Tips for helping a 3 year old understand. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 2 Old 03-24-2011, 11:40 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello All,

This is the first time I am posting. I have read some of the other post and I am not 100% certain about the abbreviations, so you will have to bare with me and forgive me.

I recently married my husband and we have been together for almost 6 months now. I now have a 3 year old step son who is very intelligent. My step sons biological mother really has nothing to do with him unless she has to, the last time she saw him was after his birthday party which she missed and we haven't seen or heard from her in 3 months.

As I said before, my step son is highly intelligent and is able to understand most things that have occurred, including her leaving him and daddy. Recently I've been noticing what I assume are some jealousy issues coming from him towards me. My husband and I usually are not overly affectionate around him, but recently when I hug my husband for what my step son thinks is too long, he will try to get into the middle, we have tried including him the in hug but after he continues to try to separate us physically. Also something else that is strange that I feel I maybe over reacting to a bit and he has done on a few different occasions not as much as today. When my husband would leave and room and it was just my step son and I alone in the room he would say things to me. First he told me "I am going to tie you up with a rope" then later he told me "I am going to throw dirt in your eyes" and lastly he told me "I am going to cut you with a rope." He said the statements rather clearly, but I repeated back what I thought he had said asking him if it was what he said, and he said yes. With the way my step son is, if you repeat something he said wrong, he will make sure you know that you said the wrong thing and repeat it. I'm thinking it is something along the lines of he thinks I am going to leave him and daddy and hurt daddy, and everything will be wrong. Which will never happen, my husband and I have an amazing relationship and always have, I know he is my soul mate, but I do not know how to make this clear to my step son or help him understand that I am never going to leave him and daddy, and that I consider him my own son. One of the reasons I am asking for help is I am not a biological mother to anyone, and this is the most time I have ever spent with a child, so everything is still new to me. 

Any tips of advance or maybe more insight would be very helpful and I appreciate it greatly.

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#2 of 2 Old 03-26-2011, 05:33 AM
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Personally, I would give him lots of reassurance throughout the day from both of you that you love him, that you are not leaving, that you love him even when he is mad or sad, that you will be there when he wakes up in the morning or when he gets home from school... whatever seems appropriate to your situation. I would also help him find some different behaviors to get what he wants-- if he comes to break up a hug, you or your husband can ask "Do you want a hug, too? Or do you want my attention?" Help him put words to how he is feeling, then give him a more positive behavior to replace it, like asking for a hug, telling you how he feels (sad, uncomfortable, jealous), asking for special attention from dad, whatever.


As for those scarier-sounding ideas, I would (personally) probably respond with something like "Those sound like scary feelings. Are you feeling mad/scared/upset right now? I don't like it when I feel that way. Can I help you find a way to get those scary/mad/whatever feelings out of your body?" If he seemed like he wanted some help with his feelings, I would suggest some things that people do to help them deal with hard feelings, like hitting a pillow/couch, pushing against or squeezing someone or something, exercising, yelling, drumming, crying... 


I would also suggest that some of these things might need to come from his dad rather than you. If you are the one he is directing his feelings at, he might not be able to talk to you about it. And some things might just be too big for him to talk to either of you about right now.  I always think a good play therapist can be helpful in figuring out exactly what is going on for a young child and what the adults in the child's life can best do to support him. He may need reassurance that his mother's behavior isn't his fault, or that you aren't going to leave him. He might need help dealing with big feelings about wanting to hurt other people or himself. Those can be pretty hard for a parent to puzzle out on his/her own, as our perspective on a child's behavior can be pretty clouded with our own feelings, knowledge, and perspective. Even a few sessions with a good therapist could help figure out what is going on and how to best support him. 

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