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How to deal with a jealous toddler of a new sibling
I've been there
Here's a real life example...this is my story. I had my second child when my oldest just turned two. My oldest and I were joined at the hip, and she only wanted me versus her daddy to do things for her. Of course, I attributed this to being a stay at home mom and being with her 24/7 just made her more attached to me.
Once she visited me at the hospital after I gave birth, she wanted nothing to do with me. I was heartbroken. I'm an emotional person already, but having her scream when I held her and pushing me away when I tried to talk to her just put me to tears. She soon became BFFs with her daddy, and I didn't mind that because my husband was so happy with her attention. He was soaking it all in, and it was great to see him fostering a stronger relationship with her.
However the problem became worse when we brought our newborn home. Not only did she resent me, but she also became jealous of the baby. So many of my friends would ask me what she would do that made me know she was jealous. Here are some clues:
- Hitting the baby
- Screaming "no" when one of us would hold the baby
- Constant night waking and crying in our room (we were co-sleeping with the baby)
- Trying to wake the baby by pulling on the swaddle or throwing toys in the bassinet
I felt so horrible and helpless. Everyone kept telling me it was just a phase, but it lasted up to two months. Yes, it was a phase and I thank God we got over it, but two months was a long time. Here are some things that helped me cope with the jealousy and how I kept sane.
Five ways to help your child cope with a new sibling
1.) If you have the luxury of extra help, take it! My husband got two weeks of paternity leave, and it was a lifesaver. My mother also took a week off of work to cook for the family. Instead of me doing the majority work of caring for our newborn, we had my husband do the diaper changing, the bath, putting her to sleep, etc. With that free time, I made an extra effort to set aside "Special Time" between my oldest child and myself. I bought three different activities to do - A Princess Workbook with stickers and magnets, a Play-Doh set, and a set of watercolor paints. I set aside thirty minutes every day, and she got to choose which activity to do. My husband would take our baby and leave the room to make it more official that it was just between us two. Although there were times when she wanted her daddy to do the special activity, she started realizing slowly that it was mommy time.
2.) Practice with your child on how to be gentle with the baby. As it became evident that our toddler was deliberately hitting our newborn, I knew I had to nip it in the bud fast. I felt like I was constantly saying, "No, stop hitting" and sending her to time out. I became over protective with our baby, and that made things worse so I made a few changes of how I dealt with it myself. Instead of continuing to point out her hitting, I would ask my toddler to help me with diaper changes and swaddling. I would actually guide her hand for everything, so she knew how slow and gentle my movements were. My niece and nephew who are older children would come by to visit, and I would make a point to her how they were being gentle with the baby and ask her to copy them. Slowly but surely, her hitting eventually stopped. This took some time, but I was diligent about pointing out every time she was calm and nice with her movements towards our newborn.
3.) What to do about night wakings? This one was tough for me. I heard night wakings are normal when a new sibling comes into the picture. My husband would just have to follow her back in her room and help her go back to sleep. I would remind her that the baby was sleeping in mommy and daddy's room for a short time until she got bigger to fit in her crib. It's tough to see your oldest feeling sad, confused, angry about such a thing. Instead of getting angry or frustrated, accept that it's a phase of regression and remind her that it's time to be a big girl.
4.) Become organized and have activities to do for your oldest when feeding the newborn. I breastfed my baby, and in the beginning the nursing sessions took awhile just because I had to get the hang of it all over again. I thought the second time around breastfeeding would come naturally but it was the exact opposite. While my husband went back to work, I needed to find ways to keep my oldest busy when feeding my baby. I had stickers, snacks, extra books around me, the iPad, the TV remote in case I had to turn on a show for her, etc.
5.) When guests come to see the newborn, ask them nicely to pay more attention to your oldest. I realized this made a huge impact. Your oldest child already knows the newborn has taken away all the attention, so it's great to see when guests come and dote on the oldest and say what a great job he/she is doing as the oldest sibling. Some friends who couldn't make it to my baby shower told me they wanted to bring my baby a gift, and I asked them to instead bring a small gift like a book or some bubbles for my oldest child. Just seeing my oldest smile when accepting these gifts made a difference to me as well. I felt like everything was going to be ok.
It really is going to be OK
No matter how tough it gets, just know that this stage is temporary. Even though you might be running on a few hours of sleep and your hormones are making you breakdown everyday, rest assured that one day it will just start getting better.
How do moms of three do it? Moms of four? Kate plus Eight or Octomom? The last example is probably bad, but just stay patient and ask for help around you. Now if you have the chance, go give your own mom a big hug!
Here are some links to help you along further
- Helping Siblings Adjust to New Baby
A new baby is a big change for everybody! Moms share ideas to help older children adjust to the newest family member.
- Preparing Your Child for a New Sibling Introducing a New Baby
Preschooler/Baby Sibling Relationships