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Encouraging Your Child to Embrace the New Baby

Ilyssa Panitz
June 19, 2017

When you have a new baby, help your current child or children get used to a new sibling.

"I hate the baby! Why do we have to keep the baby? You love the baby more than you love me! The baby is yucky, take her back!"'

Welcome to sibling rivalry. If you envisioned a big happy family when your new baby arrived and instead you're finding that your firstborn wants to ship the baby back - take comfort - you're not alone.

Dr. Jenn Berman author of "SuperBaby: 12 Ways To Give Your Child A Head Start in the First 3-Years," says that feelings like these are very common.

"Children can feel slightly jealous when there is a new child in the house because now they have to compete for emotional time, affection and attention with mommy and daddy," Dr. Berman says.  "Temper tantrums, acting out and regressive behavior are all normal signs that the child is mad about the new situation."

When Marina Hutchinson of Atlanta, gave birth to Samantha, her older daughter Ally, got really upset and started acting out.

"Ally would run to her room and slam the door because she felt I favored Samantha more than I did her," Hutchinson says.

Experts say that it's not just toddlers who get territorial when the baby comes. Older children can also get extremely jealous.

"When you are a child and a new baby enters the picture it can represent a power struggle and trigger the thought process, am I being replaced?" Dr. Berman says.

Forcing your child to love their new sibling may not be the most effective approach.  Dr. Berman says it's important to recognize what may be going on with the older child and respect the emotions. 

"The one big mistake I see parents and caregivers make over and over is not letting the child have their feelings, especially if they are negative.  If your child says mean things about the baby, the adult needs to let them express themselves," Dr. Berman says.  "The parent can reply to the child by saying, 'It sounds like it is hard for you to share mommy and daddy. You must be so mad. I am sure this must be really hard on you.'"

Like adults, children also need a platform to convey and communicate their feelings especially when their familiar world is now foreign.

"By letting the child vent their frustration it allows the child to validate their feelings rather than sweeping it under the rug," says Dr. Berman.

Other tips Dr. Berman offers:

  • Make sure you and your spouse each make special time with the child.  This could be taking a walk, reading a book or participating in an activity that is appealing to the child.
  • Reward good behavior by reflecting back to a good deed the child did to help their sibling.  Example:  "WOW that was so helpful.  You picked up that pacifier, handed it to your little sister and made her sister so happy.  That was so awesome."
  • Respect your child's boundaries and possessions.  Each child needs to understand that not everything has to be shared, and some toys and books can be just for him.
  • Keep your older child on the same schedule because they need consistency, since their whole world has been turned upside down.
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