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The 'dethroned prince' syndrome is characterized by the appearance of jealousy in a child at the birth of a new brother. When a new member of the family is born, the family structure goes through a moment of 'crisis' or change, in which functions and roles must be readjusted in the parents.
These adjustments affect the stability of the child, who from this moment does not have exclusive care and attention from the elderly.
Thus, in the evolution of the family structure, it is natural that jealousy arises towards that person with whom they have to share what until now had been uniquely theirs. However, parents have to know how to manage the appearance of jealousy and that fear of feeling displaced or less loved.
It is necessary that, after a period of readjustment, family members once again occupy an important place in this structure and feel satisfied with that 'position' and the care they receive. Otherwise, these symptoms, which are expected at first, may become chronic, increase in intensity or frequency, or involve trauma in the child's life.
Children at this time express their discomfort like this:
- Wishing to once again occupy the position of the youngest in the family: using a more childish voice, use of crying, tantrums, showing more dependent behaviors that had already been overcome (difficulty in toilet training, fears, problems going to sleep or eating only…)
- Attempts to attract attention, they demand the attention of adults in a more striking way than they had done until now.
- Somatic symptoms: physical pain, complaints ...
- Decreased appetite or difficulties falling asleep.
- Increased aggressiveness, anger, restlessness ...
- Apathy or sadness, lack of motivation in tasks that previously interested him.
Parents often feel overwhelmed when, in addition to the care that a newborn requires, the eldest returns to manifest behaviors or habits that seemed to be already acquired and overcome. For this reason, it is important that parents are prepared for these symptoms and know how to deal with them effectively:
1.- Anticipate these symptoms. Before the baby is born it is important talk to the oldest and explain what is going to happen. Not only focusing on the advantages (although they are also named), but explaining that although a baby needs more care from the parents (you can show him with photographs the care he received at this stage) he will not lose the love and attention from these, who will love you exactly the same as before.
2.- Dedicate when the brother is born time alone with the elder, to play, talk, show him affection and attention, that he feels valued and loved.
3.- Avoid comparisons or competition between siblings.
4.- That this important change does not coincide (as far as possible) with other changes for the elder, such as change of school, address, routines ...
5.- Faced with the symptoms of jealousy, do not get angry or punish.
6.- Give him space so that he can express his discomfort through dialogue, drawings, games ...
7.- Reinforce the approaches of the oldest to the little one in forms of affection, care or play. Praise all these behaviors and take advantage of them to later do something together and alone. Even encourage the help of 'care' towards the child, putting on the pacifier, bringing the cream to us after bathing ...
8.- Ignore attempts to act like a minor child and ignore him when he behaves accordingly.
It is important that parents know how to help manage emotions in our children, so that moments of change become opportunities to learn new strategies that will make them stronger and more competent tomorrow.
Lucia Boto Pérez
Álava Reyes Psychology Center
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