We recently had a baby girl and my toddler (23 months) seems very jealous of her, and is clingy to his dad. He keeps waking up at 5am howling 'daddy' and won’t go back to sleep. The smallest things seem to push him over the edge at the moment. He won't let dad hold his sister without getting upset, and asks me to carry her instead. Any tips on how to support him through this?
That’s really tough, and probably emotionally exhausting for all of you. I remember with my second I just wanted everyone to be happy. It’s hard to navigate the second sibling at first but it will slowly and surely get better as you all find your groove.
Your little boy has had a huge change and is probably trying to find ways to keep some sort of control on this new situation. His world as he knew it has been turned upside down. He’s not going to be happy all the time, he is going to react probably in many different ways and I think the best thing to do is to acknowledge how he’s feeling, acknowledge what he wants. You may not be able to always give him what he wants but you can make him feel understood and heard, which I find is the thing children want the most and works to calm them down.
So for example, 'I see you’re upset, you want Daddy to hold you right now. He’s holding your sister for five minutes and then he can play with you' or something like that. Very calm, very clear, with confidence from his leaders showing that nothing is wrong and that you have control. He’s probably witnessing some stress as of course having a new born is STRESSFUL, especially with an older sibling. The routine gets knocked and everyone is tired etc. And so part of it is that he needs to know his parents are still in control just like before. They will continue to lead him so that he doesn’t have to. He may still be upset after you’ve said this but it’s very healthy for him to just let it out (safely: not kicking or hitting but crying, screaming, punching a pillow). You stay calmly close to him while you let him get his feeling out! He will feel better after getting it out, and having parents that are ok with all of his different feelings but sticking to their guns. See it as him telling you all about it, all about his new scary world - he’s telling you, and you’re listening. 'I hear you’re upset' 'it’s hard waiting for your turn with Daddy'. Chances are it’s really nothing to do with wanting Daddy but is a way of getting a reaction from you, and testing out the new waters.
But I’d say stay firm, stay calm, don’t let him start controlling things because he doesn’t want that control, he wants you to have it. Listen when he’s upset. Maybe allocate some one on one time with each of you if possible. The fact that he wants Daddy could be a way of 'punishing' you (I know that sounds harsh but you know what I mean!)
You have got this!! You are doing an incredible job!! It WILL get easier. And know that you are NOT ALONE.
It is totally natural for your little boy to experience feelings of jealousy. With your patience and understanding, your little one will begin to feel secure again. Try and find some time for daddy to have some quality time with your little boy during the day. Maybe let daddy do story time or breakfast in the morning. Likewise, with you, try and get some alone time with your little boy too, if you can. So he doesn’t feel he needs to compete for attention. I know this is so much easier said than done when you have a newborn.
You can allow your little boy to play an active role in looking after his little sister too. Maybe to help get the wipes while you change her, if he wants to.
He will be need your love and attention even more than before as he adjusts to this change. You are doing an amazing job. It’s an exhausting time with a newborn and nearly two year old!