Debra Shigley plays with her children in their backyard in Atlanta, Georgia. TNS
Let’s suppose you have two children. For the sake of this scenario, let’s assume one is 4 and the other is 3 months old. You may have noticed that the older one is crazy jealous of the baby.
You may have read a bunch of books on how to prepare the child to be a big brother but now you notice that the elder child seems to be angry all the time, or says that they hate their sibling.
You may be worried that they might hurt the baby in some way. Are you right in feeling this way?
First of all, you have every reason to be worried — after all, you have a baby to protect. But as unpleasant as it is, your older child’s behaviour is normal. Whenever anything changes in a young child’s life, his or her biggest question is, “How will this affect ME?”
In his developing mind, life was good until that whiny little brat showed up. The stars and the moon revolved around him and you and Daddy were at his beck and call. Then, all of a sudden, everyone’s paying attention to that big blob that sleeps, cries, fills diapers, cries some more, and can’t even play. Not surprisingly, big brother is feeling displaced, ignored and unloved. Can you blame him?
He’s wrong, of course. You still love him just as much as before. But to him, all the available evidence supports his worst fears. Right now, the only way to help him get over his jealousy is to convince him otherwise. Here’s how:
1. You and your husband need to tell your son — multiple times a day — that you love him and always will. Unfortunately, words won’t be enough. You have to prove your love. Here’s a simple demonstration that worked well when my oldest daughter became a big sister and told me that she was afraid that if I loved the baby I couldn’t love her as much.
Light a candle and ask your son to imagine that the flame is your love for him. Then, take a second candle and light it with the flame from the first one. The second candle will burn brightly and the first won’t be dimmed in any way. That’s the way it is with love.
2. Keep a stash of small presents that you can dig into during those times when people bring gifts for the new baby but thoughtlessly exclude the big brother. These presents shouldn’t be big, just something to remind him that you think he’s special too.
3. Scroll through your phone or make a special book of pics of your oldest when he was a baby. Make a point to talk about all the great presents he got when he was tiny.
4. Talk up all the advantages of being a big brother. For example, babies are too little to play with big-boy toys, or eat food (like popsicles) that big children do.
5. Help build the relationship between the siblings by teaching big bro to gently interact with little bro. If he wants to help you care for the baby, give him a chance. And be sure to praise loving, gentle behaviour whenever you see it. However, never, ever leave him alone in the room with the baby.
6. Finally, make sure that both you and your husband spend some one-on-one time with your older boy, doing all the things you used to do in the before times — plus some new ones. Yes, he’s a big brother now, but he’s also still a child who needs your time, presence, and attention as much as (and maybe more than) ever.
Tribune News Service
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