I dunno, Esther seems pretty thrilled with her new baby brother these days. I was told to beware of the jealousy, but my 2-year old was SO excited to have a new baby in the house. When we first brought him home, she could barely contain herself and kept pointing at him and shrieking in delight, “Baby! Baby! Baby!” She didn’t even take notice that I had returned after a 3-day absence!
But we still have to keep an eye on her around the baby. “Gentle” is the new byword in the house, but either she’s still figuring out what that means, or she’s choosing to ignore us. “I love baby so much!” she’ll declare. She love to hug him (seem more like a choke hold to me), hold his hand (is it supposed to be twisting that way?), give him toys (ouch! Not in his eye!), and give love pats (smacks?).
Bringing home a new baby can be traumatic for an older child. Dr. Spock uses the following analogy to explain the jealousy:
Imagine that your husband comes home one day with another woman. He announces: “Dear, I love you as much as I always have, but now this person is going to live with us, too. By the way, she is also going to take up a lot of my time and attention because I’m crazy about her. She is more helpless and needy than you are anyway. Isn’t that wonderful? Aren’t you delighted?”
I’d be less than delighted too! So what can you do to prevent or overcome these feelings?
The first thing is to actually identify when your older child is jealous. It might not always manifest itself as verbal or physical abuse of the new baby. Often a child knows that hitting the new baby is not tolerated, so he may take out his anger in a variety of other ways.
Parenthood.com identifies 13 Signs a Sibling is Jealous of the new baby including clinging, thumb-sucking, regression in toilet training, resisting bedtime, abuse of pets, and avoiding contact with the baby.
iVillage gives some helpful advice on how to deal with a child who acts out and is rough with the baby. BabyWorld also has a good list of tools, including preparing your toddler before the baby arrives, how to manage the “first meeting,” and acknowlaging his feelings.
Elizabeth Pantley (author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution) offers some practical suggestions for keeping jealousy at bay. In “How do I deal with Jealous Sibling,” she lists 12 ways to relate to your toddler and make them feel loved, needed, and included. She points out the importace of “hovering” when your toddler and baby interact to make sure the baby is safe, while at the same time demonstrating the proper way to treat a little baby. Children tend to treat babies like dolls, and have a hard time understanding how to be “careful” unless we show them (without yelling “No, no! Be more careful!” every five seconds). Praise when your toddler does something right will get you farther than admonishing him every time he does it wrong. She also explains how to give your toddler extra love, be supportive, get him involved, and make him feel special.