Rivalry and jealousy can be lessened
Feelings of rivalry and jealousy often begin when a new baby comes into the family. This is true whether the baby is a second child or whether there are several children in the family. Mother is often so busy with the care of the baby that she expects the older children to take more care of themselves. They see her feeding and cuddling the baby, while they are expected to feed or dress themselves. The other children sometimes interpret this to mean that mother loves the baby best and has no time left for them because baby comes first. These feelings are made worse if father and all the relatives and friends admire the new baby and pay no attention to the other children. Father, particularly, should greet the older children when he comes home, before turning to the new baby.
Parents cannot hope to keep their children from developing some feelings of rivalry and jealousy, but by being aware that they have these feelings they can do much to lessen them. First of all, as has already been suggested, the children can help prepare for the coming of the new baby. It is best not only to let them help with getting things ready, but also to prepare them for the fact that a little baby is very helpless and will take a great deal of mother’s time.
The wise mother helps her older children to feel still close to her emotionally even if she is busy with the baby. While she is nursing the baby she can often read to an older child or tell him a story. She can plan to have his bedtime a special time with her, and can see to it that each day they have time together when care of the baby does not interfere. Daddy can help by doing special things with the older child, who will then feel that there are advantages about being older, for he can do some things with his father that a baby cannot do.
When the older child does seem to be bothered by the attention that must go to the baby, it is well to help him put his feelings into words: “I know baby takes a lot of time; you must feel pretty cross with her sometimes, and perhaps wish we didn’t have her.” Or, “I know how you feel about baby, but she will grow up soon and be able to do lots of things for herself, just as you do.” Parents must realize, too, that as an older child watches the care and loving that a baby gets, he may often go back to baby ways in order to try to get the same attention and care as the baby. Many little children wet their pants again, want mother to dress or feed them, or even want a bottle again. If parents are willing to accept these relapses for what they are, instead of scolding, punishing, and shaming the older child, they will be better able to help him through what is for him a difficult time. They should regard this return to baby ways as an expression of a need for reassurance and affection and a bit more attention.
Giving attention does not always mean that a busy mother must stop what she is doing and play with the child. It may mean drawing the little child warmly into the work of the moment and letting him help or work beside his mother, giving the smile, the gay word, the quick hug, or some other mark of affection that restores to the little child the warm feeling that his mother loves and wants him. Mother can say, “I know baby is taking a lot of time this morning. Just as soon as I get through, we’ll have a story together.” Or, “It was nice of you to wait while I prepared baby’s formula, now let’s have our good time.”
Sometimes the older child shows his feeling of jealousy toward the baby, not only by misbehaving but more directly by trying to hit or hurt the baby. Although he must be prevented from doing so, it is not wise to scold or punish him. It is better to say, “I know you sometimes don’t like baby; she does take so much of mother’s time, but you must not hurt her because she is so little. Come and tell me when you feel that way.”
Sometimes jealousy of the baby does not show until the baby begins to crawl around and get into the other child’s play or belongings. When this happens, parents too often scold the older child for crying or getting angry. If they are wise they will protect the older child by seeing that the baby is not allowed to destroy his toys or interfere with his play. (Continue below to page 10)