our everyday life

How to Deal With Firstborn Jealousy Towards a Newborn Sibling

by Judy Kilpatrick

Parents are often perplexed when their first child becomes whiny, demanding or regressive when the second baby comes home. Firstborn jealousy toward a newborn sibling is frustrating, but according to psychologists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, first children often feel a sense of dethronement from their position of parental favor when another child is born into the family. Volling et al. in a 2002 article published in "Child Development" state that "the parent–child relationship that is threatened by a sibling rival is the most important and formative relationship of a young child’s early life."

Prevent Jealousy

Prepare your child for the new sibling relationship by announcing a baby brother or sister is coming when physical signs of the pregnancy are evident. Although your child might be too young to understand the impact of having a sibling, preparation can help take some of the surprise out of the situation.

Talk about babies, pointing out babies in town, in books or on television shows. Discuss the characteristics of babies and the advantages of having a brother or sister.

Allow your firstborn to participate in preparations for the baby to foster a sense of relationship -- emotional attachment and a sense of belonging.

Make changes in your firstborn's schedule or other lifestyle changes required by the addition of a new sibling before the baby arrives. By making changes ahead of time, your firstborn is less likely to associate any undesired changes with emotional displacement because of the arrival of the new baby.

Allow your firstborn to visit the baby in the hospital. Help establish the relationship as big brother or sister by letting your first child assist you in choosing clothes for the baby's trip home.

Facilitate Adjustment

Expect symptoms of jealousy from your firstborn during the first weeks after the new baby's arrival. Regression, temper tantrums or clinging behavior are common firstborn reactions to the changes in your family's dynamics.

Use encouragement and praise advances of your firstborn, such as using a sippy cup instead of a bottle. The firstborn will meld into a new parent-child relationship with you, realizing that being the oldest comes with special privileges, like helping with simple household chores or playing games together.

Ignore firstborn temper tantrums thrown to manipulate you or to get your attention. The crisis created by the new baby provides an opportunity for your firstborn to grow in relationship skills. When you ignore tantrums you teach your child that negative behaviors are ineffective and do not lead to greater closeness. Diversion is also helpful in changing the course of a tantrum. Avoid making eye contact with your child as you begin an activity to distract her. Children love imagination and outlandish things. Let your two hands hold a conversation with each other, or talk out loud about going to the kitchen for hot chocolate. Accept your child warmly when she begins to laugh at your antics or wants to join you for cocoa.

About the Author

For Judy Kilpatrick, gardening is the best mental health therapy of all. Combining her interests in both of these fields, Kilpatrick is a professional flower grower and a practicing, licensed mental health therapist. A graduate of East Carolina University, Kilpatrick writes for national and regional publications.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images