Monday, March 5, 2018

Jealousy of a New Sibling

Children showing signs of resentment and jealousy toward their new sibling is very normal, especially for first born children. They often feel that the new baby has taken over their spot in the family and now takes up a lot of the time and attention that used to be directed to them. As a parent, you now struggle with not only the exhausting tasks of caring for a newborn, but also managing your other child’s emotions, behaviors and interactions with the newborn.

So, what can you do?
One of the important things you can do as a parent for your older child, at this point, is to acknowledge their feelings. “You’re right. Mommy has been busy with your new baby sister or brother.” “I know things have changed around here.” Then focus on finding special time that the two of you can spend together, perhaps while the new baby is sleeping or when the other parent can care for the new baby. Try not to focus everything around the new baby. Instead of saying “We can’t go to the park until the baby wakes up,” tell your child, “We can go to the park when Mommy finishes what she is doing.”

Teach your older child how to interact with the new baby in a gentle, proper way. Remember they don’t automatically know how to handle a new baby. Allow them to interact with the new baby while you are supervising them. It is important that a young child not be left alone with a newborn. If a child starts to get too rough, pick the baby up and talk about gentle touch. Model how to touch, hold and talk to the new baby. Give lots of praise when your child interacts in a positive gentle manner with the new baby.

It is also common for the older child to demonstrate some regressive behavior when a new baby arrives. They may resort to behaviors that have not been present for a while, i.e., baby talk, wetting the bed, wanting a bottle or wanting you to feed them or sleep with them. These behaviors are usually temporary and the child will tire of them eventually. It is ok to indulge these behaviors but at the same time praise age appropriate behavior and draw distinctions between things that an older child can do that a baby can’t. “Let’s have a special snack together. Too bad the baby can’t eat this, they are too little.”

Remember this is a time of adjustment for the entire family, including your older child. Their life has changed drastically. They may need some extra understanding and attention during this time of transition.

- Vicky Oliver, PhD, LCSW