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Niece with separated parents and behaviour problems

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hello sir/madam,
I live with my niece in Mumbai, her parents live at different places, though they are still in marriage but they are not a happy couple. My niece is 6 years old and since her birth she lives with me only. I tried my best in taking good care of her and she too loves me alot. she sometimes do miss her mother. during vacations i take her to her grandparents place where her mother also stays and she enjoy being with them. I dont see much of difference in her behavior when she's with me and when she's with her mother. my niece is good at academics.
my problem is 1) she has a very bad eating habit. she doesn't eat much and takes hours to complete her meal. she doesn't like any food apart from breads, biscuits and chips. i try giving her healthy diet but she has no favorites. she throws away her lunch meal if she's unable to finish everything that i give her in lunch box.
2) she doesn't have friends in neighbourhood. she doesn't speak much when outside where as at home she is normal. she throws tantrums, plays, watch television, fight everything.
3) now a days she doesn't show interest in studies. though she's just in class1, but comparitively her performance is deteriorating. today she was found copying in her class test. I never pressurised her to get good grades but she is herself very competitive. when she doesn't manage to get first prize or first rank she cribs a lot and starts crying. i make her understand that there is nothing wrong in losing sometimes and if your grades are not good try and do it better next time.
Her grandparents and her other aunts and uncles sometimes do scold her for her eating habits and studies.
please guide me what more i can do in this regard.

Category: Psychiatrist

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Thanks for using DoctorSpring for posting your query. I have gone through your question in detail and I can understand what you are going through.

I understand that you are trying to bring up your niece (6yrs) who is having parents with troubled relations and the child has started presenting behavior problem. The behavior problems that you have mentioned like not eating regular food, staying alone and not mixing with friends, and reduced academic performance, can occur in the child who stays away from parents.

Initial 10 years are very crucial years and the child should be with the parents ideally. This would be the best thing for your niece. However if it is not possible then there are certain measures that you need to take.

6 yr old child is amenable to behavior modifications. You need to identify the problem areas one after another and take it up one after another. Like to start with, eating her regular meal. If she has her meal she should be getting a "star" and if she doesn't then she should not be given a "star" during that day. If she collects 5 starts then she should be allowed to do things which she likes like may be going to a movie or play zone or eating a burger etc. This is called conditioning. This has to go on for a few months.

In case of temper tantrums the best way would be "time out". In this process if she doesn't listen to you, she should be debarred from what she is doing for next 10 min and kept in a safe room with out any entertainment where she would get bored. After 10 min, she should be released with a warning that if this recurs then the same would be repeated.

Its good to shower love, but there should be firm boundaries for her behavior.
You should never punish her or beat her as this will increase the problem.

Hope this helps,
If you any further queries, I would be glad to help you further.
Dr. Srikanth Reddy MD

Dr. Srikanth Reddy
Category: Sexologist
Doctor of Medicine (MD), Psychiatry Residency Program,2001 – 2012
M.B.B.S,Mahatma Gandhi Institute Of Medical Sciences, Sevagram

Certificate Course in sex Therapy and Counselling, Sexology and Counselling, A
Sexology,Medikon Sexual Sciences, Mumbai

Training in Advanced Neurology at a leading corporate hospital (CARE hospital) in Hyderabad

Child Psychiatry Training in National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences, Bangalore

Sex Therapy and Counsellingat MEDIKON Sexual Sciences, Mumbai.
Dr. Srikanth Reddy and 4 other Medical Specialists are ready to help you

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