors during that time and most visitors need to stay at a local motel. You can help by checking out a few online and making suggestions. Those first months are important bonding time as a new family, so protect it. Once you are comfortable, go ahead and visit everyone. Then talk about how you want to manage visits in the future. Maybe you will want to have alternate holidays with each side of the family, or chose a summer vacation everyone can participate in. Many a grandparent has learned to Skype to be able to see their grandchild more often. Include them in the discussion, but you are the ones to make the final decision. This may be a new role for both of you and a bit uncomfortable at first. This is your family now and you get to decide how you want to manage it.  Just be sensitive to how special your child will be to family and make each visit as positive as possible.

How do I prepare my daughter, who has been an only child for 5 years, for the upcoming birth of her baby brother?
If you watch YouTube, you can see the shocked faces of children who are just getting the information that they are going to have a new sibling. Some are happy and some are hysterical at the idea of any change in the family. Some of the response is going to depend on the personality and needs of the child. Of course, small children will not really understand what this means, but once children go to school, they see how siblings are part of most families.

Here are some ideas:
Not all children like surprises. For them I suggest you start by pointing out other children’s siblings and talking about what are the good and challenging parts of being a big sister.
Role play with your child: her being a mommy and you being the big sister. Use a special doll or even a sack of flour like teen’s do in parenting classes. You can act out what your child might be feeling by saying something like, “ I don’t want to share” and then talking later about how you felt as the big sister and brainstorm about how to help you (and her) when that happens.
Make the announcement special, but not too dramatic. Involve her in preparations as much as possible.
Have a play date with another parent who has two children. Use that to make some observations and start the discussion.
Make sure to begin to have special time, one on one, with her. Plan how you will continue those “dates” after the baby is born.
Let her know that “sharing” is part of her being a big sister. She will have to share her parents with her baby brother, but you will also share the baby with her. Set up the baby as not a loss for her, but a gain for the family. Be supportive as she makes a very big adjustment in her very small world.

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