One question I get asked a lot is if any of my children are jealous of the new baby. I can honestly say I have never had this happen. I have never had a child ask me to send back a younger sibling or act like they hate the new baby. Which makes me curious…why is this?
Well, because I’m pretty sure this whole jealously thing is a lot of nonsense.
Before I end up with scads of email telling me I’m all sorts of wrong about this, hear me out. If at the end of this post you still believe I’m wrong, feel free to let me know.
Sibling jealousy is often nurtured.
Sometimes it comes from mom and dad, sometimes a well-meaning grandparent, sometimes from Joe Schmoe down the street…someone says something that seems harmless and the little kid wheels start turning. For instance, Grandma tells little Timmy that when his new baby sister is born he might feel like he’s not getting any attention, but his parents really do love him.
Hello?! Let’s just set the little guy up for failure, shall we?
Or what about mom and dad who bend over backward to try to keep little Timmy from feeling jealous with presents and coddling. Or maybe the opposite happens and mom and dad suddenly focus all their attention on this tiny creature, all the while making it very clear that Timmy is “in the way”.
Don’t encourage jealousy with your words and actions. As adults, we are the ones these little people take their cues from. If your cues are suggesting they *should* be jealous of a new baby, then they *will* be jealous.
Jealousy stems from confusion.
We have always made the new baby a part of the family from the time he or she is a tiny little bump in mama’s belly. The baby is an addition, not a replacement, and our children are encouraged to dream about baby, shop for baby, talk about baby, and ask questions about baby long before the baby joins the family on the outside.
If you avoid talking about baby and letting your little ones interact with the baby before he or she is born, you end up surprising your child with a kicking, screaming doll that is terrifying. Mom and Dad spend a lot of time dealing with this tiny human, and little Timmy is totally confused about who this person is and how he is supposed to interact if he’s never been told this baby is “his” too.
Yes, your child may be too young to understand (my little Creed couldn’t even remember me without a belly, and he certainly had no concept of what a baby really was), but don’t let that stop you from talking about baby and including your child in baby related activities like shopping for baby and baby showers.
Jealous siblings see the new baby as YOURS, not OURS.
We talk about OUR baby. We tell our toddlers the new baby is THEIR baby. We make sure they know this new little one is a part of OUR family, and we talk about what it means to be a part of OUR family.
They come to the hospital. We encourage them to hold baby. We let them join in diaper changes, baths, and feeding. We are in this together, and baby is an addition to our family dynamic that we all get to enjoy.
But, if a parent excludes their other children from the day to day routine of having a new baby, or they never talk about baby being OUR baby, a toddler or older sibling may get the impression the baby isn’t someone they should pay attention to or bond with.
All this said, my biggest gripe with this whole sibling jealousy thing is…
Sibling jealousy is talked about way too much.
Any little sign of a child feeling jealous and we jump on the “we might warp them if we don’t do something quick” bandwagon. We are so busy trying to nurture our poor jealous child’s psyche, we end up making things worse! We run to grandparents, friends on Facebook, and even strangers in the supermarket to get their opinion on jealous siblings. All the while, our little children are wondering what you are so in a tizzy over, but the attention they are getting sure is fun! It doesn’t matter if the perceived jealousy is real or not, if little Timmy can milk it, he will.
He may actually be feeling a little left out and confused by this new person in his home, but if you run around like a crazy person, stressing over everything he says and feels, he’s not going to feel MORE secure, he’s going to wonder what is going on and act out even more! Stop talking about it so much. Stop stressing over it! Bring little Timmy alongside you and baby and show him that having a new baby in the house is just the way things are and everyone is better for it.
I truly believe many “modern” sibling issues are a lot of hype. We American parents stress over everything it seems. Somehow we’ve got to get a grip and just be parents…be a family…have a life! No more majoring in the minors. Let’s enjoy our families! Let’s show them just how wonderful and special new babies are. Let’s try to keep things low key and normal. No more jealous sibling nonsense!
So, now that I’ve laid it on the line, I’d love to hear from you! Be respectful, but feel free to share your thoughts on sibling rivalry, especially pertaining to bringing a new baby into the house. And if you have questions, feel free to leave those here too! Raising Arrows readers are always more than willing to help other moms out!