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Dealing with Baby Jealousy

Before a new baby arrives in the family, your first born has had the sole attention of parents and grandparents. No doubt you've prepared the ground by saying a new child is going to be a playmate and friend, but when a small, squirming, crying baby enters the house a child is confused and cannot understand how this ‘thing' is going to be a playmate.

Seeing attention being diverted from the older sibling to a new baby can be distressing for a toddler, and the natural instinct is to feel jealous. Making a toddler feel part of baby's life and not an outsider is the first thing that you must tackle.

Babies need a lot of attention, but there's no reason why an older sibling can't be a useful helpmate when washing, changing and feeding baby. The sense of being an important part of baby's life will develop and the older child will start to feel responsible for baby's wellbeing.

Encourage gentle play which, as baby grows, will be immensely beneficial in baby's development. Small children learn a great deal from their older siblings including how to form words and manipulate their bodies. Telling your toddler that his input is important and that he's helping his brother or sister to grow will prove that he is part of everyone's life and not ‘out in the cold'.

Initially you should never leave the children alone, as a toddler doesn't realize baby is delicate and that rough play can harm. Spending time with them, singing, playing and demonstrating how to handle baby safely, will bring you all closer together. If a toddler becomes too rough try to avoid shouting but simply divert attention away and explain that baby is too small to play rough games.

When the older child plays gently with baby praise him and tell him what a good boy he is and how you don't know what you'd do without him. Hugs and kisses show him he is important to you, and that you're proud of him.

A child learns from its parents, and watching you with your baby will show how to treat the infant. Everything you do with baby is teaching the older sibling what is acceptable.

Try to make time for the older child when baby is asleep, and make the effort to do things together with baby like going to the park, so that you are cementing the family unit as one. Don't make baby an excuse to not spend time with your toddler and any jealousy will gradually subside.

Don't compare one child with the other. They are individuals and as such their development varies. Voicing comparisons between the children can cause problems and give them feelings of inadequacy.

This can be a difficult time for both mother and toddler, and there are many frustrations and difficulties to overcome. They can all be diminished and even avoided if you bear in mind that you now have two children who need you to be there for them.

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