The dethroned prince: how age influences

The arrival of a brother is an exciting event for the whole family. It is a change that implies adaptation, not only by the parents but also by the older brother. He will be the most affected because it is common for him to perceive the new member of the family as an intruder, a rival against whom one must fight.

The arrival of a brother is one of the most frequent reasons for jealousy in children. The emotional reaction of older children to the new member of the family is known as "Cain complex or older brother", a term coined for the first time by the French psychologist Charles Baudouin. Without reaching the end of the biblical story, these caines protest because no one has asked them if they agree to share their parents with another person.

Jealousy is normal and expected responses to the perceived loss of attention, affection and care. They are positive insofar as they imply a healthy development of attachment with primary caregivers, a necessary tool to love and be loved in the future. In addition, they are adaptive, allow you to defend yourself against an unknown change. According to Carl Rogers, father of person-centered therapy, "they are but secondary consequences of the frustration of needs as vital as safety, acceptance or affection."

The jealousy of the dethroned prince

Although they stand out as protagonists after the birth of the baby, they can also appear at moments in which this reaches important milestones of its development, which make its competence more evident. They usually disappear at the time, when the child proves that sharing the love of their parents does not mean their end. On the contrary, love is not divided, multiplied. However, they can become a problem when they lead the child to harm the little one or extend reached and to a certain maturity.

It is logical that parents invest great energy before the birth of a new child. However, the older brother may not understand this change and may feel "dethroned". Therefore, the way in which the child is prepared for the arrival of his little brother, both during pregnancy and after delivery, will influence how he accepts and incorporates the family group.

When and how do we tell it? How will it react? How can we act to avoid jealousy? These are some of the usual questions among parents about this event.
How can the firstborn react?

The experience of role change can trigger feelings of displacement or loneliness and fear of rejection or abandonment. His reaction (fearful, suspicious, curious, excited, indifferent) will be determined both by his temperament, and by the attitude of his parents in their process of adapting to change.

Reactions to the arrival of a little brother

The children, before the arrival of a little brother, can react with:

- Hypersensitivity and irritability.
- Different manifestations of anxiety (for example, alteration of food or sleep).
- Withdrawal and shyness.
- Disobedience to authority (parents and teachers) and oppositional attitude (especially when participating in activities that involve attention to the child).
- Aggression, with his brother as the main victim of his hostility.
- Regressive attitudes (for example, to go back to urinating in bed, to suck your thumb or to claim the bottle or pacifier).
- Various physical symptoms (for example, gut or head pain).

It is essential to distinguish between a bad behavior and a defensive response to fear of the unknown. It is important to listen to him and to convey to him that, although his feelings are habitual, he must learn to express them in a more appropriate way.

The response to this change usually goes through three stages, variables in each child:
- Protest: conducts to recover the demanded attention.
- Despair: anxiety in the absence of response.
- Adaptation: acceptance of the new situation.

How age influences the dethroned prince

The resentment caused by the new sibling varies according to age:

- If they are really small when the brother is born, they may not notice the presence too much and adapt practically without effort to a situation that they can not understand, like so many other situations in their environment.

- Up to 3 years, approximately, the child establishes a cause-effect relationship between his arrival and the loss of attention from his parents. From then on, he begins to understand what function he represents for him. However, during the preschool stage, characterized by the impulse of immediate satisfaction of their desires, it is hard for her to understand that a baby requires more attention than he does.

- From 6 or 7 years old, At the moment when he begins to overcome egocentricity, he begins to see him as another person.

Irene Alustiza Quintana

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