July 02, 2015

Q: My 8-year-old seems overly eager to help around the house, especially since becoming a big sister 6 months ago. She will either ask to help or simply put her hands in the middle of what you're doing, like changing diapers or storing breastmilk! When told we don't need help, she'll pout dramatically or yell "But I wanna help!" She seems to want to help with everything but what we ask her to do, like making her bed. Lately I've let her make lunch and Swiffer, but it's not enough for her. Help!

A: Well, if you have to have a problem, this is certainly a good one to have! It sounds like your daughter is very excited about the new baby and really positive identification with you. You did the right thing by giving her tasks to keep her busy. Since her actions are connected to nurturing and mothering as you are doing, you should try to explain everything from that perspective. Perhaps you could explain why making the bed is important in terms of helping you and the new baby, and this way she might be more motivated to do the chores you would like her to do. It seems she wants to be close to you and the baby, so chores that are nearby (and, if possible, explained from the nurturing and "be like mommy" perspective) may be more interesting to her. I would suggest supporting her in developing her nurturing side. These qualities will serve her well in her adult world to come. It will also be important for your daughter's development to have some activities outside the house. Encourage her to spend time with friends and go places with her father or other adults in her life. The novelty of the new baby may wear off as the school year resumes and she has more to do and activities that seem more age appropriate to you. It's wonderful that you are asking questions as the transition from a family of three to a larger family always brings up issues.

Answered by Dr. Eva Ritvo