Addition of a new child in the family is a joyful time, but it is necessary for the parents to take adequate steps to ensure that the older child does not feel neglected. A feeling of sibling rivalry is common, but steps need to be taken from the very beginning to smooth the transition. This should start from pregnancy itself. Parents should involve the older sibling in child care. These ranges from visiting the doctor to listen to the heartbeat of the baby to helping you in preparing the nursery and tending to the baby. Age appropriate sympathetic attitude is a must. Siblings are seen to play an extremely important role in your life. According to one study, by the age of 11, children spend 33% of their daily time with their siblings. A study at the Penn State University concluded that even after entering adolescence, children spend about 11 to 17 hours every week with their siblings. So, building up a good sibling relationship is a must.
When a new baby is to arrive in the family, it is a period of adjustment for everyone including the parents and the older child. It is natural for the older child to feel curious, confused, neglected and even a little resentful. That is why parents need to take certain steps in time to build up a good sibling relation.
Preparing your child from the time of pregnancy
It is not a good idea to suddenly arrive home with a baby in your arm. Rather, you need to prepare your older child from before the birth. Here are a few things that you can try:
- Tell your child about the new baby who is to come. There is no best time for doing this, but it should be done in an intimate setting so that your child feels free to ask any questions.
- Share stories of babyhood with your child. Sit with the albums and tell him how he was born and what he used to do in his childhood.
- If possible, you can take your child to visit someone who has an infant. This will give him a firsthand idea of what to expect.
- You can give a doll to your older child to practice and to take care of.
- Discuss baby names with your child.
- Talk with your child about the provisions that you have made for his/her care while you are in the hospital.
- You can take him to visit your doctor if the latter permits. Let him listen to the baby’s heartbeat.
- Talk to your child about his/her responsibilities as the older child towards the new baby and how he/she can be mother’s little helper.
What to do after you arrive home with the new baby?
Be sure to communicate with your older child while you are in the hospital and introduce him/her with the new baby as soon as possible. Once you arrive home, here are a few things that you can do:
- Let your older child help you with child care. This will definitely make the process much longer but it can give your older child an incredible sense of belonging and pride. Let him/her fold the diaper, bring you the baby’s clothes, and choose the dress for the baby and so on.
- Your older child may be eager to hold the baby. Do not discourage him/her. Instead, use gentle supervision to guide the process.
- Have a learning session with your older child when undressing or bathing the baby. you can occasionally give baths to both the children together if your older child do not object and the younger child is old enough to sit up by himself.
- Some children may not express any interest in the baby. This does not mean anything serious. Most probably the older child requires some time to adjust to a new sibling and may not be feeling secure enough to express his/her concerns.
- Older children are often asked to bear with their younger siblings simply because they are older. Repeated statements of this type can create a feeling of resentment in the older child. So, instead you need to encourage older sibling behavior. So, be sure to reward your older child when he/she does anything to help the younger child. Ignore any negative behavior and reinforce the positive ones.
- Treat your older child as special by giving him/her specific tasks around the house to make him/her feel senior.
- It is normal that visitors will bring gifts for your new baby. Keep a few gifts for the older child at hand so that you can give it to him at the same time.
- Encourage the children to spend time with each other. Let the older child share a few of his sibling’s toys. However, breastfeeding is a special time for you and your baby. Do not involve your older child at this stage. Instead, provide him/her with some planned activities.
Making your older child feel special
Here are some things that parents should do to make the older child feel special:
- Spend some special time with the older child. Exclude the baby at this time.
- At least one parent should plan some out of home activity with the older child once a week.
- Encourage your older child to talk about his feelings for the new baby. Often they may try to break the rules to test you. You have to be firm and not allow such behavior.
- Deal with the questions in an age appropriate manner. Children are endlessly curious and if they have any doubts, they will ask. It is necessary that your older child feels loved and involved in the new family situation created by the addition of the new baby.