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How do I help my step daughter get over separation from her biological mother?

My step daughter is 4 and I love her very much. She stays with my husband and I 70% of the time and the time that her mom does have her she gets her right before bedtime and brings her back the next afternoon. My step daughter has some separation issues EVERY time she comes back. Yesterday for hours she told me EVERY five minutes that she missed her mother (who she calls by her first name). I try to calmly say back to her, it's okay to miss your other momma. She bursts into tears half the time. We never make a big deal about it because I feel like that would make it worse. She tells me over and over that she misses her and she gets so upset. I tell her that she will be going back and it's okay to miss people you love. Every once in a while I explain to her that I miss people too, and that she gets to choose to enjoy where she currently is. I also try to explain to her that she is loved and wanted. I know patience is important here but I am loosing mine. Admittedly after the first few hours of the day my responses get less sweet. I want to be a good mom here, I don't know what to do.


Asked by ashleyaction at 1:01 PM on Dec. 14, 2010 in Preschoolers (3-4)

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Answers (8)
  • I understand your problem. About the only thing you can do is to continue what you are doing and then try to get her involved in some activity, like helping you fold clothes, or stir something if you're cooking, or ask her which video is her favorite, or read a book together. It is hard, we went through a similar situation,time does help some, she is now 10, and mom is now completely out of the picture, but she still misses her.

    Answer by SweetLuci at 1:11 PM on Dec. 14, 2010

  • I think that "get over" is the wrong way to approach this. She's not going to "get over" it. You're wanting to be helpful and supportive and make it less painful for her to deal with the situation. You're doing a good job. Be consistent, be there for her, reassure her, be a parent (which includes setting rules/limits and enforcing consequences) ... she'll do fine with your support and love. And after offering that support each time, move on to other activities. Dwelling on it, making it an ongoing dramatic painful belabored conversation isn't going to help.  Just show her that you'll always be there for her.  Good luck.


    Answer by Gaccck at 1:15 PM on Dec. 14, 2010

  • Maybe let her call her mom and talk to her for a few minutes, hopefully her bio mom is cooperative and will help you explain to her that they will see each other soon. Let her hang a picture of her mom in her bedroom so she can see her too.

    Answer by EverydayMomma at 1:34 PM on Dec. 14, 2010

  • my 4 year old is pretty sensitive, sometimes she'll cry that she misses her nana or a good classmate of hers that transferred schools. i explain to her that it's okay to be sad, and we'll see them again soon. then i occupy her thoughts, by engaging her in something entertaining. she loves playing educational online games, or coloring, or working at puzzles, or helping me in the kitchen. she'll be all smiles and forget about what she was sad over quickly.

    Answer by tnm786 at 1:05 PM on Dec. 14, 2010

  • You are expecting her to 'get it' much, much more quickly than possible. For perspective, think about how most women handle their military spouses going on long deployments.

    We, as a culture, do not typically have the tools to handle things not going our way... so we have no way of knowing how to handle it when kids don't get what they need. Apart from the unhealthy coping skills we tend to use ourselves (one end of the spectrum or the other of either forget about it or forever hold a grudge). We just don't have healthy models of handling what we don't want.

    What really helps is genuine empathy. Which isn't "I know you miss your mom" or worse "I know how you feel." It is literally mirroring the face she's making (because you'll have a much better sense of how she's actually feeling as a result) and then describing it as accurately as possible. You may find that she's not sad at all, but furious, or insecure. Let it be real.

    Answer by LindaClement at 1:08 PM on Dec. 14, 2010


    I think you're on a good path, keep at it! Here's a link to some ideas?

    Answer by Skepticchick at 1:15 PM on Dec. 14, 2010

  • Thank you all. I appreciate the input. My problem is becoming that she isn't distract able. I can't console her. Yesterday we were making Christmas cookies and she was giggling, the next she was balling. She just shut down and flipped out. I feel so helpless sometimes.

    Comment by ashleyaction (original poster) at 1:21 PM on Dec. 14, 2010

  • I would TELL HER BIO MOM ALL THIS!!! If that was my daughter, I'd be crushed and do EVERYTHING I could to spend more time with her! And If that doesn't help and "Mom" doesn't put forth some effort then perhaps its time to take baby girl to a therapist or counselor who knows how to deal with this things and specializes in children. Divorce or separation is TOUGH It has to be EXTREMLY tough and confusing on a Lil kid...
    But I commend you!!! In your efforts to comfort her, trying to help her talk it out, still calling her her momma even when she calls her by her first name! You sound like WAY more of a MOM than the bio. Poor Lil girl, good thing she has you! It will take LOTS and LOTS of patience, but if you can get her started with some help young, the greater chance you help her move forward and not have this weigh her down later in life.
    And from one Momma to another, Good Luck and May the Force Be With YOU LOL ;)

    Answer by madsmom314 at 1:50 PM on Dec. 14, 2010