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.

Why a white daisy?

Apparently, when people  are asked to draw a flower, the first one that comes to mind for a majority of people is the daisy shape.   This single flower (just the flower part without the stem or any leaves and on a solid black background) was show to study participants after being shown a high-arousal negative image. Examples of high-arousal negative images include awful things like violence, injuries and car crashes.  Two trials were conducted:  in the first subjects were shown a high arousal image and then either a) the flower image b) a mosaic of fragments of the flower image or c) a visual fixation point.  In the second trial, the high arousal image was followed by either a) the flower image, b) a chair (deemed a neutral image) or c) a blue sky with clouds (deemed a positive non-floral image).   Systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings were taken throughout the experiments.  

As expected, mean blood pressure was lower when participants viewed the flower versus the fixation point or the mosaic flower,  but what was unexpected is that the flower image actually reduced mean blood pressure to a level lower than the baseline.  Both the flower image and the blue sky had a similar positive impact in changing mood from negative to positive (with the blue sky having the most overall impact).  However, only the flower (not the sky) caused a reduction in mean blood pressure.  It was determined that viewing a simple flower image could in fact change a negative mood into a more positive one and also decrease blood pressure. 

The power of the single flower image was then studied in regards to salivary cortisol levels.  During this study, the high-arousal images were once again paired with the flower image, the flower fragment mosaic or the fixation point.  Once again, only the flower image was shown to significantly decrease stress during the recovery phase. One final examination looked at fMRI images of the brain during these conditions.  Through this imagery it was discovered that the flower image was effective in decreasing the amygdala-hippocampus activation that occurred after viewing the high arousal images. Researchers speculated that the flower image was a distraction tool that was helped prevent the recall of the stressful images.  

The brief viewing of this single flower image was shown to be effective at reducing negative emotions and created better functioning of both the cardiovascular and endocrine systems! Having such a simple tool available to help reduce stress and regulate unpleasant emotions and is one possible tool for interrupting ruminating thoughts or unpleasant flashbacks.  

About the Author Jen Taylor

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

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