When you bring home a new baby, your firstborn is no longer the youngest in the house. At the same time, he or she is probably struggling to cope with the changes as well as a new routine — just like you.
Worse, not only is your attention torn between a demanding new baby and an exhausting toddler, you might yourself dealing with a usually sweet-natured tot suddenly showing resentment towards you or their new sibling. Your little one may even begin to regress — for instance, they may become clingy and need you around for a lot of things.
Insights Mind Centre psychologist Daniel Koh explains, “These could be due to anxiety and stress, which cause behavioural and emotional reactions. Also wanting your constant involvement could be due to their wanting reassurance, attention or fighting for your time.”
When you don’t address this issue, your tot could develop other problems. Koh warns that “negative feelings may affect other aspects of their life”. For instance, he explains that they may become withdrawn, lose interest in things, abuse or bully their sibling and more.
“Avoid changing everything or say that you have no time, maintain some routine with the child, so they see that you are there for them and hence, makes them feel secure.”
If the situation is serious, get professional help for your child. Koh lists several danger signs: When your child displays uncontrollable distress or anger at home or in other areas like school; purposely excessively harming their new sibling and others; if your tot’s periods of distress become more severe and often, as well as self-harming, to name a few.
Clearly, it’s rough having to juggle your newborn and a distressed tot — all on very little sleep. Try these ways to help your little one feel better if they are showing jealousy towards their brand-new sibling.
1. Ask if they want to talk about it
When your little one says resentful things or shows signs of resentment towards their new sibling, don’t lose your temper or immediately tell them that they’re just acting up — ask them how they feel. If they admit to feeling angry and a dislike of the baby, don’t get worked up about it — show them that you understand their emotions.
2. Maintain routines
As much as possible, try to maintain your little one’s routine as before. Koh advises, “Avoid changing everything or say that you have no time, maintain some routine with the child, so they see that you are there for them and hence, makes them feel secure.”
If you read to your little one before bedtime, or watch a certain show with them at a certain timing daily, continue with this! This way, your kid has something regular to look forward to when so many other things are changing around them.
3. Reassure them
Your tot probably fears that you will now love them less, since they have to share their attention with the newborn. So, bolster this uncertainty by telling them frequently they are special and that you love them very much!
4. Spend alone time with your little one
Set aside time to spend one-on-one with your tot — do some arts and crafts with them, take a stroll with them to a nearby convenience store, or just play with them at home. Koh suggests that you spend distraction-free quality time with your tot, so they will feel “you still want to be with them”.
5. Have family bonding time
Koh suggests spending family time together to “build bonds and show that all are equal and need each other”. You can also talk to junior about the baby and discuss what each family member can contribute to help with baby. For instance, you can tell your tot that they can sing songs to the baby.
Spend distraction-free quality time with your tot, so they will feel “you still want to be with them”.
6. Get your child to help with the baby!
As taking care of your newborn is inevitably going to take up lots of time, this should extend the time you’ll spend with your tot. So, get your little one involved in babycare duties, like asking them to pass you tissues when you clean bubba, won’t just make the most of the time you spend together, it’ll make your tot feel that they are of help.
7. Get them a gift
You can also buy your toddler a present, or say that it’s a present from their new sibling! It’s good to buy something that lets your little one entertain themselves, like a puzzle or a book. This gift keeps your tot busy when you are taking care of the baby, especially when so many others are showering presents on your baby!
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