How to handle older sibling's jealousy...? — The Bump
Babies: 0 - 3 Months

How to handle older sibling's jealousy...?

Hi everyone:)  I had my second child last Monday.  I'm very thankful that the baby and I are doing well so far.

I have a question about how to handle my son's jealousy issues...  He is almost 5.  He's been a very good boy...until his sister was born...  He was very good and helped me a lot while I was pregnant.  I'm sure he was thinking that once the baby is out of mommy, she would come back to him.  He's been an only child until now, and he is a SUPER mommy's boy.  Many people have told us that most likely he would have a hard time getting used to not getting full attention from us, and I understand.  My husband and I have agreed to pay as much attention as possible to our son when the baby comes.  But there is a limit to what I can do right now.  I had a c-section, and I can't drive yet.  I can't take him anywhere myself, and I can't play rough with him like I used to.  

My question is, what is a good way to talk to him when he is misbehaving?  For example, ever since the baby and I came home, he often says, "I don't like you any more," "I'm mad at you," sort of things to me a lot, and he gets cranky very easily just to give me a hard time.  Today he said he is mad at me because I had a baby, and he doesn't want the baby.  My husband and my MIL have been taking care of him while I was at the hospital, and I know it wasn't easy for him to be away from me for 4 nights.  Now that I'm back and trying to pay extra attention to him, he seems to be taking advantage of my "niceness".  Every little thing I tell him, like "it's time to brush your teeth," or "it's time to go to school," he replies by whining...  

Do you have any suggestions how to handle this issue?  Or, any books you recommend?  My son never had this kind of attitude before, so I'm a little lost...



m/c - Dec 2005, DS - March 27, 2007, m/c - Oct 2009, DD - Feb 20, 2012

Proud mother of two breech babies:)

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Re: How to handle older sibling's jealousy...?

  • Mine turned into a crazy person starting the week before dd was born.  I think the best thing is to include him in as much as you can, have him spend one on one time with you and your husband as much as possible, remember not to get too mad because his world was just turned upside down, and wait it out.  DS started to come out of it around 2 months and now things are pretty back to normal.  He always liked his sister, it was just the acting out that was insane.  It was so hard to deal with.  Hang in there!
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  • We've been really lucky - our son hasn't had any jealousy issues and I think it's because we really prepared him by keeping him involved in baby stuff - having him pick things out, helping pick a name, etc.  So he has been very involved and we let him "hold" his brother when he wants to and let him help out in every way possible.  He adores his brother and wants to kiss and love on him constantly so I feel very lucky that he transitioned well. 

    My suggestion is to make sure you are spending one on one time with him - have your H or someone take the baby for a while and spend some time reading, playing a board game, just talking to or snuggling and watching Sesame Street, etc. together.  The physical bonding and time devoted to him will remind him he is still important and you didn't forget him, etc.  Also, being 5 allows him to understand a lot more so you could probably talk to him and just explain to him that babies need a lot of time and attention and that just because you are holding baby doesn't mean you don't love your 5 year old. 

    I hate when I'm home alone with the boys and have to tell DS #1 to wait a moment while I'm nursing or something, so I make sure and have a positive associated with the negative.  For instance if he needs a cup or something and I'm not able to get it for him right away, I will say give me one moment I'm changing/nursing, etc. baby brother but I will get your cup in just a moment and then you can help me set the table, help me do the laundry, help me feed the dog, etc.  Whatever he enjoys doing and that way the focus isn't on I can't do x,y, z for you because I'm paying attention to your brother - but instead he gets to "help" and gets excited about that. 

    Not sure if these suggestions would help you or not but good luck - I know I don't want my son to feel left out or anything so I hope something helps with you and your son gets out of this stage!

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  • No advice here - just to say I feel your pain!!  DD is 7 and the jealousy has just set in I'd say in the past few weeks(before this she has been treating DS like a doll) so much so that she wouldn't even take any good pictures at DS' Baptism last Sunday...

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  • I haven't dealt with any jealousy with my older dc's.  They are only 19 months apart, so neither one of them ever remember not having a sibling.  But I do have some suggestions that you could try.  There was one incident that happened with ds after the baby was born.  It caught me off guard because they have been so good since he was born.  Older ds wanted me to do something and baby was being fussy so I needed to tend to him.  Older ds said "wouldn't it be better if baby wasn't here".  As soon as he said it he felt bad.  Instead of speaking to him about saying a mean thing, I sat down and talked to him about why he said that.  I validated his feelings.  I said that it must be hard for him to not have all of my attention etc.  He was so happy that I understood how he felt.

    Also, we over praise everything they do when it comes to the baby.  Even the little things like talking to him while I make his bottle...I say what a big help that is.  We praise how responsible they are and what good big brother/sister they are by giving examples.

    When it comes to bad behavior or not wanting to do things, I would try a behavior chart.  This always works so much better for us than focusing on the bad behavior.  Maybe he can work towards something special or special time with mommy when you are able to drive.  

    Do you have any family around that can help?  I know that it isn't the same as having your time, but if someone else can take him out to do something it might help.

    Good luck...I am sure it will get better. 

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  • First, congrats on your baby!  Don't worry, your son will settle in.  Try to include him when you can and give him special time sometimes (NOT every time) the baby sleeps.  Whatever you do, do not make a big deal out of the words he is saying when he vents about his feelings.  Depending on the child you could respond gently "I'm sorry you are so angry right now, do you think ___ [a hug, hugging your bear,looking at your picture book, etc] would help you feel better?"  Some kids it helps to recognize/accept those feelings and for others it just sends them to a new level or reinforces their negative behavior and simple redirection might work better.  Oh, and my 5 year old whines a ton and I think it is part of the drama of age 5 (and maybe not as much a result of the new baby).  I can't hear whine, I only hear words, usually that helps my 5yo use his words.

    ETA: By the way, although the adjustment to a new sibling might be hard, you will soon see a new dynamic as the baby grows.  Once you see how the baby LOVES and ADORES the older sibling (and vice versa), your heart will melt and you will realize that the decrease in your 1-1 attention is more than made up for by the love and companionship of a sibling.  

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  • Thank you very much for your replies...!  I'm glad I posted this question here.  I will try your suggestions and see how it goes.  

    This morning, my son helped to dress his sister, which he enjoyed.  But after that, he wanted me to dress him...he said he couldn't put his socks on, etc...  He normally dislikes getting help for something he can do.  I helped him a little and had him finish getting dressed.  Then when I was preparing his breakfast, he came to tell me that he doesn't like me because I'm always taking care of his sister and not him.  I told him I was making breakfast for HIM, and he said, "oh, in that case I love you, mama!"  

    I realize that while my son is adjusting to this change, I also have to get used to having two kids.  I have so much to learn!

    m/c - Dec 2005, DS - March 27, 2007, m/c - Oct 2009, DD - Feb 20, 2012

    Proud mother of two breech babies:)

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