|Subject: Toddler reacts to excessive
I am the step mother of a 3½-year-old girl. She
lives with her mother, and we have standard visitation - every other
weekend, etc. We created some stability while she was with us for the
month of July (summer visitation) and she seemed to calm down a little.
Her mother does not keep any consistent schedule
for her, and she is in daycare and baby-sitters until 9 or 10 most
nights, no "family" meals, etc. Is there any documentation
concerning the welfare of the child, keeping consistency, etc.? My
husband is going to try to get his ex to agree to continue some of the
family rituals we started, but unless there may be some
"scientific" proof, she is less likely to agree. Also, how is
the best way to deal with the inconsistency that is present in her life?
Basically, how can we best help her in this situation when we have so
little time with her and her mother is not willing to compromise or see
that maybe things could be different?
I am a stay-at-home mom with an 11-year-old
daughter, and feel guilty that our time is taken up trying to create a
smooth time around the 3½ year-old ... she throws incredible temper
Thanks for your response.
Thank you for writing and for visiting our site.
As you are probably aware, age 3½ is far too
young to cope successfully with the separations this little girl is
having to experience: both the day care and the month-long separation
from her mother. One of these separations would be very difficult for
any child this age. Having to cope with both is probably beyond the
capacity of any young child. Her temper tantrums are her way of
expressing the fears and worries these circumstances are creating. I
would be less concerned about the "inconsistency" of day time
rituals such as meals, and far more concerned about the excessive and
Rather than focusing on the "rituals", I
would urge your husband to make any suggestions he or you can think of
to minimize the number and length of the separations. Can her mother
work fewer hours, start a home business, or in some other way have more
time with her? A child this age needs as much undivided attention from
her mother as possible, unless the parenting is abusive. In a few years,
lengthier visits with you can be a stabilizing influence. Until then, no
matter how much love and attention you give her, the unavoidable fact
that she is at the same time separated from her mother will make it
difficult for you to help.
It must be frustrating for you to want to help,
and to see how you might help, yet not be in a position to provide the
kind of attention she needs right now. I commend you for your caring and
concern, but there is only one person who can satisfy her need for her
mother's time and attention.
There is a vast amount of research that confirms
the importance of mother-child bonding in the early years. During these
years, the best way for you to help would be to do whatever you can to
strengthen your step-daughter's bond with her mother. Then in later
years it will be that much easier to help her in other ways.
All good wishes,