Q: Since the birth of our second baby (now aged 10 weeks) our eldest son (22 months) has become more detached from his mother and more attached to me (dad). This is causing my wife to feel down and unwanted by him. What do you advise us to do?
A: It’s all very exciting for your son when the second baby arrives for the first few weeks, however after that, the feelings of wanting the baby to go away, or of competition also start. Usually older children show aggression and frustration to the baby by sneaking in a kick, pinch or two or as in your son’s case start attaching more to the other parent. Usually Dad has more time than Mum as she is busy feeding the baby so older children are quick to pick up on this and seek their comfort and attention elsewhere.
Around the age of two it is also a period of time when boys naturally move more attachment to their Dad’s and seek their company. So in your situation you probably have both happening at once.
Regardless of this, I have a few suggestions – make sure he is involved in the care for the baby, like handing the nappy over, passing the wipes, gathering a toy or two, passing the wrap; try to eliminate statements as - ‘mummy’s busy with the baby and ‘in a few minutes’. Involve him in feeding time, it’s a great opportunity to read them both a book on the couch or sing songs; be sure that when the baby is asleep mum can sit down and play with your older child for 10-15 minute slots where there is quality connecting rather than just being around each other. Also, when he is with mum, be sure to tell him how nice it is to just be with him and give him a cuddle and a smile and he will be encouraged to do so again.
I would be careful of ‘playing along’ if he starts demanding one parent over the other, it is best to avoid giving in to this situation and you can deal with this. For example if he was with mum and then demanded he needed dad, don’t go along. Instead get mum to get or fix whatever it was he needed or he misses out, because he can be playing one against the other.
Also try not to take it personally, although mum is probably missing being the first one he comes to. Give him time to adjust and if you feel that it is still concerning then I would seek professional advice.