Having a new baby in the family is fun and exciting. For an older sibling however, it can be a life-changing event that needs to treated with a lot of sensitivity and care. To prevent (or manage) feelings of jealousy, we need to be active and intentional in cultivating a family environment that does not encourage jealousies rivalry right from the start. Here are six ways you can bond with your older child when you have an infant.
1. Shower your child with affection.
Newborns take up a lot of time and energy, so being busy with your baby is totally understandable. During the moments your baby is asleep, find time to do little things like hugging and snuggling with your older child. Give him a sense of security through words and actions. Plenty of affection and sweet “I love yous” such as these will reassure him that he is still precious in your eyes.
2. Go on dates.
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 tends to throw them off. It is important therefore, that parents tag-team and designate who will take charge of a particular task. For example, your husband can give your older child a bath while your putting the baby to sleep. After the bath, it can be your turn to read the bedtime 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. It is an exciting time for the whole family, after all. Using these stories, you 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 bonding time with your child.
5. Involve your 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. And be patient.
The arrival of the new baby signals to your older child that he is not the family’s baby anymore. This thought may frighten him, 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.
Truly, older siblings need a lot of understanding when they act up when a new baby comes along, so the challenge is to practice a lot of patience and guidance in helping your child through this transition.
Before you know it, he will have adjusted and all be back as it once was, but better.