Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

Sibling Rivalry Starts Early

My new nephew arrived a few weeks earlier than expected. Probably not soon enough for mom, but maybe too soon for  big sister Mia. She has been telling everyone in no uncertain terms that this baby was to be a baby sister, and her name would be Princess Ariel. That’s just how it is in the mind of almost three-year-old Princess Mia.

Sibling rivalry usually hits children one to three-years-old the hardest. They are still very dependent on mom and dad to meet their needs, not the needs of the new baby, and up until this point, first-borns haven’t had to share mom and dad with anyone. Truly, it is a time of great adjustment for the entire family.

Mia made me think back to the days of sibling rivalry in my own home. My son and daughter were five years apart. I recall coming out of the shower one day to find that the crib mobile had mysteriously been displaced and was on top of the baby in the crib. Gee, wonder how that got there? Maybe she wanted to play?

Older siblings are all unique both in style and temperament, but some common reactions may be expected. Some children may resort to attention-seeking behavior, becoming more difficult and demanding. Others may become distant, quiet and mope around. Jealousy may be evident with  hitting or attempting to hurt baby, or just the opposite, they hug the baby so hard it cries. Don’t be alarmed if your potty-trained toddler suddenly starts having accidents; regression is quite normal and should not last very long. It may be difficult to completely eliminate these confusing feelings inspired by your new arrival, but there are some things you can do in preparation for the changes to come.

Reassure your child that even though the new baby takes a lot of your time and effort, that doesn’t mean you love them any less. Let them know what to expect. Most hospitals offer sibling tours and they can see where the new baby will be born, and where mom will go to get the baby.  Let them know who they will stay with while mom is in the hospital. Let them know that a new baby eats and sleeps A LOT, and may do a lot of crying not because they are sad or hurt, but because they have no words.

Try to keep your older child’s routine as normal as you can. If they are already attending a child care center or preschool, let them continue with their day as they know it. Schedule some alone time with your older child. They need to know you are still there for them, just as much as you are there for the baby. Make nap time a family event: everyone can rest at the same time even if they aren’t actually asleep.

Encourage your older child to help you take care of the baby. They can read to the baby, hold them with some adult assistance, or help bring diapers as needed. Praise them for their help and for being a “big” sister or brother. Give them a baby doll that they can care for while mom is busy with the baby.

I will actually get to visit and see my new nephew and Princess Mia this evening. I heard she is semi-adjusted to the fact that the baby sister she wanted is really a brother, and at this point she has named him “Prince Eric.” But, aunt Debbie is coming prepared. I found a onesie that says Prince Charming on it, and I am delivering Mia her very own princess Ariel doll so she can be just as busy as her mommy!

Photo courtesy of Chapendra.

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