Navigating Sibling Jealousy

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How do you navigate sibling jealousy in your home?

 

My oldest daughter is like me in a lot of ways. She is passionate and outgoing with a very big personality. I really worried when we were expecting our second child that she was going to have a hard time transitioning into the big sister role as she relished all the attention as the only grandchild of the family. She liked the idea of having a “girl baby” as many of her friends at daycare did, but in the back of my mind, I was skeptical she would feel the same once her sister was born.

 

When we brought our new baby home, the first coping mechanism she exhibited was pretending her little sister didn’t exist. No matter what we tried, she wasn’t interested in acknowledging her. We finally tried focusing on all the things Presley liked to do and reminding her that her sister couldn’t do those things because she was too little. This seemed to be the magic solution as she was now convinced she didn’t need to share anything with her sister as she was too little to play with her things.

 

From this moment on, Presley blossomed into the best big sister I could have possibly asked for. She was affectionate, helpful, and genuinely caring towards her little sister. She loved dropping her off in her classroom in the mornings, helping bathe her, making sure all her toys were within reach, even policing how small we cut her food so she “doesn’t choke.” I shared our “magic solution” with other moms who were also struggling with sibling jealousy bringing home new babies as I truly felt it was the big game-changer in our house.

 

a toddler and her baby sister playing side by side

 

I enjoyed this stage for nearly a year when our youngest daughter started really blossoming in her curiosity. She was pulling up on everything now and exploring her surroundings. So much in fact, that you could spot bubble wrap around a lot of our furniture. This stage is fun (and exhausting) as a parent, and I felt that I was ready for it, but what I wasn’t ready for was the change I saw with my oldest daughter. She was starting to take things from her sister, have big feelings over her close proximity, and started asking me to put her to bed. All of a sudden, this perfect sibling relationship was gone, and out emerged a jealous four-year-old.

 

I don’t blame her for having a hard time adjusting to sharing her things and even her personal space. As an older sibling myself, I’ve heard many stories from my mother as I went through this stage. I was hoping since they are a little further in age that it may be a little lessened, but I think that was just wishful thinking. I am being mindful in how I approach navigating this stage with her while validating her feelings. Some ideas I have tried to use:

 

  • Avoid dismissive reactions such as: “No,” “You need to share,” “Give her a turn,” etc.
  • Instead, ask them what they are feeling and offer a “feelings area” if they are having a hard time defusing (Presley uses a comfy chair, nightlight, and books in a chosen space).
  • Allow them to choose items they don’t want to share and keep those items off-limits.
  • Allow them to choose their own items they are willing to share. Presley enjoyed choosing items she felt she was “too big” for now that her sister could have.
  • Gently remind them their sibling is learning, and they want their sibling to show them!
  • If they aren’t interested in showing them, that’s ok! Move the activity to another location that the older sibling can do independently. 

 

As much as we want them to love and adore each other all the time, unfortunately, that probably isn’t realistic. Allowing them to have choices when navigating sibling jealousy is good for everyone’s happiness! They’ll be best buddies someday, it just takes a lot of patience, growth, and understanding. I’m excited to join them in the journey!

 

 

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Haley was born and raised in small town Kansas. She moved to St. Louis after graduating from the University of Kansas to attend graduate school at Lindenwood. Her 2 year plan to live in St. Louis turned in 12 when she met her husband. They were married on home plate at Busch Stadium in 2015 and are parents to two girls, Presley (4) and Piper (7 months), Haley stared her career as a Certified Athletic Trainer working at high schools all throughout St. Louis. After returning to nursing school she was a Trauma ICU nurse for 5 years before taking on her current role as the Injury Prevention and Outreach Coordinator at a Level 1 Trauma Center. Outside of work Haley blogs about local food and businesses as part of the Yelp Elite Squad, volunteers for Make-A-Wish MoKan, and loves strength training and self care. Haley considers herself a “wrangler of tiny females”. She loves raising a strong willed preschooler who both challenges and amazes her. Haley loves living in St. Louis and feels it has so much to offer to inspire children and foster creativity. You can follow her at @mamastrebs.

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