Question: Our first-born is showing extreme jealousy towards the new baby. She's obviously mad at us for disrupting the predictable flow of her life with this new challenger for our attention. How can we smooth things out?
Think about it: Take a deep breath and be calm. This is a time of adjustment for everyone in the family. Reduce outside activities, relax your housekeeping standards, and focus on your current priority, adjusting to your new family size.
Be supportive: Acknowledge your child's unspoken feelings, such as "Things sure have changed with the new baby here. It's going to take us all some time to get used to this." Keep your comments mild and general. Don't say, "I bet you hate the new baby." Instead, say, "It must be hard to have Mommy spending so much time with the baby." or "I bet you wish we could go to the park now, and not have to wait for the baby to wake up." When your child knows that you understand her feelings, she'll have less need to act up to get your attention.
Watch your words: Don't blame everything on the baby. "We can't go to the park; the baby's sleeping." "Be quiet, you'll wake the baby." "After I change the baby I'll help you." At this point, your child would just as soon sell the baby. Instead, use alternate excuses. "My hands are busy now." "We'll go after lunch." "I'll help you in three minutes."
Give extra love: Increase your little demonstrations of love for your child. Say extra I love yous, increase your daily dose of hugs, find time to read a book or play a game. Temporary regressions or behavior problems are normal, and can be eased with an extra dose of time and attention.
Get 'em involved: Teach the older sibling how to be helpful with the baby or how to entertain the baby. Let the older sibling open the baby gifts and use the camera to take pictures of the baby. Teach him how to put the baby's socks on. Let him sprinkle the powder. Praise and encourage whenever possible.
Making each feel special: Avoid comparing siblings, even about seemingly innocent topics such as birth weight, when each first crawled or walked, or who had more hair! Children can interpret these comments as criticisms.
Excerpted with permission by NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group Inc. from Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips by Elizabeth Pantley, copyright 1999