I need help. The other day my four year old daughter’s bio-dad let her down and she got really upset. It’s not the first time he has done this and she has never been bothered before. Now she has started being really ‘off’ with her step-dad, who has been there since she was six months old. I don’t know what to do and my partner is heartbroken that she is being like this. Please help if you can. –Nichola
If her behavior has lasted for more than a day something’s really bothering her. You’re rght to be concerned. But remember, your husband having hurt feelings isn’t as important in this case as your daughter acting this way.
Something set her off. What’s most-likely happening is that her biological father said something that confused her about her connection with her stepdad. This may not have even been intentional on his part.
Most people don’t understand the way young children’s minds work. They talk to them as if they have a fully-developed ability to understand reason and logic. A simple comment like “I’m your real dad.” can be confusing and emotional to a young child.
Kids are resilient. The first course of action is to reassure her how much you both love her. Have your husband with you when you talk. Make him part of the process. She needs to see him as pat of the solution. He’s one of her caring parents. She will likely snap out of this funk and be back to normal soon.
If her mood persists try to draw her out. See if you can find out what set her off. Kids can be very susceptible to suggestion, so avoid suggesting what it might have been. Drawing her out is better than asking her something like “Did daddy said something about your Stepdad not being your real daddy?” You don’t want to place thoughts.
Ask your ex about her mood. See if she was “off” when she was with him. See if he has any idea what the issue might me. Remember to keep her best interest at the heart of your conversation. Don’t let it evolve into finger-pointing or accusing. It’s vital to the well-being of children that the parent group has a good working relationship. Work to resolve the issue not to set blame.
Heading this off now may save years of miss-communication and help the parent group develop a teamwork mentality. You can read more about that in this article. When parent groups learn to work in the child’s best interest it has long-tern value to the child. When parents one parent demonstrates territorial attitudes about their child there’s a risk the other parent will react in a similar way. If handled badly, the child becomes a rope in an emotional game of tug-of-war.
Your daughter’s behavior is a symptom of a potential future problem. It’s an opportunity to put out a fire before it begins. Learn to work as a team and you’ll assure your daughter a happier childhood.