A child sometimes has difficulty with the arrival of a baby in the family. He may feel jealous or neglected and believe that the newcomer takes his place because his parents devote a lot of time to him. It will even happen to regress to attract attention.
The reactions of children
A child can respond in a variety of ways to the arrival of a baby at home. Sometimes he does not feel at all threatened by the baby’s arrival and continues to grow without any disturbance. He may still have some infantile behaviors such as asking for a bottle or wanting to put on a diaper, but it is simply for the sake of imitating the baby.
The child from 1 to 3 years is, however, the one who is likely to be the most jealous of a little brother or a little sister. Indeed, he has trouble sharing the attention of his parents. It can very quickly move from a state of excitement or pride to jealousy, sadness or resentment. He may wish the newborn to be brought back to the hospital and he may even harm him by accident. It may also try to attract attention by adopting infantile behavior, for example by not being clean or asking to be breastfed or bottle-fed.
An older child may express their feelings of jealousy in a slightly more subtle way. For example, he may hug the baby very tightly or wrongly accuse him of certain things. If you think he’s going to hurt the baby, never leave them alone together.
Finally, an elder can take his role as big brother or sister so seriously that he tends to do too much. For example, he is possessive towards the baby. A child can also be very proud to have a little brother or sister. He wants to show the baby to everyone and wants to hug him constantly. He is interested in the care of the baby and he wants to participate. A child can also imitate his parents by nursing his doll or changing his diaper. On the other hand, if the eldest did not like being the only child in the family, he can see another child’s arrival in a very positive way, because he considers him a friend with whom to play at home.
The elder’s jealousy can appear or reappear when the baby reaches a new stage in his life: when he learns to walk and begins to interrupt his play, break his toys, scatter them or when he learns to speak and becomes able to challenge his big brother or big sister.
How to help?
Here are some ways to reassure your elder and make him feel that you love him as much as before the birth of the baby.
Respect his emotions
- Tell him that you love him as much as before and as much as the new baby.
- Make it clear to your child that it is normal for them to not always feel love for the newborn.
- Let your elder bond with the baby. Bring his attention to how his brother or sister reacts to voices, grimaces, cuddles …
- Read stories about families who have just welcomed a baby, and talk about how this birth awakens at home.
- Let your elder live as a child of his age. It is not because he has become the greatest that he has to be asked to think big. Allow him to stay small.
- Let him express his feelings of sadness or anger, but tell him that you will not accept any violent gestures towards the baby.
Give him responsibilities
- Give your elder responsibilities so that he feels he has a role to play. For example, ask him to pick up a washcloth for the baby. Show him how to wear the baby in a safe way.
- Give him a doll with clothes so that he can imitate you when you take care of your newborn.
- Highlight the importance of his new role as a big brother or sister. Tell others, in front of your eldest, how much it helps you take care of the baby. However, do not compliment him just on this subject.
- Try to spend time with your eldest, face to face. Talk together, cajole him, participate in his favorite activity … Remember that the most important thing is not to spend a lot of time with him, but rather to spend quality time with him, where you are fully available. He will be reassured of your love for him.
- The father can devote more time to the elder when the mother has to take care of the newborn. It can also be grandparents or other family members. The important thing is that your elder does not feel isolated or rejected.
- Do family activities. For example, you can go to the park, pick apples or go for a walk. Even if the baby is not an active participant and remains in the baby carrier throughout the activity, it reinforces the sense of belonging to the family.
- Read books together. Involve the whole family in this activity. Let everyone choose their favorite book and select one for the baby. If your elder already knows how to read, let him read aloud if he wants to.
- Let your child play with the baby under your supervision. He can wave a rattle to catch his attention, play “hello” with a blanket, lie down next to him or babble with his little brother or little sister. They will develop an emotional bond.
- Let your child be affectionate with the baby in your presence. He can take it, give him hugs, give him kisses and caress him. Make him notice the baby’s reaction when the gestures are done gently.