Having a new baby in the family is fun and exciting. For an older child, however, it can be a life-changing event that needs to be managed. An older child who has been used to having his parents all to himself might feel threatened by a baby’s power to take away his parents’ love and attention.
Of course, we want our kids to get along and love each other. We need to be active and intentional in cultivating a family environment that does not encourage sibling rivalry right from the start. Here are six ways.
1. Set aside time for your older child
You might be so busy with the newborn that the older child might feel neglected. Find time to do little things like hugging and snuggling with him while the baby is asleep. Small deeds such as these will reassure him that he is still precious to your eyes.
2. Go out on dates with your older child.
As soon as you are comfortable with leaving your baby with your husband or another responsible adult, set a date with your older child. It can be as simple as going to the park together or eating out at a favorite restaurant. Whatever it is, this sends a clear message to your child that you will always have time for him.
3. Continue to do previously established routines and rituals.
Children feel secure with their routines, especially those shared with their parents. Adding another baby into the mix may jumble up their schedule. It is important therefore, that parents tag-team and designate who will take charge of a particular task. For example, Daddy can give the older child a bath while Mommy is putting the baby to sleep. After the bath Mom can now read the bed time story.
4. Read books about new babies
This activity should ideally be started during pregnancy. This creates a mood of happy anticipation for the coming of the baby. Using these stories, parents can point out what older children might expect with their new sibling and how they can prepare for it. In addition to the lessons a child might pick up, it also provides opportunities for some alone time with Mommy.
Parents should not feel guilty though if they were not able to do this before the delivery, however. Neither should they stop with the stories after the baby arrives. There are a lot of children’s books dealing with different issues faced by older children that coupled with their insatiable appetite to repeat stories, equals a lot of bonding time with a purpose.
5. Involve child in taking care of the baby
Little kids love making real contributions to family life. Instead of driving away your older child because you’re afraid he’ll inadvertently hurt the little one, involve him by teaching and guiding him to help you during bath time, story time, and in choosing clothes. Simple responsibilities will make him excited about the baby too.
6. Allow your child to regress
The arrival of the new baby signals to your older child that he is not the family’s baby anymore. This thought frightens the older child, and although he might not say it, he will unconsciously opt to relive his time as a baby.
When you start to notice this trait, do not scold your child. Allow him some time to feel this out. Saying something like “Are you my first baby?” affirms that your affection towards him hasn’t waned. Once he is secure about his position in the family (as well as of your love and affection), he will snap out of his regression and start getting involved with the baby.
Older kids need a lot of understanding when they act up when a new baby comes along. Patience and guidance are needed to help them through the transition.