There is a natural jealousy that occurs between older children and newborns. This is especially true if the older child was the only child. That only child, who was once the center of the family’s universe, now has to share the limelight, and he’s not happy about it. In addition, it may seem to an older child that the newborn gets everything that it wants, just by crying! If the newborn wants to eat, she cries and is fed. If she has a wet diaper, she cries and is changed. In toddlers, it is even common for behavior to regress, to where the toddler is acting like the newborn in order to get attention. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to reduce the sibling rivalry that occurs between older children and newborns.
The first step in addressing sibling rivalry and newborns is to focus for a while on your older child. Listen to his wants and his needs. Spend some quality time just with him, and make sure he is getting praise and positive attention, not just the negative attention that may come with acting out. By actively working on your relationship with your older child, you will actually be reducing sibling rivalry between him and your newborn.
Even before the baby is born, there are things you can do to reduce sibling rivalry. Help your older child know what to expect. Talk about what will happen when the baby is born. Listen to her concerns about having a newborn brother or sister. Answer the questions she has, and answer them in a way that is geared toward her level of understanding and maturity. In this way, you will also reduce the sibling rivalry she might have with the newborn.
Finally, try to make your older child an active part of the newborn’s life. In this way, your older child will begin to see himself as a partner with you, rather than as a competitor with the newborn. If he’s old enough, let him feed the newborn for example. If he is not, make him the “diaper sheriff” – in charge of bringing you a diaper when the newborn goes to the bathroom. By making your older child feel like a participant, you will reduce those natural feelings of jealousy.