When our second child was born, we were so excited to introduce him to his big brother, who was just shy of 3 years old. Suuuure, we knew there would be bouts of jealousy, but at the heart, they’d be BFF’s in no time —– right?? Big Brother would love and dote and hold and kiss and play oh-so-tenderly. I knew it.
Except for no.
It was like 70% jealousy, 20% sweet-ish, and 10% I blocked it out. Looking back, I see the naiveté… but so remember holding out hope for the best.
At Baby Brother’s newborn checkup, our pediatrician honed in on this adjustment phase with a seemingly stupid piece of advice. She said, “Be careful that you don’t blame the baby.”
“What??” I nodded and played along, while silently incredulous. “Blame the baby? What are you talking about?”
She went on: “You’ll think you’re explaining or building empathy, but it loads the jealousy cannon.”
Wrapping up that appointment, we headed home, moved on with our day — and suddenly, I heard it…
“Sorry, Buddy, I can’t (X) with you, Baby Brother needs (Y).”
“You can’t play with that noisy toy right now; Baby Brother is sleeping!”
“I know you want to (X), but can’t you hear Baby Brother crying??”
“You’re right; it would be fun to go (X), but Baby Brother is about to need to eat, so let’s do it another time.”
I totally had the habit of blaming the baby. Sure, you and I don’t think of it that way — but to a young sibling? All he could hear was “Baby Brother gets in the way.” Yikes!
So this begged the obvious question: What DO you say?? Because let me tell you, these “explanations” roll off the tongue and are hard to replace in the moment of fussing and frenziness! #oldhabitsdiehard
I found these (or similar derivatives) worked well:
“Oh, sure Buddy! I hear you, and that’s a great idea! Let’s do that next.”
“That toy is a little noisy for Mom’s ears right now; which books can we read together??”
“Poor Baby Brother is crying. What can a great Big Brother do that might help him?”
The hardest thing about this, for me, was retraining my own reaction and tongue. But you know what? That crazy pediatrician was right. And now that our third babe is a mere 2 weeks old, I am pulling out this old trick and finding the same help in it. Hope it serves you, too!