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A new baby is a huge adjustment for the older chid, who can feel that the new baby is taking over their role in the family, and this can lead to sibling rivalry. This can be shown in many different ways including behaving aggressively towards the baby, by pinching or poking them or throwing things at them. Many children experience feelings of jealousy towards their new brother or sister, and may convey these feelings through resorting to more ‘babyish’ behaviour, such as having tantrums or refusing to use the potty even though they have been successfully potty-trained for a while. This is all perfectly natural, and is their way of expressing their feelings of frustration, and confusion about their role in your life and their place in the family.
It is completely normal for older siblings to react in this way to the arrival of a new baby, and should not in any way affect their future relationship, particularly if dealt with in an open and non-judgemental way by their parents, so that their feelings of jealousy will diminish over time. Even if your child appears to be independent and capable of doing many things for themselves and without your constant attention, they still need your love and interest just as much as before – maybe now more than ever.
Try not to punish your older child, as this may lead to them feeling more resentful towards the baby and they may try to hurt the baby again. Although you must explain clearly that they are not allowed to hurt the baby, tell them you know they are not meaning to be naughty and should tell you how they are feeling, rather than taking it out on their brother or sister. Hopefully this should encourage them to open up to you a bit more and feel comforted by the fact that you want to know how to help them feel better.
These types of behaviour are particularly prevalent in toddlers, who are still so used to having your undivided attention, and were not long ago being breast or bottle-fed by you or falling asleep in your lap. By responding with patience and understanding, your child will start to feel secure again, and know that by making room for a new member of the family, they are not giving up their place or getting any less love from you. This will help them to accept the baby and start to see that they are also a part of their life, in their role as big brother or sister.
Tips for preventing sibling rivalry