New brother loses weight, turns quiet

PARENT Q & A

October 10, 1999|By T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. | T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.,New York Times Special Features

Q. I just finished reading your column on helping a sad or depressed child. My 2-year-old grandson shows many of the symptoms you described. Since his sister was born last December, he has lost a lot of weight, experiences frequent fatigue and doesn't seem interested in physical activity -- but he likes reading, videos and quiet activities.

He is under the care of pediatric specialists who are doing tests to rule out physical causes of his weight loss. But if the root of this is psychological, how is it treated? What kind of therapy is available for a boy who doesn't yet have the ability to express his feelings?

A. His parents should be sure that he has times alone with each of them. They should express their love for him often and show him that he hasn't been displaced.

I am glad that they are having him evaluated by specialists, for his reaction to his new sibling sounds extreme. I hope they won't have to use painful or intrusive techniques to rule out physical reasons for his weight loss.

If your grandson doesn't recover soon, his parents should find a psychiatrist who specializes in working with small children. Such a professional could evaluate him and help his parents understand his depression and how to deal with it.

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