Is your toddler jealous of his baby sibling?
When I was pregnant with my second child, my daughter appeared pretty ecstatic and eager to meet her baby brother. You see my plan was to keep the sex of the baby a secret but my oblivious daughter was so excited that she went about telling anyone who cared to listen that her ‘baby brother’ was in her mommy’s tummy.
Fastforward to when ‘baby brother’ finally arrived… My daughter kept up the excitement in the hospital and seemed more than ready to resume her ‘big sister’ role. But interestingly, when we got home, the dynamics suddenly changed. I can’t begin to list all the baby things my 3 1/2 year old suddenly started doing or wanting to do. For example, she threw all her potty training learnings out of the window and seemed to think that the new, cool thing was to poop in her underwear. Also, even though a die-hard daddy’s little girl, she started clinging more to me. As in, simply because her baby brother was seated on my lap she would insist that I, instead of daddy, carry her. The funny part was whenever we tried explaining to her that she can’t do certain things because she is no longer a baby, she will reply with, ‘When I become a baby…’ To her, being a baby was suddenly something cool to aspire towards.
Good enough, after much explanation with the aid of her own baby pictures, she now understands that she too was once a baby and having successfully completed her baby course, she is now a big girl who should be teaching her baby brother the way to go.
Now, I also had to deal with the mixed feelings she suddenly seemed to have for her brother. When at school, her brother was the hero, whom she was going to report every troublemaker to. But at home, the innocent lad was some naughty boy who had come to steal away mommy and daddy. Unfortunately this interpretation of hers was one that seemed to constantly bring out the worst in her as she regularly burst out, ‘My brother is a naughty boy’.
With all this drama suddenly on my hands, I had to start taking deliberate steps towards fixing what I considered to be an emotional mess. For example, for fear that all her toddler energy would one day bring her brother tumbling down, whenever my daughter moved anywhere close to his cot I used to scream, ‘Stop that’, ‘Move away’, ‘No’, etc. You see, I was always so scared that some unforgivable accident will happen. However seeing the negative impact all that screaming was having on my daughter, I reduced the ‘shouts’ by bringing her brother into a safe reach. What do I mean? I simply started involving her in some simple baby care activities which made her to quit viewing her brother as some kind of forbidden fruit which she just had to bite into at all cost. For example, I could get her to hand over the wipes during a diaper change. Or she could sing to baby during bath time. Or give baby a gentle pat whenever he cried. But ofcourse, I always ensured her involvement was guarded by very, very, very close supervision!!!! As in, I always ensured that a responsible adult was always involved in whatever role she was taking up.
In addition I’ve been forced to become much more organized so that I’m not so ‘baby overwhelmed’ that I have no time for her. For example, before she gets back from school I try to get as much as possible done so that I still have the time and energy to do homework with her, read to her, pray with her, etc. As in, as much as is possible, I try to avoid baby time and mommy time eating up all of her own time.
Finally because there is only so much I can do, I regularly explain to her that since she and baby have the same mommy and daddy, they would both have to learn the art of sharing.
Tell me, how did your first born handle the ‘new addition’? Was he/she jealous of or in love with the baby? Where there was jealousy, what steps did you take in making him/her more comfortable with and accepting of the new living arrangement?
Image courtesy: babynames.allparenting.com, www.todaysparent.com, www.understandingchildhood.net, www.slj.com