In this age group the arrival of a new baby is often accompanied by jealousy and competition for affection and attention. Toddlers and preschoolers often respond with behavior and mood changes to replace what they perceive as lost attention. This is why it is very important for parents to prepare children for the arrival of a new infant who will require parental attention which previously was directed elsewhere.
Most of these issues can be prevented by taking the time to provide love, attention, affection and a sense of security for the displaced child. A secure attachment engenders trust and eliminates the fear of loss which drives many of the behavior problems that accompany sibling rivalry for the younger child.
It is also important schedules, routines and rituals be continued. Mealtime and bedtime routines should not be changed. Toddler and preschool aged children depend on these routines to anchor their daily schedule. In addition, bedtime and playtime rituals such as story time, bath time, meal time, going on walks and various playtime activities must be continued. Your child is looking to your behavior as a sign that he or she is still loved and important. By continuing prior behaviors you can prevent sibling rivalry from evolving into negative behavior.
The arrival of a new infant in the household is a perfect time to support the older child’s independence. By giving your toddler the freedom and encouragement to explore the world you will soften the anxiety and potential sense of loss that a new infant can symbolize. It is also a time when your toddler can learn how to respect others. Toddlers and preschoolers both need to learn they should not try to control the behavior of another. When a toddler does not respect a parent or a sibling, future behavior issues are certain to follow. It is also important to encourage and help direct your preschooler to name these competitive and jealous feelings and by praising and rewarding his or her strengths you will encourage the development of good feelings which can replace bad feelings.
For the preschooler a new sibling provides the added opportunity to feel deserved and approved of. By focusing on the individuality and unique strengths of the older child you will be supporting and acknowledging the importance of a positive and supportive relationship between you both. It is important you are always fair and never compare children. Beware of words or actions that can be interpreted by the older child as showing the new arrival to the family is your favorite. Allow your love to show you have no favorites.