Is siblings rivalry bothering you?
Do you remember when you had your first baby, and your husband/ partner felt left-out when you got too busy with your new baby chores, struggling with breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, resuming pre-baby life and probably fighting baby blues? You do? Good, ‘cause it’s Déjà vu time, except for the fact that the roles have now been switched. This time it’s your elder baby who could feel insecure or jealous, making hard for you and demanding all your attention. You need your partner's help to introduce the siblings and make sure they do not only co-exist, but become the best of friends.
If you are pregnant, you have good enough time to mentally prepare your older child (or children) for the new change. If your elder child co-sleeps with you and you are planning to shift him to his new room once the new baby arrives, do it now. If you shift his sleeping space after the new one’s arrival, he may feel kicked out. And this is where jealously for the new baby brother or sister, aka siblings rivalry, starts. If not timely treated, it may lead to siblings fighting for no reason, as your little one grows up and struggles to make his place.
Same goes with toddler/ preschooler milestones like potty training, giving up milk bottle or dummy – whatever change you want in your child, make it happen before the little one arrives. This way your child will not feel that he is not “your little baby” anymore.
Once you pop out your newborn baby, make sure your older child visits you in the hospital when no one else is there so that he can have one-on-one interaction with you, and then he can get some special family time with his parents and the new baby, hence minimizing the chances of siblings rivalry.
1. When you bring the baby back home, have the dad carry the baby. Keep yourself free for your older child. Hug him and talk to him about the things he did when you were away in the hospital and praise him for how he has dressed up or made a drawing.
2. Make him connect to the little one. Let your child hold the baby, smell him, gently kiss her tiny hands and look at the tiny drop of life for sometime. Do not shoo him away saying “Don’t come near your baby sister now, she is sleeping.” Instead try to give the elder one priority. Before you know it, the child would become used to having a little one around him.
3. Make him a Super-hero: Give your child some baby’s responsibility – give him a fancy name like “Diaper Super-man” (who runs to the drawer to fetch a new diaper every time the baby needs a diaper change) or “Awesome Dress Selector” (ask him if he would like the baby to wear the yellow shirt or the green one), etc. Toddlers and preschoolers love to be super-heroes.
4. Avoid changing your child’s daily routine: I know this is not as easy as it sounds, but try to keep your child’s daily routine just as it was before the new baby. Any change in his bedtime, mealtime or TV-time would only create siblings rivalry and make him feel that he is no longer a priority.
5. It is okay if your older child does not take any interest in the baby. If your toddler/ preschooler does not look at or come near his baby brother or baby sister, do not be alarmed and do not force him to take interest. It may take time – actually less than you initially thought it would.
6. This is not the time to ask your child to grow up! I know you really want to but don’t! Telling your child to grow up, take responsibility, act like a big brother or sister will only make siblings rivalry worse. Don’t expect children to behave as adults when it comes to a big change like this.
7. Expect tantrums. Children will show regression at this point. Your kid will become super-possessive. Expect him to be more hyper, throw tantrums, use inappropriate language (whatever is in his list of “bad words”), seek your attention by spilling his juice on your favorite sofa, messing up in all possible way – yes, he will do all of that just to make you leave the baby and come to him. Psychologists believe that one of the main reasons for siblings fighting with each other is when children are not given the attention they expect from their parent/s.
Scolding and punishing will only make it worse. Whenever this happens, make your husband hold your baby and go to your child and give him the attention he wants. Try being in his shoes – for so many years he was the “one and the only” and now he feels insecure – he does not want to share you with a baby that he does not know. Show him he does not have to. I’m sure at this stage the new baby won’t notice if you listened to your older child first before sitting down to massage her.
8. Never leave your baby unsupervised with the toddler. Toddlers and preschoolers, even children a little older than this, sometimes do not know how to tackle their jealousy. If you ever find your child with the new baby alone, distract his attention by a game or a new poem that you heard him sing.
9. Choose your words wisely. Don’t make everything about the baby, else this will only increase the effect of siblings rivalry. If you are waiting for the baby to wake up and then you can take them both to the park, instead of saying, “Let the baby wake up first and then we can go”, you can say “Wait for me to finish up some work quickly and then we can all go”. Words matter – a lot!
10. Read to him stories that have new babies in them. This way he will relate to them. If he watches cartoon, look out for the siblings in the cartoons and point out the sibling relationships to him. He will soon start to develop a liking for the new baby.
Siblings rivalry or sibling conflict is a natural part of life. Every one’s been there – at varying degrees. Very soon your elder child will forget how life was before the baby and he will not only behave well, he will also start involving his new baby brother or sister in his daily routine. And how wonderful would that be! : )
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