When Your Toddler Doesn’t Like Your New Baby

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It is very common for a toddler not to enjoy the presence of a new baby in the home. With most toddlers it’s ok if the baby is just visiting but not welcomed if it is going to stay.

Toddlers have a bunch of stresses and complaints when it comes to babies: “They take all their parents attention, they have to share everything they had before with a someone they have never met before, they can’t talk, they cry a lot and on top of the list—they won’t play with me.”

These are just some of the complaints that toddlers have with brand new babies. The difference between adults and toddlers is that a parent may be able to work through those feelings and emotions where a toddler may not.

Toddlers can have very conflicting emotions. They feel a love and bonding with the new baby but at the same time they may also have resentment and stress in dealing with them.

Because of theses conflicting emotions a toddler may not be able to resolve what he is feeling and begin to act out because of the stress of these conflicting emotions.

According to Adele Faber, co-author of “Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too” (W.W. Norton and Co.). “The moment that kid arrives, it means less: less lap, less time, less of all the stuff that makes the older child feel happy and safe and secure.”

His advice is to work with your toddler before your baby is born and also afterwards preparing them for conflicting feelings, experiences and emotions.

First of all resist the urge to insist that your older child love this new addition.

“Feelings can’t be mandated or turned on or off like a faucet,” says Faber. “If you try to suppress those hostile feelings, they’ll either go under the surface and express themselves symptomatically — nail-biting, nightmares, bed-wetting — or acted out as punches or pinches.” Urge your older child to talk about his or her feelings.

Urge your child to communicate and dialog back and forth about his conflicting emotions.

Faber recalls a conversation with one father who engaged his son in a dialogue similar to the following:

Son: Send the baby back.

Dad: You don’t want him here?

Son: No. He cries too much.

Dad: Oh, his crying bothers you?

Son: Yeah. And he won’t play with me.

Dad: So you wish he were old enough to play with you?

Son. Yeah. … But sometimes he holds my finger.

Dad: It seems like maybe you have two feelings. Sometimes you wish he’d just go away and never come back. And sometimes you kind of like having him around. I’m glad you told me!

“And the son would come ask his dad, ‘Daddy, tell me about my two feelings,'” Faber says. “What a gift that dad gave his son. The understanding that you can have two completely contradictory feelings at the same time and each can be real and legitimate. That kind of acceptance of the hostility really does help.”

And reinforce to your child that this new life will have ups and downs.

“Give him a little bit of reality,” says Faber. “‘Sometimes it will be so fun to have a new baby in the house and watch the baby grow and play. Sometimes I’ll be busy feeding her and diapering her, and if you ever have those two feelings, you come and tell me because you will forever be my one and only dearest Sam (or whatever your child’s name is).’ “

When working with toddlers and new babies it is important to be patient and value your toddler’s emotions and conflicts as they arise. Most of the time, these feelings are temporary and dissipate over time, sometimes within days; but no matter how your toddler is choosing to work through his emotions, just understanding what is causing all the upset can be very empowering to a parent.

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