By Eirian Hallinan
Sibling jealousy is incredibly common. To the older child it can be an overwhelming and confusing feeling when confronted with a young sibling and parents need to be patient and understanding.
Young children and toddlers are often told that the arrival of their new baby brother or sister is really exciting but when the little bundle arrives and doesn’t do very much it can be a little bit of a disappointment for the older child. The newborn cannot be played with yet and does demand a lot of the parents’ attention and time. To the older child, it can feel as if he is suddenly on the outside of what used to be a very special relationship exclusively reserved for him. Familiar routines suddenly change quite dramatically. Games and special times are reduced and sometimes the older child feels as if there is not enough love to go around.
There are many ways children will react during this time like shouting, poking, making a fuss and generally being more demanding. This is because the child is feeling anxious, not because he is being spiteful. Reassure your child about how important his place in the family is, all the love and devotion he can expect and about how reliable you are to him. It is very important to have one-to-one time with him during the day with lots of cuddles and praise for his good behaviour, especially towards his young sibling. If he displays aggressive behaviour it must be nipped in the bud quickly but not by shouting. It is best to suggest other ways to express himself by voicing his frustrations yourself. Say things like, “I know that you feel cross because I am cuddling your little brother (or sister) a lot but I have lots of cuddles for you too!” You can all snuggle up together and you can involve your older child in daily chores explaining how important his help is with looking after his little sibling. He will soon realise how essential he is to you and his sibling and as the baby grows he will discover how fun it is to have a brother or sister.
You can gradually introduce the idea of a sibling before you give birth by talking about it a lot with your child and showing him scan photos. When the newborn has arrived let your child take the first meeting at his own pace so it feels like it is on his terms. You will often find that the attention-seeking of the older child will manifest itself by asking for drinks, food, and play or to go to the toilet when you have to tend to the newborn. Do not tell him off and instead involve him in fetching clothes or wipes when looking after the little one, always praising and consistently instilling in the older child how vital and helpful his role is in caring for his little brother or sister. This encourages the older child’s natural love and protectiveness towards the baby. When the baby is sleeping spend quality time with the older child so he feels special. Include your toddler from the start of your pregnancy and be realistic about how much you can do at one time. Encourage your older child to be patient. Asking him to wait five minutes for things is not going to damage or hurt him and if he gets used to having to wait sometimes it means that you are less stressed as you look after two young children that need all your love and attention.
Eirian Hallinan has written numerous articles in the parenting field. She believes in healing naturally, first, especially when it comes to infant colic.