What’s the best way to deal with sibling jealousy when you have a newborn baby? There are two ways, and each has its pros and cons.
You can either ignore your older child entirely or make them feel special in some other way.
The first option might be tempting because it sounds like less work, but it might be more difficult for kids to get over those feelings of resentment if they’re ignored.
The second option might sound like too much work at first as well, but this post will help you on how to mitigate these issues and promote healthy familial relationships from the start.
How to Cope With Jealousy Toward the New Baby
Whatever happens, there will be a period of adjustment for your oldest child when their baby sibling is born. Here’s how to manage it when they feel left out or jealous.
The arrival of a new brother or sister can be unsettling for a toddler. After all, they are used to having your undivided attention.
You might find that your toddler isn’t as happy and excited about your new baby as you are.
Some find it difficult to adjust, while others accept the new arrival easily. Here’s how to handle jealousy:
You can teach your toddler how to play with the baby in the same way you teach him anything else. Talk to him, demonstrate, guide and encourage.
However, until you feel confident that you’ve achieved your second goal, do not leave the children alone together. It isn’t convenient. But it is necessary, maybe even critical.
Get Your Toddler Involved
You could ask your toddler to pass you the bottle for a feed. You could see whether they will hold the cotton wool while you change their little brother or sister’s nappies. You could even try to persuade them to entertain their sibling with songs in the back seat if they’re upset in their car seat.
Teach the older sibling how to be helpful with the baby or how to entertain the baby. Let the older sibling open the baby gifts and use the camera to take pictures of the baby.
Teach him how to put the baby’s socks on. Let him sprinkle the powder. Praise and encourage whenever possible.
Your toddler will love having tasks and feel much more part of things. You will need to guide them as a child’s interpretation of a situation may be inaccurate, and you should be aware not to expect too much of them.
Acknowledge Your Child’s Feelings.
Know that your little one may express negative feelings or act out, and don’t scold.
Instead, say, “Being a big sibling can be hard. Sometimes you will feel sad or mad or do things you don’t mean to do, and that’s OK. We will always love you and want to help you feel better.”
Put Your Toddler First Sometimes
No matter how much you would typically go to your newborn first, a few occasions of putting your baby second can work wonders.
Try ‘telling’ the baby they’ll have to wait to get their nappy changed while you get their older sibling’s snack.
You could put the baby on the playmat while you play dollhouse with their big brother or sister. Anything that shows them that right now, at this second, they are number one.
Acknowledge Their Point of View
Being ‘in it together with the occasional acknowledgement of their views can make a whole world of difference.
Acknowledgements like ‘Yeah, babies do cry a lot, don’t they?’ or ‘I bet you wish sometimes we could hang out alone will let them know you get it.
Parents who develop open, participative communication with their children help their children to manage stress well. That allows them to build resilience.
Whenever the children are together, “hover” close by. If you see your child about to get rough, pick up the baby and distract the older sibling with a song, a toy, an activity, or a snack.
This action protects the baby while helping you avoid a constant string of “Nos,” which may encourage aggressive behaviour.
Spend Regular One-On-One Time Together.
Try to give your toddler a bit of undivided attention, even if it’s just 10 to 20 minutes a day.
One way to accomplish this more efficiently is to wear your newborn in a sling, which gives you two free hands to play a game with your older child.
And have your older child cuddle while you’re nursing.
Are you feeling frazzled? Enlist help from a relative who can tend to your newborn as you spend time with your oldest. Or suggest your partner schedule special activities with your child, like whipping up weekend waffles or heading out to the movies.
Teach Soft Touches
Teach the older sibling how to give the baby a back rub. Tell how this kind of touching calms the baby, and praise the older child for a job well done. This lesson teaches the child how to be physical with the baby in a positive way.
Every time you see your child hit, or act roughly with the baby, act quickly.
You might firmly announce, “No hitting, time out.” Place the child in a time-out chair with the statement, “You can get up when you can use your hands in the right way.”
