Jealousy and Sibling Rivalry: Newborn Edition

A young girl standing next to her baby brother crosses her arms and pouts towards the camera.You are welcoming a new child into your family, everyone is happy. Everyone, that is, except for your first-born child. Your young child may show a variety of reactions when a newborn arrives.

It is common for young children to feel jealous and out of place when a newborn comes home. They may react by:

  • thumb sucking
  • wanting to wear diapers
  • becoming upset and fearful
  • whining
  • wanting to breastfeed or drink from a bottle
  • ignoring you or the baby
  • soiling their pants or bed even if they are toilet trained
  • wanting to return the baby

What can you do?

You can help lessen these feelings and reactions by providing a supportive, nurturing environment that allows your child to feel secure and loved. Here are a few tips:

  • Maintain your child’s routine as much as possible when the baby arrives.
  • Plan alone time with your child. Give your child extra attention while someone else looks after the baby.
  • If your child slips backward in something they previously accomplished (such as being toilet-trained or sleeping in their bed all night), do not punish them.
  • Give your child praise and attention when they show positive behaviours.
  • Recognize your child’s feelings. If your child says they do not like the baby, agree that having a baby around is not always fun. Talk about how you love the baby but also find it hard sometimes. Saying things that make your child feel guilty, such as “you are older” or “you should know better,” is not helpful.

Show your child how to care for the baby

Be sure to tell your child that it is never okay to hurt the baby.

Your child will watch and learn as you handle the baby. You are your child’s most important teacher.

Teach soft touches. Show your child how to give the baby a back rub. Tell how this touch calms the baby; then praise them for a job well done. This teaches your child how to be physical with the baby in a positive way.

Let your child help you care for the baby. They can get diapers, clothes, and toys. They may be able to push a stroller. Let this happen with encouragement, forcing them or complaining if they don’t help are not positive experiences for your child or you. Praise your child when they do help; ignore the rest. These things all contribute to them learning empathy skills.

This is a time of adjustment for everyone in the family. In time and with encouragement, your older child will learn to deal with their feelings toward a new baby, share, feel responsible for other family members, and get along with others.

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Last updated: 2019-08-14