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.
Here are some tips for handling sibling jealousy with a newborn baby.
How to cope with jealousy toward the new baby
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.”
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 easily 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.
Offer a gift (or two)
Nothing fancy — just a little something that says “being a big sib rocks,” like a new set of markers and a giant pad, a coloring book, a book, a puzzle or even a sheet of stickers.
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!”
Dealing with specific behavior issues
Regression. Know that your toddler may revert back to behavior more typical to that of 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.
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 hurting 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. Along with 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 to be 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
Make sure 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. 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.
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.