Getting Ready for Sibling Rivalry

One of the most common problems that children have when there is a new baby in the house is sibling rivalry. Right now, while you’re still pregnant, your other child may even start to feel some jealousy for the attention that the baby is getting, but he doesn’t yet have a face to put with that jealousy. Once your baby is born, however, this can become much more intense.

There are good reasons for this. That older child, who was at one time the very center of the family’s attention, is now forced to share the stage with this newcomer. On top of that, the older child may perceive that he’s being treated unfairly. He may think that the new baby seems to get whatever she wants, just by crying. In some instances, this can lead to regression in your older child who may act more like the new baby in order to get what he wants.

There are some things you can do right now, while you’re still pregnant, to help reduce the possibility of sibling rivalry. Have some conversations with your older child about what to expect. Describe what it will be like after the baby is born. Listen to her talk about what she thinks might happen. Answer questions that she has about the new baby. Talk about how the new baby isn’t as advanced as your older child, which is why the baby has to resort to crying. Point out that your older child is more mature, and the “big brother or sister.”

The key here is listening. Listen to your child’s needs and wants. Make sure he’s getting enough attention. Make time to spend some one-on-one time with the older sibling. Be lavish with your praise for the older sibling, and give positive attention for when he does well, rather than just negative attention when he acts out.

Finally, you should do your best to make your older child an important part of the baby’s life. Make her a partner. Let her feed your baby, for example, or make him the “diaper rustler” – whose job it is to always make sure you have a diaper on hand. Make the older child feel like she’s contributing and you’ll help reduce sibling rivalry and jealousy.

Leila Pereira
Leila Pereira
I work in occupational therapy and occupational science. I specialize in early intervention pediatrics for children from birth to three years old; with an emphasis on children with autism. My goals are to support the achievement of developmental milestones in your child while collaborating with caregivers & parents; including play skill development, education, leisure, rest and sleep, feeding, nutrition and social participation. Licensed by the California Board of Occupational Therapy

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