Welcoming the newest, tiniest member of the family spells excitement and joy. But these sentiments are coupled with huge changes and adjustments. And no one is exempt from the transitional phase — including your older child.
If the transition is challenging for you, imagine how tough it would be for the older child. In one moment, they suddenly transform from being the baby — the only baby in the house — to an older sibling. Imagine the big feelings your child must be having!
Sibling jealousy is a natural feeling. Here are 3 signs that your toddler could be feeling jealous of the new baby.
3 Signs of Sibling Jealousy
1. Temper tantrums
One of the first signs of sibling jealousy that you might see is regressive behavior. Observe your toddler. Are they reverting to baby-ish behavior like baby talk and throwing a tantrum? Your toddler may be feeling threatened of “competition,” and reverting to baby-ish behavior may be their way of getting your attention.
2. Demand for your attention
Basically, your toddler will be doing things to get your attention especially when you are busy with the new baby. When your toddler feels like you are not giving them enough time or attention, they may interrupt you or make loud noises or even break things.
3. Anger or indifference towards baby
Finally, an obvious sign of sibling jealousy would be either aggression or indifference towards the new baby. Instead of being involved, your toddler may feel left out and blame the baby for “stealing” you from them. You may also hear them ask when the baby is going back to the hospital, a sign that they don’t recognize the baby as part of the family.
If you spot these signs in your toddler, read on to know the ways to handle sibling jealousy.
5 Things to Do to Manage Sibling Jealousy
1. Let them feel the “big” feelings.
Acknowledge that your toddler is struggling with the new feelings that they are having. Let them feel confused or frustrated or sad; don’t dismiss the feelings or punish your toddler for having them! Tell your toddler that their emotions are completely valid and understandable.
2. Talk to your child about the baby.
Having a new baby at home is a huge change for everyone, so talk to your older child about it from the very beginning. From pregnancy to labor to delivery, involve your child in every step so that they won’t feel left out.
Help your toddler feel secure about the change by telling them that while you’re going to need to spend a lot of time on the baby, it does not mean that you are going to spend less time with them. When your toddler asks questions, no matter how mundane or funny, answer them sincerely to show that they can always talk to you about anything.
3. Give your older child a “job.”
Next, make your toddler feel important and valuable by assigning them a role! Depending on how old your toddler (or older child) is, let them do tasks like throwing the diaper into the bin or folding the baby’s blanket and clearing the clutter inside the crib.
By giving them a job that involves taking care of the baby, you are able to bond together as one family. Your toddler will also grow to become more responsible and may even feel protective of the new baby. Don’t forget to reward them with hugs and praises!
4. Spend quality time with each child.
It may sound impossible, especially when you’re neck-deep in newborn baby-routine like breastfeeding on the clock and changing diaper after diaper. But there is always a way to spend quality time with each of your children.
For example, when your baby naps, play a game or do an activity with your toddler. If you want to get some shut-eye, snuggle with your toddler and take a nap together. Your toddler will then understand that you love them just the same and there’s nothing they need to be afraid of.
5. Be consistent.
Finally, be consistent in treating all of your children fairly. Never give your child a reason to be jealous of the new baby. Don’t be tempted to play favorites, and as much as possible, always give each child the same amount of time and attention.
Also, never compare your children, even when someone prompts you to. Comparison, even the seemingly innocent kind, can foster resentment and lead to life-long sibling rivalry.
Bringing home a new baby is an exciting time, but your toddler may have a difficult time adjusting to this huge change. Acknowledge the feelings of sibling jealousy, involve your toddler in baby care, and don’t forget to show them how much you love them by playing fair and spending quality time together.
This way, your child will understand that they are not being replaced, and that the little baby in front of them is not competition but another person to love dearly for life.