My Toddler is Jealous of the Baby
If you think about it rationally, it is easy to understand why a toddler would be jealous of a new baby. For months, all people have talked about is the ‘new baby,’ looking sullenly at the toddler at your side and announcing all the new responsibilities involved with being a big brother or sister. Then, one day much like a Lilly blooms suddenly on a spring morning, the baby is here – and the entire world is consumed with the cuteness and joy. This new little person, without even saying a word, quickly and completely cuts in on your toddler’s time and attention with everyone. The rest is sibling rivalry in the making. What many parents don’t understand is that they often contribute to these feelings unwittingly.
Of course you are excited about having a baby. However, it is unreasonable to think that your toddler will suddenly and automatically fall in love with someone who steals his or her thunder. Give them time. As a parent, you shouldn’t force sibling love so soon – instead, try allowing it to develop over time. It will happen, but by telling the big boy in your house that “he should love his new sister,” you place expectations that lead to guilt. This guilt felt by your toddler over not feeling overwhelmed with love for their new brother or sister can cause them to act out in many ways. None of which are good.
Parents also have a tendency to overlook the fact that the new baby really does not need as much attention as they think. After your first child, you no doubt realized that the infant weeks are by far the easiest. The baby simply sleeps, eats, sleeps some more, and needs a diaper change from time to time. Instead of incessantly carrying around the baby and being all consumed with his or her every breath – spend plenty of time with the older child in your home. Allow your toddler to help you with the baby, but don’t demand it. Take advantage of this quiet time before the colic sets in to forge special connections with your toddler. Soon enough, the baby will grow and be into everything, demanding attention, and with increasing needs that will spread your attention thin. But for now – enjoy! This shows your toddler that just because a baby is in the house, doesn’t mean they are no longer important.
Another mistake that causes jealousy is the overreaction that parents have when a toddler poorly handles the baby. Your first reaction is to shriek and chastise; however – your toddler has no idea that they can cause an infant harm. They have no clue how to take care of a baby. Your best bet is to allow them to explore their budding sibling while you keep careful watch and teach them tenderly how to hold, feed, or make the new baby smile. You may even think about enrolling them in a big brother or big sister class. When a toddler accidentally hurts an infant, they feel terribly remorseful, especially if mom or dad reacts violently. Try to avoid discipline, and instead explain how fragile an infant is. For this reason (and others), a toddler should NEVER be left alone with an infant.
Set aside some special time to do big kid things with your big kid. Don’t drag the baby along if you can help it, and instead try to send the message that being the oldest has its advantages. Like ice-cream or a play date in the park sans the infant. This way you won’t be distracted by the baby, others won’t be constantly oohing and aahing over the baby, and your toddler will feel very special.
Unfortunately, kids don’t remember what it was like to be an infant or baby. By pulling out the scrapbooks, the stored videos, and retelling stories to your toddler about how cute they were when they were born, you help them to understand that they too received a grand welcome into the world (Probably even grander if they were your first). When you see the baby doing things that your toddler used to do – point it out to them so they realize that they too were special and admired.
Eventually, the jealousy will fade. Still, in most houses where there is more than one child – the sibling rivalry will continue to play out long after they are grown and know better. Remaining patient and remembering to commemorate each child for what makes them special can go a long way in terms of limiting jealousy, rivalry, and hurt feelings.