A lady wanted to know why her older child was harming the younger one? The younger child was a few months old, the older child seemed to resent the presence of the younger one. The mother was harassed, she felt there was something wrong with the older kid.
The older child would also mimic the facial expressions of the younger one. This was puzzling to the mother. Was the child exhibiting negative behavior? Did she need disciplining and was something wrong with the parents?
What the mother failed to understand was that the older child felt neglected. She was asking for attention, and she had found that the younger one was getting all the attention by screwing up his face. She associated the mother’s attention to the facial expression of the younger child. So she felt if she needed to attract the mother’s attention, she needed to make similar faces. It was her logic, however wonky it was. Mimicking the expression was her way of seeing if the mother would attend to her.
Children right away do not resent their siblings. They resent the time the parents spend with the siblings. When the kids are older, an attempt can be made to make them understand the needs of the younger child. How helpless the young child is and how he/she is dependent on others for his/her basic needs. This older child can be asked to help in the care of the younger one. And if the child is willing, he/she will oblige.
But when the child is very young, they feel rejected. All the information of going to have a sibling is accepted. As long as the sibling is in the mother’s womb. When the child is born, the older one will only see the mother cuddling the baby. This sibling is always with the mother, and so the older child will feel unhappy.
Many parents see the attempts of the older child for attention as negative behavior. Feeling of rejection can affect all, even adults. Then how much more traumatic it can be for a child. Suddenly he/she has to share the parents with the sibling, and later share everything with him/her.
All the relatives and friends who come will go for the new born child. They will make funny sounds, there will be gifts for the newborn. Suddenly all attention is for the new born, the older child will be bewildered. Some relatives will also tell the older child, he/she is older and must behave responsibly. Such big words for this young child, why should he/she understand?
Parents must learn time management. They have to make sure the older child does not feel neglected and spend quality time with him/her. Without the younger one along. Lot of reassurance is needed to be given to the older child and lots of cuddling, hugging, kissing, can be done. The more physical contact that is there, the more the older child will feel reassured.
I remember my niece who did not and does not resent her younger sister. She wanted her mother’s touch, when her sibling was very young. She missed it but could not articulate it because she too was very young. I just happened to mention to my sister that she could extend her arm and allow the older child to sleep on it. She was lying down with the younger baby.
The older child was so happy, she kept kissing her mother’s arm and cuddling it. Then my sister understood and gave her plenty of physical touch. It is a need in all kids to be cuddled, kissed and hugged. They grow emotionally with such touches. When they get plenty of quality time, physical touches, they will soon learn to love the sibling. Otherwise generally there will be resentment and some amount of hatred.
It is fairly easy to parent a single child. There the child does not have to share the parents. But parenting responsibly with two or more children can be a challenge. Both have to be loved equally, both must bask in the parental love. Both should feel loved, because their perception will be with them throughout their lives.
Even between emotionally balanced kids, there will be conflicts. They have to be taught to resolve it and make up. There should be minimum parental interference. Otherwise here too one of them may feel the parent is discriminating. It is a tight rope walk for parents of two or more children. Some accusations will be there of partiality, but if handled well, children will grow up bonding well.