As my own family has increased through the next generation I have had the opportunity to reflect n sibling rivalry. Managing the impact on the toddler of the newborn baby can be one of the hardest tasks for parents. Intense jealousy is a new feeling for the toddler and can be expressed in a destructive rage which is confusing and hurtful for mum and dad. This can bring on the, “Terrible Twos!”
When your angelic firstborn becomes a rage-monster, or your perfectly potty-trained toddler wees and poos with abandon you can feel a failure as a parent; “what have I done to deserve this?” I have seen shadows of this jealousy through peoples’ lives all through childhood and as adults too. Laura Markham, PhD suggests, “Any time your child pushes your buttons, he’s showing you an unresolved issue from your own childhood.”
The terrible twos describes a time when the toddler can easily become overwhelmed by their feelings. It is a surge in brain development and can be at any time between 1-4 years old. The toddler shows in their behaviour by “acting out” destructively hitting people, perhaps throwing things, refusing to get dressed, go to bed, eat their dinner or use the potty! The child is unable to express except in destructive behaviour that they are experiencing intense and unmanageable emotion. Of course, what they need is clear and safe boundaries, for mum and dad to stay calm, and loving; cuddle them, allow them to regress a little to be the best baby again and learn to manage their feelings through example.
Terrible twos and a new baby can be a toxic mix for parents: When parents may already feel a twinge of guilt about the older child no longer being “the baby” no longer having all their attention, and of course are likely to be challenged themselves by the demands of having a new baby exhausted and sleep deprived. And now their little one shows they feel out of control and demand more and more. It is easy to feel out of control as adults and overwhelmed with frustration. An impossible mix.
At Brighton Therapy Service we meet and work with families at all stages and sometimes see the damage done to their relationships when the older child could not cope with their jealousy. We can work with the children and the parents at a later stage and can help to resolve and repair the difficulties of this time. Therapeutic help will uncover earlier wounds and help the children to feel more contained and understood. Through therapy it is as if the nightmares lose their force and become ordinary and manageable again.