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The question

My toddler is insanely jealous of our new baby. She calls him garbage. What do we do?

The answer

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Toddlers by nature tend to be very self-centered, which makes it difficult to teach them acceptable behaviour. The process of adjusting to the new baby will take time and patience. Don't be upset that she calls the new baby "garbage". With some intentional planning you can help her adjust over time.

You can ask your spouse to help out by looking after the baby while you and the toddler spend one-on-one time away from home. Talk to her about things that interest her and make sure she understand you do not favour the baby. Be a good listener and give her undivided attention when you are alone with her.

Acknowledge her feelings even if they are upsetting to you. Use praise when she is making progress toward solving the situation by becoming more accepting of her new sibling.

Involve her in tasks so that she feels she has a role to play. For example she can carry a bag to be mom's helper. This can make her feel important and significant.

The root of jealousy may also be due to the fact that the toddler, who got plenty of attention when she was the only child, now, gets ignored at times. This can subtle and unintentional. For example, when people visit your home they may immediately focus in on the new baby and ignore the toddler. Ask visitors to also acknowledge the toddler.

Avoid comparisons. For example don't talk about the fact that the new baby may be a better sleeper than your first child – even if that is true.

If grandparents are available it may be helpful for them to take the toddler on activities where she feels important and acknowledged.

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There are a number of books on this topic but one that has remained a flagship book is Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

Send pediatrician Peter Nieman your questions at pediatrician@globeandmail.com. He will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Dr. Peter Nieman.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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