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 bringing home a new baby. You probably feel many emotions and challenges, like joy, excitement, nervousness, exhaustion, and love. Their older sibling feels the same emotions and more, including curiosity, insecurity, confusion, and jealousy. It is common for young children to feel jealous and out of place when a newborn comes home. Depending on the age of your older children, they may have a mix of reactions that you have not experienced before, such as:

  • Overprotectiveness towards the baby or completely ignoring the baby.
  • Becoming clingier, wanting more attention, being mad, or withdrawing.

They can show their emotions by:

  • Thumb-sucking
  • Whining
  • Having accidents even if they are fully using the potty
  • Wanting to be fed like the baby or wear diapers

What can you do?

Try to be patient, understanding, and supportive as your child is going through these emotions and reactions. Your child feels like they are getting less love or being replaced by a new baby. This is a common reaction of young children. Things you can try:

  • 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), this means that they are feeling anxious. Make sure they feel supported and address any other sources of stress or anxiety in their life, such as changes in routines.
  • 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,” may increase their stress and anxiety that you don’t love them anymore.

Show them how you can care for the baby together

  • First, tell them it is never okay to hurt the baby. Your child will watch and learn as you handle the baby because you are your child’s most important teacher and role model.
  • 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 well-done job. 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. Letting 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.

Practice self-care

Recognize that it’s normal for you to feel overwhelmed or stressed when adjusting to a new family dynamic. Take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally to maintain your patience and well-being. Make time for activities that help you relax and recharge, whether exercising, meditation, or spending time with supportive friends and family members. Don’t hesitate to seek support from your partner, friends, or family when you feel overwhelmed. Joining a support group for parents of multiple children can also provide valuable guidance and encouragement.

This is a time of adjustment for everyone in the family. In time and with your encouragement, your older child will learn to deal with their feelings toward the new baby.

Read books with your child

There are excellent books available for children that can help them understand and adjust to the arrival of a new baby. Visit the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries catalogue to search for books.

Examples (click to expand) »
  • “The New Baby” by Mercer Mayer: This classic Little Critter book follows Little Critter as he adjusts to the arrival of a new sibling. It addresses children’s common concerns and feelings when a new baby comes home.
  • “I’m a Big Brother” / “I’m a Big Sister” by Joanna Cole: These board books are designed specifically for young children about to become older siblings. They provide simple, reassuring messages and colourful illustrations to help children understand their new role.
  • “Hello Baby!” by Mem Fox: In this sweet book, a young girl eagerly waits for the arrival of her new sibling. The story celebrates the excitement and joy of welcoming a new baby into the family.
  • “The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby” by Stan and Jan Berenstain: In this classic Berenstain Bears story, Brother and Sister Bear learn what it means to have a new baby sister. The book addresses common sibling issues and emphasizes the importance of love and family.
  • “A Baby Sister for Frances” by Russell Hoban: This charming book follows Frances the Badger as she adjusts to the arrival of a new baby sister. It explores themes of jealousy, sibling rivalry, love and acceptance.
  • “You Were the First” by Patricia MacLachlan: This heartwarming book celebrates the bond between a child and their parents, reassuring older siblings that they will always hold a special place in their parents’ hearts, even after the arrival of a new baby.
  • “My New Baby” by Rachel Fuller: This interactive board book features simple text and colourful illustrations to help young children understand what it’s like to have a new baby in the family. It includes flaps to lift and explore, making it engaging for little ones.

These books can provide comfort, reassurance, and guidance to children as they navigate the changes that come with the arrival of a new baby sibling. Reading them together can also be an excellent way for families to bond and discuss their feelings about the new addition.

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Last updated: 2024-03-27