Allow him to get right up if he wants as long as he is careful and gentle with the baby. This isn’t punishment, after all. It’s just helping him learn that rough actions aren’t going to be permitted.
Children learn what they live. Your older child will be watching as you handle the baby and learning from your actions. You are your child’s most important teacher. You are demonstrating in everything you do, and your child will learn most from watching you.
Whenever you see the older child touching the baby gently, make a positive comment. Make a big fuss about the important “older brother.”
Hug and kiss your older child and tell him how proud you are.
Reward your child with hugs and compliments for showing patience (waiting without wailing while you change a diaper), cooperativeness (handing you that diaper instead of winging it at the wall) and empathy (“The baby’s crying, Mommy. Maybe he’s hungry”).
Make a fuss, especially in front of others: “Thank you for handing me the diaper, sweetheart! What a great big sibling!”
Offer a Gift (or Two).
No doubt there’ll be awesome baby gifts arriving by the truckload, which can be pretty rough for a tot who’s sitting on the sidelines watching the loot accumulate.
So once in a while, surprise your older child with a big-kid present you happen to have at the ready. My Baby Nursery has a huge range of baby toys for your baby room.
Nothing fancy — just a little something that says “being a big sib rock,” like a new set of markers and a giant pad, a colouring book, a book, a puzzle or even a sheet of stickers.
When friends arrive with (yet another) giant box for the baby, let your tot unwrap it for him (what a good helper!).
If it’s an item that your newborn is too little to use (like a doggie pull-toy or set of blocks), let your big kid (gently) break it in.
Don’t Compare Your Toddler With Your Newborn
Asking your older child why they can’t be more like their baby brother or sister is unnecessary and unhelpful. Don’t be tempted – even when you’re tired and stressed out.
Get Help With the Baby So You Can Spend One-On-One Time With Your Older Child
Nothing can make your older child feel better about their feelings towards their sibling than hanging out with you and you alone.
If you’re breastfeeding and can’t leave your newborn for long, even a quick trip to the park can make them feel they’ve got your undivided attention again.
The quality of the parent-child relationship at home can influence cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes for pre-school children.
Point Out How Much the Baby Likes Their Older Sibling
Saying ‘Look how much they love you’ and ‘They won’t stop watching how good you are on your bike’ will make your older child feel like they’re involved in making their younger sibling happy.
Warm, authoritative and responsive parenting helps children to manage stress. By boosting their confidence, they will respond better to the change in their lives.
Keep Toddler Routines as Much as Possible
Toddlers are creatures of habit.
So if you can sling some clothes on and drag yourself to their usual music group, even in the early weeks, it will make a massive difference to how they feel.
After all, this is a massive upheaval in their lives.
Try with the minor stuff, too, like reading them a bedtime story or eating your usual breakfast.
Participation in routines like reading or storytelling is associated with higher social and emotional school readiness among preschool-age children.
Going to playgroups, visiting friends and telling a bedtime story might be difficult to organise in the first few weeks. But sticking to established routines will help reassure your toddler.
Stay Alert With Toddlers for a While When You Have a Newborn
Much as it would be lovely to be able to leave your children alone together and know they’d be fine, this is the real world.
For a while, you’ll have to be close to hand to know that your older child won’t hurt your baby–even accidentally–when you’re not there to monitor.
Children under the age of four are most at risk of an accident at home. Many accidents are caused by horseplay, involving pushing, shoving and wrestling.
Other things to be careful about are heavy objects, such as furniture and televisions, being pushed or pulled over onto younger babies or children.
Children might see sets of drawers as ideal climbing frames, but they can pull over easily if unsecured. Children can also swallow, inhale or choke on items like small toys, peanuts and marbles.
If your toddler begs to hold his new sibling, sit your toddler on the floor on a soft surface and help them to support the baby.
Be Prepared for Toddlers Hitting or Other Aggression
Yep, however much you hate it, probably your toddler will at some point turn on their sibling. One study found 46% of children said they had been victims of sibling aggression, while 35.6% admitted they had been aggressive to their siblings.
