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The last six months have been hard on the elder children: They have acquired a new sibling and moved across the world away from everyone they knew and loved.

OK let me be honest here – the last six months has been hard on all of us.

Keith and I have tried really hard to help the children settle but it has been especially hard for Alfie. He misses his friends, he misses his grandparents and he misses his old school.

He also lacks the emotional maturity to articulate the depth of his loss.

The net result of all of the above is that Alfie has sometimes displayed some fairly erratic and unpleasant behaviour.

It is a well-worn pattern: 
  1. Esme invades Alfie’s bubble (that bubble which a second ago wasn’t there by the way)
  2. Alfie wails on Esme
  3. Esme gets an anger on and comes out fighting (oh daughter, do you have to be SO like your mama?)
  4. The closest parent flings themselves bodily between two scrapping children to separate them long enough for them all to calm the hell down
  5. Rinse and repeat.
The big challenge for us as parents is that we were struggling with our own nameless stress for a while and found it hard to do anything more meaningful than prise open clenched fingers and bodily remove one of the children from the situation.

As things have settled into our new normality, Keith has taken the lead to help us develop some strategies to really help Alfie. This shouldn’t come as a surprise - Alfie is more Keith than Keith is himself - but it really humbling to see how intuitive Keith is with Alfie.

This cartoon from robot-hugs describes those two perfectly.

Some of the problems come from Alfie's newly developed need for privacy.

We are blessed that the new house gives him his own room but Esme being the social creature she is, doesn’t necessarily understand that sometimes her big brother doesn’t want her around. Sometimes Alfie doesn’t understand that he doesn’t want her around either, and so we have started offering him the choice of playing in his room with the door closed.

This is very different to him being sent to his room - I see no value in that as a parent just as I received no benefit from it as a child – this is about us saying “ok stop everything, take a breath, do you want some time away from everyone to do your own thing in your own way?”

Usually the answer is yes, especially when he is tired and especially now I know to offer since Keith has highlighted Alfie’s cues to me.

I think he’s highlighted them to Alfie as well.

Those two are walking hand in hand through Alfie's childhood, listening and learning from each other daily. Raising a boy with a mature emotional vocabulary isn't always at the top of the list of parenting goals but it is an awe inspiring thing to witness.

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