Camilla McGill

The green eyed monster....

Aug 17, 2021
Jealousy of a new baby

Do you ever feel jealous?

It’s not a great feeling, is it?

But it is a normal, human feeling.

We need to remember that children's feelings are raw and they are learning to regulate them.

I was working with a client recently who was having such a struggle with her toddler adapting to life with a younger brother. Lily is 3 and Max is 9 months.

Anna had reached the end of her tether.

She said she was constantly reprimanding Lily and she realised it actually made her worse.

Anna was feeling so guilty as she knew the way she was handling Lily was damaging her relationship with her and she didn't want it to be that way.

As well as some private sessions with me, Anna also joined my Parent Survival Academy and said it transformed the way she parented. You can put your name on the waitlist for the next course by clicking the link.

Our second son Felix was a colicky baby, who also had reflux.  It took ages to feed him, he’d then throw it up and cry with pain from the reflux.

We were exhausted, and Nico (who was 2½ when Felix was born), was often really demanding. 

We didn’t always deal with it well at all and would end up getting angry with Nico, especially when he kept repeating things we’d told him not to do.

Here are some of the things we’d see:

  • He’d get really close to the baby, lying on top of him, stroking his hair heavily
  • He’d use a high pitched voice and go right up to Felix's ear and say: ‘Hello baby, aaaahhhh’
  • He would kick up a huge fuss at bedtime and refuse to go to bed
  • He’d climb in the baby’s cot or pram, just as I’d got him off to sleep
  • He wanted to wear the baby’s clothes
  • He’d snatch things away from Felix: ‘NO, it’s not yours, it’s mine, you can’t have it’
  • As I sat down to feed, he’d sit right on top of me and say ‘Felix doesn’t need any milk, he’s not hungry’
  • When things really got bad we’d see hitting, scratching, pushing, pinching – have you experienced any of those?

This isn’t exclusive to having a new baby in the family either. Jealousy like this can manifest when children are older too.

Some other ways kids show jealousy of a baby or sibling are things like:

- Snatching or ripping open their sibling’s presents

- Put down’s like: ‘You are dumb, you can’t do that, you’re a baby’

- Or less obvious things like insisting on doing things their way and refusing any sort of help

These are just a few examples, you may well have seen others.

Helping a child who is experiencing jealousy is challenging as a parent. It can really push our buttons as it feels like an ugly emotion that we shouldn’t tolerate.

Once I’d accepted that jealousy is normal and ok, it helped me to use some of the tips below which made a big difference.

Was the change immediate?


But I started to notice that Nico was calmer, kinder and more secure in himself.

Here’s what happens to emotions that aren’t accepted – they get suppressed and it really has bad long term impact if our emotions are suppressed.

We want our children to feel that all emotions are ok, it is just the behaviours that we need to manage.

So I’ve produced another handy 10 point plan to help you manage your child’s jealousy.

  1. Use the word 'jealous'. We will often steer away from using it as we think it will make it seem acceptable.  The opposite is true. If we validate to our kids that they are ok and the emotion is ok, it will help it to lift. So say: ‘I think you felt jealous of your brother which is why you pinched him’
  2. Offer alternative ways for them to release the emotion. ‘We don’t want to hurt each other. How about you tell me in words ‘I wish he wasn’t here’ or ‘I want it to be my birthday’'
  3. In the case of situations when they are likely to feel jealous, try to anticipate it in advance and talk it over when your child isn’t in a heightened emotional state. ‘I know it is hard for you at the moment. I spend lots of time with the baby and you wish you had more of me. Tomorrow auntie Jen is coming over to see the baby and you might feel a bit left out. We need to make sure you show her your new bed, don't we?'
  4. Problem solve with your child ‘How can I show you how much I love you too?’ ‘What do you think would help?’. Accept anything they might say even if it isn’t possible. So if they say ‘Give the baby away’, just validate that ‘You wish the baby would go away.  I understand.  It’s so hard to share me.’  Then come back to the question of what might help.
  5. As much as possible, have some alone time with each child. Let them know in advance so they can get value from anticipation. ‘Later on today, I’m going to have time with just you.  I am really looking forward to it.  Let's plan what you’d like to do’
  6. Never punish a child for his/her feelings or actions. Remember, their actions are driven by a feeling. If they’ve done something really shocking like hit the baby, then we will instinctively feel very very protective. Firstly address the feeling: ‘Wow, for you to hit the baby shows me you feel really jealous of her’.  Then get them to make amends when things have calmed down.  ‘How about you get a cool cloth and wipe her head?’ or ‘How about you show her you are sorry and give her a gentle cuddle’
  7. Look at books on emotions. Here are some  good books: ‘My body sends a signal’ by Natalia Maguire, ‘Be mindful of monsters’ by Lauren Stockly, ‘Hands are not for hitting’ (for toddlers)  and ‘Listening to my body’ (for 4 years and upwards)
  8. Tell your child about your own feelings, when you felt jealous of someone else and how you dealt with it.
  9. Help them to express their feelings with art – help them do a drawing to express the emotion.
  10. Give them a special role, exclusive to their position in the family, with some special responsibilities. ‘You are the big brother now, so you can be responsible for pouring the milk’. ‘You get to show your sister how to do things because you are older than her’

I’d love to hear some of the challenges you might be having when dealing with jealousy (or other emotions). Send me an email [email protected] to let me know.

For more tips on how to handle sibling jealousy, download my FREE booklet 'From Fights to Fun: 12 creative sibling activities to get kids playing happily together'.


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