Toddlers might throw a toy at their sibling, pinch them or hit them. And you’re likely to be tempted to shout at them.
The thing is: that was kind of their aim. Instead, give your attention to making sure the baby is OK, and then they’ll think that was a waste of time and (hopefully) not bother again.
Positive parenting and good relationships within the family reduce levels of aggression. Yet harsh parenting is associated with increased levels of aggression.
You could encourage your eldest to talk about any anger or jealousy they feel towards their younger sibling. These are normal emotions, and it is better for them to talk about them than bottle them up.
Watch Your Words
At this point, your child would just as soon sell the baby. Instead, use alternate reasons. “My hands are busy now.” “We’ll go after lunch.” “I’ll help you in three minutes.”
Acknowledge your child’s unspoken feelings, such as “Things sure have changed with the new baby here. It’s going to take us all some time to get used to this.”
Keep your comments mild and general.
Don’t say, “I bet you hate the new baby.” Instead, say, “It must be hard to have Mommy spending so much time with the baby.” or “I bet you wish we could go to the park now and not have to wait for the baby to wake up.”
When your child knows that you understand her feelings, she’ll have less need to act up to get your attention.5
Give Extra Love
Increase your little demonstrations of love for your child.5 Say extra I love yous, increase your daily dose of hugs, and find time to read a book or play a game. Temporary regressions or behaviour problems are standard and can be eased with an extra dose of time and attention.
Making Each Feel Special
Avoid comparing siblings, even about seemingly innocent topics such as birth weight, when each first crawled or walked or had more hair. Children can interpret these comments as criticisms.
Take a deep breath and be calm. This is a time of adjustment for everyone in the family. Reduce outside activities, relax your housekeeping standards, and focus on your current priority, adjusting to your new family size.
Dealing With Specific Behavior Issues
Know that your toddler may revert to behaviour more typical to a younger child, like thumb-sucking, or experience setbacks if he’s toilet training or learning to use a toddler bed.
Know, too, that this is as much a sign of stress as it is a grab for attention.
Try to be extra understanding and patient. And if possible, plan to start significant changes, like toilet training or weaning, well before the newborn arrives.
Acting Rough With the Baby.
Your child may try to express anger towards the baby through physical aggression. Don’t punish, but do make it clear that absolutely no hunting is allowed.
Let your little one express anger through other ways, like drawing a picture of himself looking mad or roaring like a big, fierce lion.
Anxious feelings often come from feeling displaced; you may notice more separation anxiety in particular.
Besides making sure to spend time with your older child, encourage him to talk to you about how he feels.
Be reassuring and tell him it’s normal to want things like they were before the baby.
Tips for Older Kids
Arrange a Few Playdates.
School-age kids have no doubt made a few close friends by now and may have a long-time sitter or nanny. So see if you can schedule some extra time for your child to spend with them.
Maybe Plan a Day at the Movies or a Trip to the Ice Skating Rink.
Your older child will not only enjoy these outings but will most likely feel more secure around people with whom he’s comfortable.
Try to Stick to the Usual Routine.
While it may be difficult to have things run like clockwork with the disruption of a new baby, doing your best to maintain a regular schedule will help your big kid feel less anxious and more reassured. Ensure he gets up and goes to bed at the same time as before the new sibling arrived and that your child participates in as many regular activities as possible.
Ask for Help With Baby-Related Tasks.
Ask your child to put diapers on the shelf next to the changing table or fetch blankets or bottles for you. Once you feel he’s ready, your older child can even help burp, bathe and dress the new baby. No doubt he will feel proud to be given some new responsibilities.
Remember That it Won’t Last Forever.
When young children feel jealous of baby siblings, it can feel like a phase that will never end. But – like them all – it will. And before you know it, they’ll be best of mates (and ganging upon you). Remember too that both your baby and toddler are gaining socially and emotionally by having a sibling. Check out our range of baby nursery products and furniture for all your baby needs.