Bringing your new baby home can be such a joyous moment for the entire family.
However, this can mean a time of many changes especially to your older child who now needs to adjust to the fact that he or she is no longer the center of attention in the family.
Everything may go smooth sailing the first few days and then you might notice a change of behavior in the older sibling.
You might also see some bad habits surfacing, temper tantrums and for some, even behavioral regressions.
This just might be a classic case of sibling jealousy.
If you are soon-to-be a mother to more than one child, here are some tips on how to deal with sibling jealousy at home.
First, let us try to understand why this happens.
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What is sibling jealousy?
Sibling jealousy is a feeling of insecurity, fear, and even resentment towards other siblings and most especially towards the new baby in the house.
Children have this sense of protectiveness towards certain attachments like a toy or a person (like mom and dad) and when someone else seems to have more time with these personal favorites, the older sibling may feel left out and start feeling jealous.
Although they may show and affection towards the new baby, it is normal for toddlers and small children to feel jealous since they now have to share mom and dad’s time and attention with someone else. It can be tough being a toddler!
How to Deal with Sibling Jealousy in Toddlers
Sibling jealousy in toddlers may seem like it’s a bit harder to manage compared with older children.
This is because children from ages 1-3 cannot fully comprehend what is going on and may have a hard time understanding and expressing this feeling of jealousy towards the new baby.
This may lead to several behavioral changes in the toddler. This emotional turmoil may be expressed in many ways.
You might notice your kid starting to misbehave and might even show regression:
• Tries to hit the baby or push the baby away from you.
• Goes back to thumb-sucking even if previously weaned off.
• Insists on using a baby bottle even if he already uses toddler cups.
• Pees everywhere and insists on using diapers again even if potty trained already
• Tries to get your attention while you’re breastfeeding the new baby
• Jumps on the bed or sofa while you’re feeding the baby
• Insists on being carried and asks you to let go of the baby
• Temper tantrums
All these among many others.
What you need to understand is that your toddler is just seeking your attention. It can be quite an adjustment not being the only kid in the house anymore.
He now needs to share his space and most especially, mom and dad. Since toddlers are not yet capable of articulating their feelings, they resort to what we may call “misbehavior”.
Dealing with sibling jealousy in toddlers requires preparation, one that starts long before the new baby arrives. Here are some of the things you can do to prepare your baby.
Involve your child from the beginning. Let him know that there’s a new baby on the way, show him the sonogram images, let him hear the baby’s heartbeat, show him your belly movements, and talk to him about the baby’s growth.
Make it fun! By doing this, you are slowly preparing his mind that soon, there’s going to be two of them. Try to make it in a way that it excites your toddler.
More importantly, make it clear through your words and actions that you love him and that having a new sibling wont change that.
Make sure to continuously verbalize your love (and shower him with attention and affection even after the baby comes home.
Teach your toddler early on how to handle the baby. Maybe you can show him how to hold a baby using a teddy bear or a doll.
Show him the proper ways to touch an infant and most especially, teach them how to be gentle and careful around the baby.
You can also involve your toddler in the baby arrival preparation like arranging and decorating the nursery.
Maybe let him put the final touches and just let him be fully involved. It is a family affair after all.
Preparing for the Baby’s Arrival
Explain as best as you can what’s going to happen when you give birth so that he does not feel left out.
Instead of simply handing him over to a relative for babysitting while you rush to the hospital, explain how mommy and daddy might be away for a while so the doctors can help the baby come out.
Try not to be too graphic though! The last thing you want to do is to make your toddler think that the baby is hurting you!
Explain who will take care of him until you get back from the hospital. Better yet, have someone bring him over to the hospital after you give birth to officially meet his new sister or brother!
Involve Your Toddler
Once the baby is home, remind him of what you taught him about how to be gentle around the baby and make him feel that he is very much a part of the circle.
Instead of shooing him away from the nursery room, teach him how to use his soft voice and how to be quiet around the baby.
You could also buy a sibling gift from the new baby to mark the occasion that they are now a big brother or sister.
Don’t forget to allow him to snuggle and hug you even if you are breastfeeding your new baby.
It is important for your toddler to know that you are still very much available for him even with the new baby around.
Get his opinion about things involving the baby. Let him choose the clothes sometimes and perhaps when shopping, let him choose the toy, or color of the hat, and other things.
Spend Quality Time with Your Toddler
Even if your toddler may seem to be adjusting well to having the new baby in the house, make sure to spend some quality and alone time together.
Maybe a walk to the park while daddy watches over the baby, a few minutes of bedtime story each night, or maybe play with him while the baby sleeps.
All these things will surely make your older child feel special and can help lessen any feeling of jealousy towards the new baby.
Be Prepared for Setbacks
You have to remember that toddlers can’t fully handle their emotions yet so there may be times when it will show via tantrums or aggression. This is normal.
You can’t fully expect a small child to handle such big changes in one smooth stride.
You do need to be prepared to handle these hurdles so pay close attention to the possibility of your toddler pinching or throwing things at the baby. This can happen!
What’s important is that you step in immediately the moment you see aggression so you can explain why this is not okay.
Teach your toddler how to express his feelings using words to lessen aggressive behavior.
Stick to Your Routine
It might sound difficult especially with the newborn baby in the house but sticking to established household routines can have a positive effect on the older child.
This gives your toddler a sense of stability and assurance. Familiarity lessens toddler anxiety and by keeping your regular schedule, you help your older child feel reassured and may lessen outbursts due to their inability to process change as swiftly.
Acknowledge Your Child’s Feelings
No matter how much we prepare our older child for a new baby, we can’t fully expect them to adjust to the numerous changes.
There will be meltdowns, tantrums, aggression due to sibling jealousy.
What’s important is that you do not brush these feelings off.
Take the time to acknowledge your toddler’s feelings and remind him that he is important and loved.
Feelings of jealousy are normal once in a while, helping your child learn how to express himself in a more positive manner will not just be helpful in the current situation, you are also teaching your child to grow up knowing how to manage emotions.
This will, in turn, help him develop into a person who knows how to value and maintain healthy relationships with other people.
Sibling jealousy may sound daunting and it can be. If left unchecked and unmanaged, your kids may grow up disliking each other and develop self-esteem and psychological issues as they grow up into adults as family issues have a large impact on a person’s well-being.
You cannot totally eliminate sibling rivalry and sibling fights altogether as these will happen once in a while. Squabbles within a family are sure to happen just as the sun will rise and set each day.
But with your help and management and most especially, fair and positive parenting, your children will grow up with a strong bond and love for each other.