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How should one handle sibling rivalry?

Q: I have a 3 year old daughter and a 5 month old son. The problem is with my daughter. She now wants to sleep in the same cradle as her brother, eat the same food. She now wants to drink his milk in a bottle. If we say no to her then she starts saying that we don't like her. How should we handle this situation?

A:When a new baby arrives, the older child often feels neglected, since all the attention is on the new arrival. Your daughter wants you to pay attention to her and thinks that if she becomes a small infant again, she will get you for herself. You must do things for her and with her, by which she is reassured that she is also loved and wanted by the parents. Give her frequent cuddles and hugs. Ask her about what she wants to do (except getting into the babys crib)! and help her to get over what is called sibling rivalry. Actually, the change is real: you have less time for the older child. It is up to you to establish that you love her just the same. Give her a special treat once in a way. Show her pictures of herself as a baby and convince her that she got the same treatment as her brother does now. In many Indian families, a male child is treated as superior to a female child. Even if you, as parents, have not expressed this, some older relative or domestic servant will say to her "Now that Baba has come, your mother will have no time for you". This may not have happened in her case, but such a sentiment is likely to have been expressed by someone. Be sure to say that you love both your children equally and to do things which support it. Spend time telling her stories and holding her close when she is dropping off to sleep. Give her small tasks which will help you in taking care of the baby. Be playful in your manner and let her laugh with you. Let her join you at mealtimes, and tell her that eating with the adults is a privilege and the food is more tasty than baby food anyway! Gradually, she will realise that she still has your affection. Remember that she is only 3 years old. Even if she appears to understand, her feelings will sometimes tend to be stronger. Get the childs father and other members of the family to cooperate with you in this effort, by giving your daughter more of their time.


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