Sibling rivalry:Four myths about infant jealousy


Preparations for a newborn’s arrival will also entail changes for the firstborn child. She may be “promoted” from her crib to a bed. In this process, she witnesses the furniture in her bedroom being rearranged to accommodate the new sleeping arrangements, or she may be moved to an entirely different bedroom. New routines of going to nursery school or child care may have been instituted not long ago. Sometimes families may have just moved to a larger home, in a different neighborhood, where there are unfamiliar children, schools and teachers. New household helpers and babysitters may also be freshly on the scene. The phone can ring continuously and unprecedented numbers of neighbors, relatives and old friends the child has never seen descend on the house.

As the big day gets closer, changes in routine become even more momentous. A mother’s departure to the delivery hospital is the most common, now almost universal, change in home life. Even before she disappears physically upon admission to the hospital, her depleted energy resources and preoccupation with the last term of pregnancy may lead to her emotional disappearance and a young child can feel his mother’s moods become erratic and irritable. At some point, the firstborn child is placed in the care of other individuals. Despite a mother’s best efforts at finding loving and responsible replacement caregivers, these individuals are unfamiliar with minuscule details of a child’s routine and their care will differ from mother’s customary style. A child, no matter how young, even an infant, is keenly aware of changes in his mother’s disposition, the presence of new caregivers and slight departures from normal routine. He feels the air fill with the tension of anticipation.

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