Why Is My Teen Jealous Of My New Baby?

I just had a baby and my 17-year old daughter is very jealous of the baby. What can I do?

DR. RUTHERFORD: It’s an interesting situation when a 17-year old suddenly exhibits this kind of jealousy, but it sounds like a classic case of sibling rivalry.

MOLLY: This question was submitted by a mother in Des Moines, Iowa. What do you think is going on?

DR. RUTHERFORD: Well, there could be a number of things. Unfortunately we don’t have much information to work with. For instance, is this baby a product of a new marriage? If that’s the case, the older child might worry about her place in the family. Had she been an only child previously, used to getting all of the attention?

MOLLY: What other things should be considered?

DR. RUTHERFORD: I wonder if the older girl is expecting to leave home soon for college or for work. Is she afraid of being replaced? Also, infants require lots of attention; does the older girl feel left out? There may be a number of reasons playing into this difficult situation that we don’t know about.

MOLLY: Since we don’t know a lot of what’s going on, can we still offer some suggestions?

DR. RUTHERFORD: Yes, sure. First on the list would be a calm conversation with the seventeen-year old about how she’s feeling about the baby and the time the Mom spends with her. This should be done when the baby is not present. Hopefully, the teen can put into words what she’s experiencing.

Bottom line, I expect it relates to a deep sense of loss with her mother. If they can talk about that, they will be ahead of the game. If the girl has not been playing an active role in the care of the baby, why not include her in the bathing, etc. She will need reassurance that her Mom is still there for her, no matter what.

MOLLY: What if she feels she’s being asked to do too much to help out with the new baby?

DR. RUTHERFORD: In that case, some of these responsibilities should be reduced for a while until the older child can develop a better bond with the baby and also feel reassured that her mother is “there” for her, too.

I would recommend that this mom plan some special “mother-daughter” time alone with the older daughter to maintain the bond between the two of them during all the changes that a new baby brings into the household. Maybe an outing or a lunch, or something that recognizes that the older daughter might still need some mom-time to herself. This is an action I always recommend when it comes to alleviating sibling rivalry.

MOLLY: Are there any long term effects that you see for the seventeen-year old?

DR. RUTHERFORD: She may grow to be even more resentful of the baby and never develop a relationship with her. She may also become estranged from her mother for a long period of time. She may even decide to never have her own children, depending on what’s at the core of this issue.

On the positive side, she may learn to “share” her mother in more positive ways and mature from a more dyadic relationship (between two people) to one that is inclusive of more people. This will be very important later in her life if she marries and has children of her own.

ding 6 comments on “Why Is My Teen Jealous Of My New Baby?

  1. I don’t think it’s so much age as the individual.
    Some 17 year olds would be THRILLED to have a younger sibling. Some couldn’t care either way. And some would loath the new baby, for whatever reason. Just like some younger kids would.
    Obviously there’s a line where the kids are too young to even understand what’s going on, like if you have 2 children within a year or two.
    My 3 kids are 22 months and 30 months apart. They all adore each other. My siblings are 3 years apart and have fluctuated between utter loathing and not much more than civil tolerance.

    It really depends on the kids themselves and the situation surrounding the birth of the new baby. Does mom ignore the older kid for the baby? Is the older kid allowed to be involved in caring for the baby? Is the older kid expected to care for the baby too much/too often (some older kids turn into built in babysitters with no compensation)? Things like that. Each case is so different. But I don’t think it really has much to do with age itself.

  2. Because, up until now, your teen has been the ‘only’. Now there’s a baby. Not only does the baby require a lot of attention, but on the other end of the spectrum, the teen is expected to be more self sufficient (normal…we want them to grow up and move out on their own), but the teen is now seeing that as a sign that you love the baby more.

    Simple enough to explain to your teen. The baby is not ‘replacing’, it is enhancing the family. Teen is old enough to be a big help to both you as parents, and baby as a role model and someone who will be idolized by that little person. Teen needs to understand that you are not abandoning her, but that your time together may need to be adjusted to meet the needs of baby.

    Make sure that you have a time set aside each week for alone time with your teen too.

  3. 3 things I believe 1/ around 16 years of age is the worst of times in a child relational development. 2/ If the 17 year old was the youngest, than losing all those advantages that come with being the youngest, it can course resentment 3/ the way the parent talks when the child is being introduced to others ” This our newest, isn’t she the most beautiful girl you have ever seen?” Instead of, “this is our newest and like all the girls in this family isn’t she the most beautiful girl you have ever seen?” The way we talk and compare our children can cause jealousy or feelings of resentment.

  4. When it comes to sibling rivalry, the age difference does make a difference, Molly. Older children should exhibit behavior their siblings can mock and then be proud of. In addition, older siblings can help parents with differing issues. Although they are looked upon as the parents child, too, they should remember they had the same loving support from the parent when they were their young sibling’s age.

    Now, I will say this. Parents should do their part in shaping these behaviors. Older children should still feel special and needed.

    This is just my “two cents” worth.

    • Older children often feel “cheated” – that things go to the younger child sooner than they received the same item, etc. In fact, that is probably true; oldest children are somewhat experimental for parents; they are looser with younger kids. And oldest children are expected to be more responsible and helpful with the younger ones. There is some reality to their feelings. So, Cherrye, you’re right – parents should keep this in mind and make things special for that oldest child.

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