Child can't accept new baby: What parents can do

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Although you had prepared your firstborn in advance for her baby brother’s arrival – and she seemed fine at the time – she has turned out to be terribly jealous of him.

She keeps whining just to get your attention, acts like a baby herself sometimes, and deliberately pulls you away when she sees you playing with him.

The change in her behaviour tells you that the green-eyed monster is rearing its ugly head.

When you understand the world from your young child’s point-of-view, the jealousy and resentment seem hardly surprising.

After all, she was used to having you all to herself, and she expected that way of life to continue forever.  She worries about having to share your time with the little brother.

She may be afraid that you will love Baby more than her, and that she will be less important to you. In other words, she feels insecure.

She might be concerned that she has to give up her bedroom to her brother, and that she’ll now have to share her toys with him, as well.

She may even think that you wanted another baby because she isn’t good enough for you, or that you want to punish her.

So don’t get angry at your little one for her jealousy; it’s better to respond with sensitivity.

Make your child feel important

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One of the best ways to help her through this temporary phase is by involving her directly in minor baby-care chores.

She will be full of self-importance, for example, when you ask her to bring you a clean diaper from the pile in the corner, or when you thank her for applying lotion on Baby’s legs after bath time.

These responsibilities and hands-on tasks make her feel part of her little brother’s life. They strengthen her attachment with him, reducing feelings of jealousy and resentment.

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And make her the centre of attention at times. For example, insist that the grandparents spend a few moments with her before they rush to see Baby.

Your child’s jealousy will recede as she leads visitors into the nursery – Baby is part of her family, too, and she will thoroughly enjoy telling everyone all about her little brother.

You could also give her new benefits because she is a “big sister” now.

For instance, tell her: “You can go bed a few minutes later because you are not a baby like your little brother” or “You can watch your DVD for longer because you are a big sister now.”

Giving her extra rewards, explicitly based on the fact that she is now the older child, encourages her to think positively about her sibling.

Try to make individual time for your toddler every day. All it takes is five or 10 minutes together – just you and her – without any interruption.

That makes her feel special and helps reduce any negative feelings she has towards him.

Point out to her that you enjoy sharing these precious moments together.

This article was first published in Young Parents.