Avoiding sibling jealousy in your toddler when the new baby is born is possible – it just takes a simple strategy. This goes beyond getting big sibling gifts and encourages a certain kind of interaction. Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links and images.
M was two and a half years old when Baby Y was born.
I was determined to do everything right so that he wouldn’t be jealous. And while some things are simply out of our control, taking the steps below helped minimize what could have been drastically.
I can’t say they get along perfectly -they fight like siblings do (Baby Y is now 21 months old, and M is four) but as a toddler with a new baby brother, we simply did not experience crazy amounts of jealousy.
I wanted to share with you the tips to avoid sibling jealousy below, but before I do, a few words of encouragement:
The insane sibling jealousy of a toddler with a new baby in the house is a stage that passes. It’s a natural reaction of a child who feels like his or her space was invaded. And if your child reacts violently, yeah, it can be scary, but it doesn’t mean that your toddler has a problem with rage. Toddlers don’t know how to express themselves, and they sometimes act out in surprising ways. If you’re concerned, of course, you can (and should) talk to your doctor about it.
Try to empathize with how your toddler must be feeling and where the sibling jealousy is coming from.
But most importantly, make sure that you discuss any concern pertaining to your children’s health and safety with your pediatrician or family doctor. Do not take any advice that you read on blogs as anything more than a chat with a fellow mom, and always consult with a professional if you are concerned.
6 simple ways to avoid toddler sibling jealousy:
Try one of these strategies, or try all – every little bit helps!
1. Realize that each child reacts differently:
It’s easy to compare, but each child is different. Realizing this is the first step toward empathizing.
My niece really lashed out when her baby sister was young. Not only was she much younger than M was when his brother was born, but she was also a first grandchild on one side of her family, and really pampered.
Having that competition really confused her.
Not comparing can be hard when you’re in a large family where people are always having babies, but if you’ve done what you can and your child still reacts, don’t feel guilty about it, or like it’s your fault.
It’s also important to realize this BEFORE you take steps toward preventing sibling jealousy, because if something doesn’t seem like it’ll work for your child, it might not. You know your child better than I do. I’m just sharing what worked for mine.
2. Buy a gift from the baby:
Note: I said FROM the baby.
I learned this cool trick to avoid sibling jealousy from Katie of Pick Any Two and it really took an edge off the “big bad baby” aspect of sibling jealousy from the start.
Katie suggests exchanging gifts in the hospital, and to be honest, we just had Baby Y “give” M a gift when he came to visit. That means that the first time M visited his new brother, he was received a cool new toy from his brother, creating a positive first impression.
A perfect gift idea: a customized sibling book! We love this one.
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Yes, they love to fight but they also love each other! And I love to see them reading together… This cool book that @iseeme_books sent us is personalized for two! It's perfect for siblings, and shows just how much love they have for each other. Learn more about "We Go Together Like…" –> http://www.iseeme.com/en-us/we-go-together-like-personalized-book.html
3. Gifts for the big sibling instead of the baby:
Building on the point above, it can be very difficult for a two year old to see all those gifts come in… and they’re not for her.
With Baby Y, since we pretty much had everything we needed from M, I created a baby registry mostly with things for the big brother. Having two kids of the same gender does help in this respect.
While I did register for a few things for Baby Y, most of my registry was for M. People who asked me what to buy were told to think of the big brother. And I gave him a small gift almost every day for those two weeks where I was really bedridden and couldn’t give him enough of me.
It doesn’t have to be as big as a new tablet (that was our one BIG gift). It can be a new outfit with her favorite character. It can be an inexpensive book. The idea is, the big sibling is the one that is receiving, and that will make him feel special.
Another great idea is to schedule a Mommy-kid date or two in the months following the baby’s birth, once you’re up to it. It can be an ice cream date, or even an at-home play date. The main thing is: it should be one-on-one.
4. Be aware of the interactions that are happening:
This is possibly my best tip for avoiding sibling jealousy and possibly the hardest.
Imagine: your toddler is used to being the absolute center of your attention. She missed you for the past day, and when she comes to visit you, you’re with a new baby. But wait, we’re taking that thing that stole my Mama home too?
It gets worse.
Some toddlers are old enough to already get a sense of how Mama is doing. M is a sensitive soul, and he definitely would get worried every time I wasn’t well, already at that age.
Some things can be stopped, some can’t. But we can try out best to nurture a better understanding of the new sibling in our little ones.
When people came by to visit the new baby, I insisted that they first say hello and talk to M, even if it’s about the new sibling. When M first came to visit me in the hospital, I put the baby down before he came into the room. I did not hold the baby if he was not being cared for, and while I couldn’t hold M, I made sure that he could sit near me, read a book, cuddle a bit – with the baby down.
There are some non-negotiables. The baby was breast-fed – that was going to happen if we could manage it. So M had to deal with it. But giving him enough outside of those moments helped them not be as bad.
It’s also important to make sure not to take away any comforts from the toddler too soon.
For example, moving the toddler out of her crib, into a bed can make her feel displaced. We had the baby in a play yard in our room and moved M to a bed a few months after baby Y was born. M actually begged to have a roommate and told us “He can sleep in MY crib!” when Y was about six months old.
The same goes for the high chair, stroller, or whatever it is that your tot might feel is being taken away.
Including M in “Baby Y” activities really helped too! Tummy time was always a family affair (hey, it can be good for toddlers too!) instead of focusing exclusively on the baby.
5. A baby doll might prevent sibling jealousy by helping your toddler feel more involved:
In addition to sending a gift home from the hospital, we let M bring his own “baby” home too! I’m not sure how much of a part this played in avoiding sibling jealousy – he wasn’t really interested in playing with the doll much afterward. He was excited to bring it home from the hospital.
This worked better with another niece of mine.
It awards kids the opportunity to play Mommy (or Daddy) too. It gives them the chance to practice some nurturing and feel involved in the care of the baby, instead of feeling like their place was taken.
And while M did NOT play with his doll once he was home from the hospital, he did practice “breastfeeding” his Elmo doll, so there’s that…
6. Don’t let your guard down – sibling jealousy sometimes comes later:
My wise mom (who raised ten of her own and went through the sibling jealousy thing NINE TIMES!!) warned me of this, and so I was aware.
A new baby isn’t really cute. Yeah, it’s charming how tiny he or she is, but there’s no interaction, no “look what she did!” – or at least less of it. There’s less to play with.
As the baby grows older and starts to open her eyes, interact, roll over, say clever things, etc, the attention can really shift in a way that can cause sibling jealousy.
Especially if you’re dealing with an older toddler like I was, the big sibling is STOPPING to be that adorable toddler, doing cute things every day. And in a subtle way, the dynamic of who the “cute one” is can shift.
I’m not saying that either child is loved more or less. It’s just how we react to the things our little ones say or do that changes. And your toddler WILL notice it.
Just because you’re a few months in and are “fine”, doesn’t mean you’re in the safe zone. Continue to be aware of your child’s sensitivities. Your toddler is making major advances, even if they’re not “cute” ones. Give her credit for it. And remember to show your love at any given opportunity.
While sibling jealousy might be somewhat inevitable, it’s something that CAN be reined in. And while some things aren’t in your control, doing your best for your child is simpler than you might think – it just requires a bit of foresight and a lot of love. Since you already have the latter, I hope these tips to avoid sibling jealousy have helped you with the foresight angle!
What are your best tips to avoid sibling jealousy in a toddler with a new baby in the house? Comment below!
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