The birth of a child is the most blessed experience on earth. Yet, it holds challenges. It's an emotional time of adjustment for parents and children. The introduction of a new member changes every family dynamic. Time and understanding are needed to reach new balance and harmony. Jealousy among siblings dates to Adam and Eve and every family expert considers it "NORMAL."
Realizing jealousy is "normal" does not erase its tumultuous effects. Mom and Dad are sleep deprived. The newborn is adjusting to life outside the womb. Company is in and out. Everyone is fawning over the precious babe and sweet toddler's life has been completely changed in one day ... a perfect storm.
Imagine for a minute this world from the toddler's viewpoint. He is in love with his mother and father. They are the first humans on earth he has learned to love. They have nurtured him. Doted over him. Cared for all his needs. They are his best friends. He depends on them each day for everything. His life is defined by two words, "Mom" and "Dad". Then, one day, Mom disappears to someplace called a hospital, shaking his small world by her absence. And, that day, a new baby comes into his family. He senses the change in his household already. Dad or Grandma is trying to fill in for Mom, but do things differently. People are giving congratulations and calling him a "big brother," which lacks meaning. He wants to see his Mom. When he does, there is someone else in her arms. Imagine the upheaval in this toddler's secure predictable world. Everything has changed. It is understandable that his reactions and actions will mirror his inexpressible feelings. Life is confusing and has just handed him an "upside-down card."
Is there any wonder toddlers have such difficulty adjusting to a new baby? This is a life-changing event. The months of being told it would happen does not compare with reality. Figuring out the way through this transition takes acute awareness and understanding of his parents, as well as guidance and patience.
Just as pouring water into a well to "prime the pump" brings forth more water, "PRIME" a toddler for the changes a newborn brings. Prepare for the reality of a new baby: include him in discussions, rehearse the changes, and include your toddler in the baby's life. Model a loving attitude. Keeping calm amid changes causes less stress for a toddler. Expect ... Toddler Behavior. Allow him to be and act like one while keeping limits consistent.
Give toddler and sibling some chaperoned bonding time. Assisting with care, holding, kisses, soft touches and give the child time to adjust and learn to love his new sibling. Continued strengthening of parental/toddler bonds and encouraging brother/sister bonds will help cross the bridge from jealousy to fondness.
Elaine Stone, mother of three, lives in Spotsylvania.