At the beginning, your firstborn is often happy to welcome a little baby brother or sister into the family. But as the baby grows, the sheen can sometimes wear off

At the beginning, your firstborn is often happy to welcome a little baby brother or sister into the family. But as the baby grows, the sheen can sometimes wear off. The older child may resent the sibling when he sees his parents spending more time with baby than with him. And when the baby starts to scream, climb and take his toys, his hostility towards this “intruder” only gets worse, sometimes to the point that he regresses and starts acting like a baby again (wets his pants, asks to wear diapers or sucks his thumb), disobeys or misbehaves to get attention.

“It’s perfectly normal for your toddler to feel jealous,” says Michèle Lambin. “The best way to reassure him and dispel this feeling is to show him your love by talking to him and taking time to do things with him, like reading him a story or colouring together. You can also explain to him that you’re neglecting him a little because the baby is still very fragile and needs special care, just like he did when he was a baby.” A good idea: Get out the photo albums of him as a baby and look at them together so that he can see how he received the same care and attention.

Unless he becomes aggressive or violent, it’s also best to avoid reprimanding your eldest or preventing him from expressing his unease. This will only make the situation worse, and he’ll feel like the victim of unfairness. It’s important to help your child identify his emotions: “You think I spend too much time with your little brother, don’t you? You’d like to be a baby too so that I take care of you like that, right?” If he senses that you understand how he feels, his negative reactions to the baby will lessen.

Should you treat your children equally?

Another frequent cause of jealousy is the attitude of parents who compare their children or give the impression that they prefer one over the other. It’s best to avoid making any comment along the lines of: “You should do it like your sister or your brother.” This type of remark can upset your child and hurt his feelings. It’s essential that he feels loved and appreciated just the way he is.

That said, acting differently with each one is normal, since your children have neither the same temperaments nor the same needs. “A lot of parents think that since they love all their children equally, they should treat them equally. While this intention is good, it’s almost guaranteed to fuel rivalry and jealousy! It’s better to adjust to each child’s individual needs, age and level of development,” explains Michèle Lambin.

“I try to give them both the same attention and love. But a newborn requires a lot of care. I take every moment I can to show my eldest that I love her just as much as always.”

Marie-Ève Chrétien, mother to 2-month-old Lucas and 4-year-old Maélie

Treating your children differently doesn’t mean you love one more than the other,” says Gagnier. “On the contrary, you’re showing each one that they’re unique and that you appreciate it.”

What to avoid...
  • 1. Comparing. Telling the older child that his little sister is better behaved will only aggravate their rivalry. Applauding the strengths and qualities of each child will help you better meet each one’s individual need for recognition.
  • 2. Taking sides. When there’s a fight, if you didn’t see what happened, don’t take sides. The best thing is to show them how to settle conflicts on their own. Set an example: if they see you settling issues calmly, they’ll want to imitate you. And sometimes, a little humour goes a long way in reducing tension and keeping fists in check!
  • 3. Forcing sibling affection. A child is allowed to feel irritated by his brother or sister. If you force him to hide this feeling and insist that he love his sibling, your child may feel even more animosity towards his brother or sister. Better to teach your children to play together, talk to each other and discover their differences so that they can find ways around them.
  • 4. Demanding too much from the eldest. Demanding that your eldest always be reasonable or set the example could lead him to hate his little brother or sister. Don’t forget, he’s still a child, too!