Welcoming home a new sibling without the rivalry
Bringing home a new baby is always so exciting! Some children take to their new brother or sister right away, while others have issues of jealousy. It is challenging when an older sibling faces conflicting feelings about the new baby. Moms and dads can feel at a loss for how to help their children bond. Older siblings struggle with the mix of new emotions, the new routine, and the many changes that have now entered their life with the arrival of the new baby.
It is important for parents to remember that this inner turmoil is new and sometimes scary for their older child. He may be having feelings of not being loved as much. She may be struggling with the cut in attention she received before the baby was brought home. Many factors play into the display of feelings your child is now facing.
As parents it is our job to understand and be patient while these adjustments are taking place in our children's lives. Telling a child to love their new little brother or sister will do nothing to improve the situation, possibly even making it worse in some cases as now your older child feels scolded and ashamed for the strange new emotions they are experiencing for the first time.
Transitions in a child's life can take anywhere up to 6 months to manifest, and sometimes up to a full year to come to grips with. Bringing home that little bundle of joy is no "small potatoes" in a child's life. Here are some helpful tips to ease the difficulty your older child may be going through:
- Praise your older child as often as possible for individual actions and achievements to reassure him/her that you still see what they are doing.
- Praise your older child as often as you can for being a "great older sister" or "super big brother". Introduce the feeling of pride in being the older child.
- Offer chances for your older child to be a "big helper" with the baby. Give them the freedom to say no. "Mommy could really use your help. Could you help me find the baby powder?"... When your child accepts these offers, be sure to give plenty of thanks and appreciation. Should your child choose not to help, say something equally as supportive "I understand, that's alright. I can see you're very busy building that big kid puzzle. Maybe next time."
- Introduce your older child first when going to events. Ask your child if he/she would like to introduce the baby for you. This facilitates the feelings of pride in being able to "show off" their new sibling. Should your child choose not to do the introductions, make it a point to introduce the baby as "___________'s little sister (or brother)".
- Tell your older child stories about when he/she was a baby. This will help your child identify with their new sibling.
- Find similarities between your children's features and point them out. "Oh look, she has your eyes." Physical similarities as well as shared personality traits will also aid in your child identifying and bonding with the new baby.
- Ask your older child's opinion on subjects that you are willing to allow some freedom with, such as: What color bib should the baby wear today? Which vegetable do you think your sister would like to eat tonight? Do you think your brother would like to have the diapers with bears or bubbles?
- Take a photograph of your children together and print it off for your older child to bring with them. Allowing them to show the picture to friends and family.
- If at all possible, arrange to visit your child's classroom to allow your older child to introduce their new sibling at show and tell time. If there is a question and answer time, give your older child first chance at answering the questions about the baby, only taking the lead on the ones he/she needs help with.
- Set aside time while the baby is sleeping or napping to do something fun that your older child chooses. Does he like puzzles? Does she want to play tea party? Express an interest in what they want to do for no less than 15 minutes per day.
With help, encouragement, patience, and understanding your child will grow to accept and love their younger sibling.