My toddler keeps telling me that I love her new little brother more than her. How can I persuade her that this isn’t the case?
The first thing you need to know is that this can be a normal response to the arrival of a new baby in the home. Trying to persuade your daughter that you love her and her brother the same when what she is feeling is real and scary will only serve to frustrate both of you.
Displacement, jealousy and exclusion are difficult feelings even for adults, so imagine how much harder they are for a toddler who lacks the emotional and intellectual maturity to metabolise and rationalise them.
But your actions together with time can be reassuring for her. Here are some suggestions that might help your little girl:
- Being a mom to a newborn and a demanding toddler is exhausting and often overwhelming. Try to be patient, kind and understanding of her predicament. Her world has shifted and she’s going to need time to adjust. By normalising her behaviour and feelings, you normalise your feelings of guilt, helplessness, frustration and exhaustion.
- Your daughter may display some regressed behaviours – this is her way of expressing that she wants to be a baby again, because she perceives that this will get her the most attention. Don’t fight or punish her for these behaviours, they will pass.
- Where appropriate, encourage her to become involved in caring for her baby brother. This communicates the role a big sister can play and that her position in the family is secure and vital.
- There is often a tendency to hand the older child over to the other parent while you are busy with the baby. Although this is understandable and often unavoidable, for example, when you’re breastfeeding, it can exacerbate feelings of jealousy and insecurity. As far as possible, continue to interact with your daughter in the same way you did before her brother arrived. This can help to minimise her feelings of being neglected or discarded.
Successfully navigating the early years facilitates strong sibling relationships, which will always include a healthy dose of rivalry and a love-hate dynamic.
– Wendela Leisewitz, clinical psychologist and family/divorce mediator (child consultant)
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.