Having a new member in the family is an amazing moment for all. If you have an older child, then he/she is sure to be overjoyed at the prospect of having a little brother or sister all by themselves.
But the reality sets in when the baby is born. Your elder child behaves in a strange way which you may find difficult to comprehend. They throw tantrums for each and everything and may even hurt the baby, at times.
Why does this happen? This behavior is because of sibling jealousy and (although very stressful!) it is very common, so no need to panic.
What Are the Causes of Sibling Jealousy?
Sibling jealousy cannot be attributed to any single cause. It is a result of different changes that are happening in your toddler’s life. One or more of the below factors can be the cause of sibling jealousy.
- Lack of attention: Till the younger baby was born, your elder child was the center of your attention. All your activities were planned, keeping in mind the comfort of your older child. But once the younger child is born, your focus naturally shifts to them. You may not be able to attend to every demand of the older child as before. This shift in your attention can cause jealousy in the older child.
- Change in daily routine: Once a new baby is born, the mother has to spend time feeding and taking care of the baby. This means a change in the daily routine. You may not be able to follow the same routine of waking up and caring for your toddler as before. This change in the daily schedule can be another cause for jealousy.
- Stress in parents: Looking after a newborn is not an easy task. Parents have to spend sleepless nights taking care of the newborn, which can naturally cause stress in them. This stress shows up in their behavior, and they tend to get angry with the toddler even for small things. This can make the toddler jealous of the baby.
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What Are the Signs of Sibling Jealousy?
The below are a few signs toddler is jealous of new baby.
- The toddler gets angry very fast and throws a tantrum even for small matters. You find it very difficult to calm him.
- The toddler distances himself from you even when you try to befriend him. He stops talking about his nursery and friends.
- The toddler starts hurting the baby by poking and pinching him.
- The toddler breaks or tears something relevant to the new baby like the baby diaper or feeding bottle.
How to Introduce A New Baby to the Sibling?
- From the day you are ready to spill the good news, inform your older child about the arrival of the baby. This creates a feeling of longing in the mind of the child. You can also tell the child how the baby is growing, and when the baby will be ready to meet them.
- Make your older child a part of all your baby-related activities. Take the older child along when you go shopping baby stuff and even to the hospital. You can also let him help you while decorating the baby’s nursery.
- Enroll your child in a sibling class meant for toddlers. Most of the hospitals conduct such courses to prepare the soon-to-be brothers and sisters for the big event in their life. Lessons like how to hold a baby, and how to put them to sleep will be taught in the class depending on the age of the toddler.
- If you are planning to move the older child to a new bed or room before the arrival of the little one, do so well ahead of time. This gives enough time for the toddler to adjust to the new environment.
What to do When your Child is Jealous of a Newborn?
- Make him feel included: Making your toddler a part of looking after your baby helps in reducing the jealousy to a great extent. Let the toddler hold the feeding bottle while feeding the baby! Let him give bath to the baby! All this creates a feeling that he has an important role to play in bringing up the baby.
- Spend quality time with him: Try to spend quality time with your toddler when the baby is sleeping. You can even ask your partner to take care of the baby while you spend some time with the toddler. You can read books, play with him, or indulge in any activity which he is likely to enjoy.
- Praise the child: You should praise the toddler on every opportunity possible. If the toddler has been quiet while the baby was sleeping or he has kept a close watch over the baby while you were away, praise him for his act. This encourages him to continue the behavior in the future as well.
- Acknowledge his feelings: Acknowledging your toddler’s feeling is the best way to deal with new baby and toddler tantrums. If he cries or shouts for no reason, do not get angry at him. Instead, tell him that you can understand his feelings and that he did not mean to do what he just did.
- Never scold the child: Scolding a child in front of the baby can make him feel dejected. Instead, talk to him in a friendly, calm tone and explain to him where he has gone wrong. Instead of phrases like “don’t do that again” try “I can’t allow you to do that as you can hurt the baby’s feelings.” Explain to them the reason why they shouldn’t do a behavior instead of blatantly telling them to stop.
- Gifting: Your toddler is sure to feel jealous at all the gifts showered on the baby. Once in a while, you can also gift the toddler something he is sure to enjoy like a coloring book or a toy.
What my parents did: I have two older brothers and the day I was being taken home from the hospital, my parents bought both my siblings a little gift and told them “look at what you’re sister brought you” during the introduction.
Both my brothers loved it and instead of being wary of me, their first interaction was that of gratefulness, love, and appreciation.
Try this trick yourself! Instead of you giving the toddler a gift, tell them their baby sister/brother bought them something.
When finding solutions for dealing with sibling jealousy it’s important to keep an open mind and try various approaches consistently.
Managing sibling jealousy is not an easy task. And the truth is, it is not going to end in a day or two. Sibling jealousy takes a different form as the children grow. When learning how to deal with sibling jealousy in toddlers as well as older children, it’s important to have patience and not give up.
It needs to be addressed early on so we may avoid a Robert and Raymond (from Everybody Love Raymond) situation in adulthood.
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