Family dynamics change drastically when a second child is born. While parents give constant care to their infant, their older child often reacts negatively because of the major adjustments she has to make. Reactions vary, of course, with the age of the older sibling.
A four-or five-year-old will be much more independent and understanding than a one-to three-year-old, but all older siblings will have some negative feelings. The way parents respond to their older child’s feelings about the baby often sets the tone for the children’s future relationship.
Some parents who pressure their older child to love the baby, try to censure their child’s feelings: “Don’t say that about your little brother, it’s not nice.” A child who’s not allowed to share her negative feelings with her parents will continue to have those feelings; she’ll just express them in other ways. She may not take her anger out on her parents, since she, like all young children, fears losing their love, but she may take her anger out on her sibling.
Your older child needs the freedom to express her negative feelings so she can resolve them. Allow her to say, “Take the baby back to the hospital,” and show that you understand her situation by saying, “It’s sometimes hard, isn’t it, to have a new baby in the house.” She’ll begin to accept and even like the baby once she knows that she can express her dislike without risking your love and acceptance. The more she’s accepted and reassured, the more likely she is to develop positive feelings about her sibling, although there will always be some negative emotions as well.
Your older child will begin to feel good about her sibling when the baby starts smiling, giggling, and seeking her out. “He likes me!” Support and encourage this early interaction by saying, “Yes, he really does like you. He thinks you’re funny and nice.” At this point, she might enjoy helping you take care of the baby.