DEAR HARRIETTE: I need your help. I am a single mother of three children, and my oldest daughter recently had a baby girl. Now I have four children to take care of, and I need a strategy to keep my 10-year-old and 3-year-old's spirits high while I take care of my oldest daughter and her baby girl. My 10-year-old daughter recently told me that she is lonely because my oldest daughter used to share a room with her. I know the transition will be challenging because I have to manage four children. Do you have advice on how to raise these children without pulling my hair out? -- Do Not Know What to Do, West Orange, N.J.
DEAR DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO: One step at a time is all you can do. That and get super organized. Everyone in your home needs to have responsibilities, including the 3-year-old. It's best if some of their duties involve the baby, because the little ones are likely jealous now that there is someone taking so much of "their" attention away from them -- in their young minds, anyway.
Perhaps the 3-year-old can help by bringing wipes when mom is changing the baby. One can bring the bottle over after an adult has heated it on the stove. Pick little duties that will make the children feel important in the family. Also, schedule time to help them with their homework and to talk to them at night before they go to sleep. Listen to them as they share their thoughts about the new family dynamics. They want to be heard. Meanwhile, teach your new mom how to be a mom and how to behave responsibly now that she has brought a child into the world.
Next, get help. Build a village with friends, family and neighbors so that you are not taking care of your family alone. Ask them to help you entertain the children. Finally, do something for yourself. Take a long, hot bath at night. Take a long walk in your neighborhood. Give yourself a few minutes each day for you.