Sibling rivalry is a common problem that many parents face but what do you do when it starts at such a young age that one of the children can’t even walk or talk yet? A common problem that many parents face is sibling rivalry when the toddler doesn’t like the new baby. It may happen when the baby first comes home or after it is a few months old. One of the biggest reasons why this happens is that the young child of toddler age is not yet mature enough to accurately communicate her own feelings or to have empathy for others, such as the new sibling.
Some examples of this type of sibling rivalry include:
• Older child may begin acting like a baby or young child once again or revert to habits she had already outgrown such as thumb sucking
• May express that she does not like the baby or doesn’t want the baby- may say things like “take it back”
• Your oldest child cries often, cries over the baby or cries over things she did not cry about before
• She pinches, slaps, pokes or otherwise harms the baby
• She shows annoyance and frustration when the baby cries, fusses or needs something from a parent or care-giver
If you are experiencing these situations with your young children, then there is help for you. The first step is to recognize that you are not alone. It can be a frustrating and overwhelming situation to be in but when you know that other parents are going through the same thing, it takes some of the stress out of the equation.
Encourage your oldest child to use her words to describe to you how she is feeling about the new baby. Also be sure you take the time to listen to what your child is saying and feeling. Her feelings are legitimate, even if you don’t agree with them and giving her this opportunity to express herself is a first-hand lesson in empathy.
Here are some additional tips to help with this sibling rivalry problem:
• Take time every day to spend with your oldest child and remind her of why she is special to you
• Arrange a lot of one-on-one time with your oldest where the baby will not interrupt
• Allow her to take on new responsibilities and feel like a “big girl”, including responsibilities of helping with the new baby
• Identify triggers that make her angry, jealous or upset and try to find solutions to preventing these
• Look for signs of boredom, over stimulation, need for attention, hunger and tiredness that can contribute to the problem
Remember that your toddler still has physical and emotional needs as well, although there is a new baby to take care of. When you are aware of why this problem with sibling rivalry occurs, you will be able to prevent it and meet the needs of all of your children.