Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Seattle Eastside
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Do you think it would help the 6 year old if you explained that it's natural and that you understand that there's always going to be people that you "click" better with than others? That it's okay to feel that way, it doesn't mean you're a bad person, but as family members that means that you need to try harder to get to know Cate and keep an open mind for the things you do enjoy with her?
I actually very strongly disagree with the sentiment that we should tell siblings that they must love each other all the same. Or even that we treat them all the same. All sibling should be treated with kindness (or at least that should be the goal, I don't think anyone meets it 100 percent), and all should be allowed to play (You can't say "you can't play", ect.) during family time, but I think it's futile to insist that everyone's going to feel the same about everyone else. We just don't work that way. And that can stir up resentment/avoidance, if it's not even acknowledged, especially if a child is old enough to feel bad about not automatically feeling 'fair' towards both toddlers.
Have you helped the 6 year old put into words why he prefers Colette? You seem to have some good theories. You can even help him word why it's harder to connect with Cate. Ask him for ideas on how to connect differently with Cate. He might think that he has to do the same thing with both, and obviously that's not going to make anyone happy. I think we have to be careful in how we phrase things to older kids, who tend to misinterpret "as much as" and "fair" as "exactly the same". So that can be intimidating if you think that in order to love one of your sisters as much as the others it means you have to do the same things for the same amount of time with them--especially if they like different things or have very different personalities. You also may be taking different values from what your older child is saying than he means. Saying you don't like to be around someone as much does NOT mean that you don't love them, necessarily.
I know that's hard as a mom, I've been through that and occasionally still have to deal with it. But one of the things that has helped me is to back it up and make *sure* that *I* am understanding what is being said without imposing my own frame of reference/biases/baggage on it, and then to reassure my older child in particular that these feelings are normal, they're okay, give her tips/help her brainstorms on different actions that won't hurt her brothers' feelings, and to let her know that just because she enjoys any one person more than another doesn't mean she's not capable of loving them.
So I'd take a deep breath, try to separate emotionally from your fears about the situation a bit, and see if there isn't another way to look at things, or suggestions you can give.