Sibling jealousy

The arrival of a new sibling or rivalry between children is the cause of jealousy that often makes a child misbehave or feel out of place or less loved.

Sibling jealousy is very common in young children, particularly with the birth of a new family member. Older siblings may feel afraid because they think their parents are no longer going to love them as much, because they feel out of place and because they do not want to share the love with the new baby.

Every child shows this in a different way. Some start to misbehave as a way of getting attention and ignore the baby as a show of rejection. Some may have nightmares, start wetting the bed or even do things typical of younger children. Others hide their feelings and constantly try to help their parents for fear of being left to one side.

In any situation, there are a number of things you can do to make sure that none of the siblings feels bad or out of place.

How to handle jealousy

Before the baby is born, explain the situation to the older sibling so he is prepared. It's good to talk about the changes that are coming so he understands the good things that having a new sibling will bring: no longer having to play alone, being the eldest and looking after the baby, etc.

However much care the baby requires, you need to keep spending the same amount of time with your other child as you did before. If you used to read him stories in bed or go to the park on Fridays, you need to keep doing this.

Jealousy cannot be ignored because the older child will be feeling unhappy and, besides, bad behaviour has to be called out whatever the cause. Also, it is good to talk with your child about how he is feeling and remind him that you still love him as much as before.

Show your appreciation when he helps you and remind him that you are proud of how grown up he is.

It is also important to leave any changes you had planned for later on or to get them out of the way before the baby arrives. For example, if you have to change rooms, it's best to do it early so that the older child does not associate it with the birth of the baby.

If the jealousy becomes rivalry when the two siblings are older, you will have to act in time or their fighting will make the situation untenable.

Never compare the siblings to one another, as this only accentuates any jealousy. Likewise, don't look for someone to blame or take sides. When they argue, both are to blame, unless one has behaved very badly towards the other or has acted out to make him angry.

Encourage them to play together and, if they are roughly the same age, try to sign them up for the same extracurricular activities if they both like them. Still, you don't need to treat them both equally on all occasions. They have to learn that it's not always their turn, such as on birthdays.

Be patient and sit them down when talking to them. The more you shout, the less likely you are to resolve the underlying issue. Give them your attention and keep spending time with both of them so that neither feels abandoned or less loved.

Encourage them to support and care for each other and they will soon see themselves as siblings, not rivals.

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