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Childhood Envy: coping with jealousy after a new arrival

04 FEBRUARY 2010

There are two sides to children's feelings when it comes to their little brothers and sisters: they love the new babies, but are also annoyed by their presence.

Still, these emotions are the beginning of a process in which the children learn that they haven't lost their parents, but rather must share them.

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Veronica Minguito Orellano, a speech therapist and specialist in early childhood intervention, assures: "It has to do with a behavioural change related to emotions, technically known as attachment behaviour, which produces a regression in behaviours related to food, tidiness, and even in some cases, symptoms like not wanting to go to school, tantrums, and more."

When it comes to the soon-to-be big brother or sister, certain mistakes are important to avoid.

Before the birth, parents should be sure to explain that a newborn is on the way, and once mum and baby are back home, the older child should still be allowed to stay in the parents' bedroom and to spend enough time with his or her mother.

"Jealousy with the arrival of a new sibling is inevitable. It's the way the child expresses that he doesn't understand the changes within the family and is his way of protesting to his parents," explains Minguito Orellano.

Abrupt changes cause a child to feel jealous, which can lead to behavioural problems.

To prevent this, parents should get their tots involved from the very beginning of a pregnancy, first by helping care for mum and later for the newborn.

There's also the possibility of providing the child with other loving adults to lean on, like the father or grandparents.

This period can be difficult, but with time and patience, the child's struggles can turn into acceptance of the situation, leaving behind the envy to enjoy time with mum, dad and the new baby.

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