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Siblings: Jealousy towards a new baby brother or sister

Having a new baby fit into the family when you already have an older child - or children - is quite an adjustment for everyone. A young child, in particular, can feel rejected because you need to spend so much time with the baby. Toddlers and preschoolers may react in some harsh ways, like wanting you to send the baby back to the hospital, or inadvertently hurting the newborn. Or they may temporarily act younger, by having toilet accidents or demanding a bottle, to get your attention.

Children between the ages of one and three tend to feel the most jealous of a baby, and resent having to share your attention. Your child may feel proud and excited one minute, and jealous, sad or resentful the next.

There is a chance an older child might take out jealous feelings by hurting the baby. If you think this is likely, supervise ANY time they are together.

With children who are five or older, jealousy can show itself subtly, like cuddling too hard or blaming the baby for accidents. But they may not get too upset at the birth of a new baby. Often they start to act like a big brother or sister. Your child may feel quite possessive about the baby, and want to help change or feed her new sibling.

It's important to let your child know you understand that he doesn't always feel loving toward the new baby. Let your child say he is sad or angry, but help him be a helpful older sibling. Read stories about families with new babies and talk together about how the older child felt in the story. Also, try to make some time for just yourself and your older child.

Be aware that jealousy may also appear when your baby moves to a new stage. For example, your older child may be quite generous with the new baby until your baby learns to walk. Now that your baby is walking, she can interrupt your older child's play, discover his toys, break or scatter them and take over his friends. As your baby learns to talk, she becomes able to challenge your older child. This will trigger jealousy, where previously it was not a problem.

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