How Your Older Child May Feel about their New Baby Sibling
Three-year-old Molly’s life was perfect. She was the center of attention in the perfect love triangle: mommy, daddy and child. She had her parents’ complete attention her whole life long and she knew exactly what to expect. She never had to share her parents with anyone. That all changed with her new baby sibling.
Taking Away the Attention
Into her life comes an intruder, threatening to take her place at center stage. A star is born! The audience “oohs” and “ahhhs” over this younger rival and showers him with gifts. Molly is no longer the most important member of the family. As she bids for equal time with her new baby sibling she hears, “Not now, I have to nurse the baby.” When guests arrive, she gets passed over in favor of “Oh, what a beautiful baby.” Her disappointment at her apparent demotion escalates into anger at this little upstart who unseated her, and she is confused because everyone is telling her how lucky she is to have such a nice baby brother.
Consider Your Child’s Logic
Many parents in this situation will try to smooth things over with adult logic. But before they do, they should consider how the situation looks through the eyes of their child: “Think on the bright side. You’ve gained a playmate.” (Child’s logic: “I’ve got plenty of playmates. Did I ask for another one? And this one can’t play—all he does is cry.”) “Mommy and daddy love you just as much.” (“Then why is that new baby sibling always in your arms and I’m not?”) “I need to spend more time with your baby brother because babies need mommies so much, just like you did when you were a baby.” (“I’d rather still be a baby. And I need mommy, too. Besides, I don’t remember being a baby.”) “Mommy’s busy, but you and daddy can do something special.” (“Why did you need a baby? Wasn’t I good enough?”) “You’ll get used to her, and she’ll be fun to play with.” (“I hate that baby. That baby upsets all my fun. When can you take the baby back, mommy?”)
After months of this wishful thinking, reality hits. The new baby sibling isn’t going back. In fact, he’s growing up, crawling and getting into the older child’s precious possessions. So the child digs in to defend her turf against the enemy who topples her towers of blocks and pesters her playmates. Big sister thinks she will have to spend the rest of her growing-up years competing for the family prize – her parents’ attention.