Sibling rivalry took a tragic turn for one New York family when a 9-year-old girl took her own life due to apparent resentment of her newborn half-brother.
“We were as happy as happy [could] be until one day my then 8 year old woke up and decided that she wasn't exactly thrilled about being a Big Sister," mother Tamiqua Torres wrote in her parenting blog.
Justice Williams allegedly told family members she “wanted to die” when she learned her mom was pregnant. She was sent to a therapist and when the baby arrived that summer, Torres was convinced that her daughter’s discontent had passed.
“Fast forward to August when he arrived and she was happy and reassured that although her world has forever changed she loves him more than she thought she would,” Torres wrote.
It was a horrific shock when Torres went to check on Justice after suspecting that the girl had taken too long in the shower and found that her daughter had hung herself from the shower frame.
While this child's suicide is a terrible tragedy, bringing together step-siblings and blending families is anything but a smooth transition. Dr. Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, a developmental physician at Texas Children's Hospital and the Co-Chair of the Advocacy Committee of the Society of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, tells Parenting.com that “it can take anywhere from 4 to 7 years for a blended family to settle in.” She offers the following tips for helping a child cope with a new blended family:
Reassurance If you have a child that is reacting poorly to news of a new sibling, Dr. Franklin suggests soothing your child’s fears. “One thing that needs to be abundantly clear is that nothing and no one can never, ever take away the love that parent has for that child. It’s really important for the parent to spend some quality time with the child,” she says.
Stay involved It is important that the birth parents stay as actively involved in the child’s life as possible and find a way to co-parent peacefully for the benefit of the child. The biggest divorce big no-no? Using children as a way to get back at the other parent. “It happens way too much,” Dr. Franklin says. “Kids don’t ask to be born, kids don’t ask for the divorce, they are innocent in the whole process.”
Come together Children should be made to feel loved and accepted by a new stepparent. “When parents who are divorced develop a relationship with someone else, that person needs to become a part of the children’s lives,” Dr. Franklin says. Furthermore: “It needs to be clear among all the adults what that person’s role is.” Dr. Franklin recommends going to family therapy to help blended families navigate new relationships.
Did your child have a hard time dealing with a new sibling, or a step-sibling? Leave a comment and let us know.