August 13, 2017

If you are adjusting to a new  baby in your home and you have another child in the home that is school age or younger, you may find some unexpected behaviors in your otherwise normal child.  This is completely expected!  In fact, if it doesn’t happen, I would be more concerned.

Oddly enough, during a recent episode of MTV’s reality show, Teen Mom 2, there are some great opportunities to see this process in action.  Fan favorite, Chelsea Houska does some things well (and there’s an opportunity where I wish she would have said something a little differently).

For those of you who don’t watch Teen Mom 2, let me give you the set up:

Chelsea Houska was originally on 16 & Pregnant, where she showcased her pregnancy with her first child, Aubrey.  Chelsea’s story continued on Teen Mom 2 and details the problems with Chelsea and Aubrey’s father, Adam.  They are not together and he is (according to the show), not very involved in Aubrey’s life. Aubrey is now seven. Chelsea married Cole last year and she had her second child, Watson (announced in January 2017).  In the show, Aubrey was SUPER excited about this new baby!

In a recent episode, Chelsea introduces Watson to the MTV audience and talks about the fact that Aubrey is suddenly afraid of sleeping in her own bed, “because of monsters.”

She and Cole perfectly implement a wonderful technique to help with this fear called Monster Spray.  Watch it here.

Now, Monster Spray IS a great intervention!  I recommend something like this to people all the time. And it works pretty well.  And Chelsea and Cole execute it perfectly.  They make it fun, they role play, Aubrey has a great time with this activity.

But it doesn’t solve the problem.

Chelsea becomes even more frustrated (probably because she is exhausted from her newborn and not sleeping much herself) and has a talk with Aubrey in the car.

MTV posted this article about it which includes the following summary of the interaction:

“Your attitude has been so bad lately and so negative, I don’t even understand why,” Chelsea told Aubree.  A hesitant and visibly upset Aubs initially revealed that she is “tired sometimes” but then further elaborated that she doesn’t want to miss out on special moments with her brother. “It’s just that he’s so cute, and when I have to go to bed, you guys get to be with him and I have to try to go to sleep,” the seven-year-old explained. “You get to have fun with him.” From there, Chelsea stressed that she and Cole are the parents and Aubree is the kid and “that’s how life goes.”“I don’t like getting mad at you and yelling — I don’t like that,” Chelsea stated. “I want us to get along. Let’s work a little harder,” she added, as Aubree listened.”

What Chelsea gets right (in my opinion)

  • They talk in the car instead of face to face which is much less confrontational and less threatening.
  • Chelsea poses her question from a place of curiosity (I don’t understand why) which gives Aubrey a chance to explain.
  • Chelsea admits that she has had some negative behaviors too (getting mad and yelling)
  • She ends it with a plan to work together and a stress that they are all in this together.

The opportunity for improvement (that I see)

I love Chelsea and I understand her struggle.  She is a good mom and has a great bond with Aubrey.  But, I think that she missed a big opportunity to connect with the REAL feeling that Aubrey is expressing.

What Aubrey says is that she doesn’t want to miss special moments, and that when she has to go to bed she is missing out on those moments while her mom and Cole are enjoying them.

People will say she is jealous.

But that’s not it (at least not all of it).  She is jealous.  She is jealous that she’s missing out.  Underneath the jealousy, she FEELS LEFT OUT!

She is SAD.  She is so excited about having a new brother that she is SAD that she will miss something cool.

In another part of the episode, she gets frustrated that new baby Watson smiles more at Cole than he does at her.  Chelsea responds with something like, “that’s his dad so of course he does that.”

Again, she misses the feeling!  Aubrey is WORRIED that her new baby brother doesn’t like her.

What I wanted her to say

In the car:

You are worried that you are missing special things with Watson while you are sleeping.  (imagine her nodding or saying yea).  I see you came up with a way to stay up later by saying you were afraid of monsters, so that you could spend more time with him.  I’m wondering if we can find a special way for you and Watson to say goodnight that is just for the two of you.  Have any ideas?

About the smiles:

It makes you sad that Watson doesn’t smile at you like that. (imagine child nodding).  You know, sometimes I get a little sad too when Watson does things for Dad before he does them for me.  That’s totally normal. Right now, he’s missing out. But I am so excited for him to figure out how amazing you are though because you make me smile all the time (make a silly face).

I just wanted to her ACKNOWLEDGE THE FEELING first. Then, problem solve, then set limits as needed.

Final Thoughts

And remember, if you have a new baby, it’s 3-6 months minimum for everyone to adjust to what is going on. There is no magic solution that makes this easy.  Older siblings have a mixture of excitement and worry and that is expected.  Parents are no different.  Chelsea is a good mom and they will all be just fine.  And so will you.

About the Author

Jen Taylor, LCSW-C, RPT-S is an EMDR Approved Consultant and Certified Journal to the Self Instructor.  She is a therapist specializing in complex trauma, an international play therapy teacher and a published writer of multiple play therapy chapters.  Jen is the creator of the original 2017 Play Therapy Summit and many other innovative programs for mental health professionals.  Jen uses writing therapy, play therapy and expressive arts for her clients and for other mental health professionals so they can lead more joyful and meaningful lives.  Jen encourages people to try new things and create daily habits that allow for incremental progress towards previously unimaginable results.   Jen is a travel enthusiast, an avid reader, and a girl who lifts weights and runs for fun.  

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