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Jealousy and Sibling Rivalry

Jealousy and sibling rivalry

Jealousy between brothers and sisters is normal. It is called sibling rivalry. Jealousy can start when there is a new baby in the family. It may last until children are in their teens.

A child who feels jealous will often:

  • Try to get attention.
  • Want to be held or carried.
  • Get into trouble on purpose.
  • Not do what she/he is asked to do.
  • Act like baby. She may suck her thumb, wet her pants, want to wear diapers, or want to drink from a bottle.
  • Try to hit the baby.
  • Become quiet.
  • Not want to have anything to do with the parents.
  • Become upset or afraid.

What to do if your child feels jealous

When you are pregnant:

  • Tell the child there will be a new baby in the family.
  • Tell the child what the baby will be like.
  • Visit others with new babies.
  • Move the child to her new room or bed (if this is needed) a few months before the baby arrives.
  • Answer the child's questions about where the baby is. Let her feel and listen to mommy's tummy.
  • Make the child feel grown-up. Tell her what she can do because she's older - sleep in a big bed, go to bed later, and help mommy.
  • Tell her stories about when she was little.
  • Let her look at her baby pictures.
  • Let her help you get ready for the baby.
  • Do not start toilet learning when the child is jealous.

A few days before the baby is expected:

  • Tell your child that you will be going to the hospital to have the baby. Show the child where the hospital is.
  • Tell your child who will look after her when you are in the hospital. Make sure she knows the babysitter.
  • Warn the child that you may have to go to the hospital when she is not around or sleeping.

While you are in the hospital:

  • Get someone to bring your child to visit you, if possible, or phone your child.
  • Give your child extra attention before she meets the new baby.

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Once you and the new baby are home:

  • Give your child extra attention while someone else looks after the baby.
  • Let your child look at and touch the baby when she is ready.
  • Don't force your baby on the older child.
  • Never leave your child and baby alone together. The older child may accidently hurt the baby.
  • Never let your child pick the baby up without your help.
  • Make sure the baby doesn't get all the attention from visitors. Your child will feel more important if you tell others what a "big help" she is.
  • Let your child help you care for the baby. She can get diapers, clothes, and toys.
  • Let your child act like a baby if she wants to.
  • Do things with your older child while the baby is sleeping.

Fighting between older children

Some fighting and arguing between children is normal.

To help children get along:

  • Remember that each child is different - do not try to treat all children the same.
  • Let children try to work things out by themselves.
  • Do not take sides, blame, or try to find out "who started it".
  • Tell your children that you want them to stop arguing. Suggest ways they can end the argument.
  • Break up the fight if someone is going to get hurt.
  • Do not compare children. For example, saying "I wish you would clean up your room like your brother" will lead to bad feelings.

A few good things about sibling rivalry

It helps children:

  • Learn how to handle disagreements.
  • Learn how to talk things out instead of fighting.
  • Learn ways to handle anger and frustration.
  • Learn how others feel.

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For more information:

Region of Peel - Public Health
Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
to speak with a Public Health Nurse

Caledon residents call free of charge at 905-584-2216

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Revised: Monday February 04 2019

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