Answered by Team ParentCircle
It is indeed worrisome for you to see your little niece change so much. It’s nice to note that you have been alert and observant because many times these changes in behavior go unnoticed or are ignored. It’s not possible to know what could be bothering her. Her behavior may be a symptom of an underlying problem. Therefore we need to look beyond the behavior – what thoughts and emotions could she be dealing with – fear, guilt, sadness, confusion, insecurity?
These emotions are triggered by fearful thoughts and “What ifs”. Has there been a major change in the family? Such as the arrival of a new baby, loss of a loved one, change of house, etc. If not, whatever be the cause, it’s best to help her share with someone she is comfortable with and who has a sensitive approach. Children lie out of guilt, fear of being punished, fear of loss of love by the parent. They are willing to share with people whom they trust and feel secure. They need to be reassured that no matter what, they will be understood and protected. When she tells a lie, use this situation to reach out to her.
First, take time to calm your own emotions of anger and frustration. Next, show empathy in your tone of voice and body language while you say “You seem to be afraid of something. Are you scared to tell me about it?” Give her a few moments to experience your empathy. Give a big hug if she’s okay with it. You can then talk about a few times when, as a child, you were afraid because you told a lie. Your stories will help normalize her feelings and make it easier for her to start talking about her own feelings and the problem behind them. Help her see the mistake and learn from it. This process may require repeated efforts before she feels comfortable opening up.
If your niece does not respond and continues to remain quiet and preoccupied beyond another 3 weeks, you may consider seeking professional help.
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