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Girl Talk: Ending Sibling Rivalry

Q. My 2-year-old seems very jealous of our newborn. He hugs her a little too tightly and hangs on to my ankles whenever I hold her. What can I do to put him at ease?

A. He may never be completely at ease, I'm sorry to say. As a friend once told me, "How can I expect my son to accept a sibling? It's like me bringing home another 'husband' and telling my first spouse that nothing's changed." Even if your "first" husband accepted the idea, he might also feel the urge to welcome the competition with extra-tight hugs...around the throat.

It's no wonder that your toddler  -- who just a short time ago thought of himself and Mommy as the same person  -- might have trouble sharing you. You can lessen his confusion and anxiety, though, by getting him involved with his sister whenever possible. I don't mean big chores, like changing diapers or feeding (wouldn't that be great?). I mean little things, like asking him what the baby should wear or which song you should sing to her. Then follow up with a "Good idea!"

Your son may still act out or whine around the baby. He is 2, after all. But by your giving him a feeling of control over some baby-related decisions, he may loosen his grip on you and your ankles. (I'd still keep a close eye on the brotherly hugs, though.)