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Easing Sibling Rivalry

No matter how close or far apart you chose to have children, they will at one time or another experience jealousy towards one another. It's human nature, and not a result of poor parenting, so don't doubt your ability to raise well-adjusted children. Sibling rivalry can cause a great deal of stress in a young family. Children have to be taught by example when they're young, for it's not instinctive at birth that they know how to love and be kind toward one another.

When a new baby arrives, an older child may feel threatened or afraid that mommy and daddy may not love him or have time for him anymore. Some children feel resentment towards the new baby to the point of wanting to harm the baby. Toddlers may revert back to wanting a bottle if they have given it up, or, if they're potty-trained, may begin having accidents or wetting the bed. Others may talk like a baby for attention. This is all normal regressive behavior. If it goes on too long, or becomes a major concern to you, talk with your pediatrician for professional advice on how to best handle the situation.

Conversation can be a good starting point when trying to resolve sibling rivalry. Talk openly with your child when you first discover you're pregnant. Talk about what is happening in the family unit, why mommy's belly is getting so big or why there is new furniture coming into the house, maybe even into the child's room.

Take the child along to prenatal doctor visits and let him or her hear the baby's heartbeat. Include him in simple decision making, like deciding between two names for baby or minor decorating decisions in the nursery. Reading books can be an effective way to begin talking about a new baby and about becoming a big brother or sister.

Here are a few books to look for:
  • The New Baby, A Little Golden Book, by Cindy Szekeres

  • Grover Takes Care of Baby, A Little Golden Book, by Emily Thompson

  • The Berenstain Bears - New Baby, by Stan & Jan Berenstain

There are things you can do to help your child adjust to having a new baby around the house. You could have a "Big Sister" or "Big Brother" party with cake and candles in their honor. Older siblings can feel left out or not important when they see the baby getting all the gifts and attention. If they're old enough, let them know how important their help will be with the new baby. Explain the ways you will count on them to help you with bottle feeding, diaper changing, bath time, and even bedtime stories.

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March of Dimes
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