Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
My nieces are hitting a rough spot. As one of three daughters I saw my older sister suddenly turn her back on playing Barbies with me in favor of going to concerts with my eldest sister. I wanted to attend those concerts too but there was no way that was going to happen. In the meantime, I urged middle sis to play Barbies with me and couldn’t understand why she didn’t want to play with me anymore.
Now, as an Auntie I am watching my two nieces hit this period. It’s just been a few weeks but the older one is turning away where once she used to engage. The younger one is distraught. She’s frustrated and because she has a quick temper she hasn’t yet mastered words to express this frustration.
Watching them is very hard. I can understand where both are in their lives and I don’t want to squelch the expression of either one. Yet I want them to get through this period with as few scars as possible.
Do you have any advice of books, media, skills I can give them? Anything??? It’s so sad to watch the little one try desperately to connect via books she can’t even understand and the older one continue to roll her eyes….
This is an excellent question, but as usual there is no simple answer.
This same thing happened with my son- his big sister suddenly lost interest in him when she had previously been his everything. Four years later he is now sixteen and finally emerging and reinventing himself.
In my own case this happened when my best friend and next-door neighbor disappeared. Up until I was twelve she was my everything. I know it’s irrational yet to this day I still resent that her mom whisked her away, NO more boys allowed. Had we not been separated I believe I would have ended up marrying her.
Growing up is a story of gains and losses. Your niece is suffering normal grief. For no reason she can understand life just changed. Rather than seeing herself as an extension of her sister she now must develop a sense of self.
This is a normal part of development; let your niece continue to develop. Life goes on and she must continue to go on too. She needs to form her own identity, friends, and activities. She must have more gains than losses. Praise her for these gains and over time she will own them. Spend individual time with her exploring common interests. You will both learn about yourselves and each other. Since you do not have to be her parent, unlike her parents you can be her friend.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
The Granny Doctor understands- you want to spare your loved ones pain. But life is a balance of many elements and learning experiences are often frustrating and difficult. You wouldn’t do your niece’s homework, would you? Because then she wouldn’t learn. Don’t try to do her life work either. She needs to learn.