Family and Relationship

sibling jealousy

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And baby makes four – or more!

Baby gap… It’s always hugely exciting when a new baby comes along. With a first baby, there’s the anxiety of wondering if you can cope, because it’s all new. But when a baby joins an existing family of one or more children you’ll probably be less worried about managing, since experience tells you that you can at least muddle through!
That said, you may well feel a new kind of anxiety – wondering how your older child will adjust to the new arrival, and how your children will get on as they grow up. Naturally you don’t want your older child to be upset by the change. However, once your tiny, vulnerable baby arrives it’s only too easy to suddenly see your older child as very large and a bit of a threat! It’s important to guard against showing this, as it can create problems for your older child. Remember, up to now he has been your ‘baby’, and he’s likely to feel pushed out by the newcomer.
Getting off to the right start Some children may be as happy as you are about having a new baby – others may not share your enthusiasm. However, most children will eventually be pleased about having a new brother or sister, particularly if they feel involved in your pregnancy and all the preparations. Follow these tips to prevent problems by planning ahead:
  • Cut out the suspense Don’t tell him you’re having a baby too early on – nine months can seem very far off to a small child.
  • Familiarize him with babies Read books together about having a new baby, or use a doll to practice.
  • Don’t exaggerate the fun factor! Having a companion to play with is a long way off. Explain what babies are really like: they need tons of attention, and they cry a lot!
  • Promote the role of big brother or sister Explain that he’ll be the new baby’s teacher, and go over all the things like eating, walking and climbing that she has learn to do and how he can help show her.
  • Avoid stressful changes to routine close to the birth, such as moving from a crib to a big bed, starting new childcare or potty training.
  • Let him help organize for the new arrival – maybe he could choose a color scheme for her room, and some cute pictures to hang on the walls.
  • Take him with you to your scans so he can ‘meet’ the baby even before it is born.
  • Let him help you to choose the baby’s name (if you’re worried he might want to call it Spongebob or Scooby, give him a short list of your top picks to select from!).
  • Once your baby is born
  • Be prepared for your child to either be very interested or a tad detached when it comes time for introductions…

Introduce them early Let your older child meet the new baby as soon as possible and before other relatives and friends. Give him some attention Try to have your hands free for a cuddle with your older child when you first see him after the birth – remember, he may have been worrying about you and missing you while you weren’t there. Have a small gift ready to give him ‘from the baby’, as well as a gift he has chosen for his new brother or sister. When you go home…

  • Just as you encouraged your older child’s interest in your pregnancy, keep him feeling involved when it comes to caring for the new baby – it’ll help build a bond between them.
  • Keep a close eye on him when he’s with the baby – it’s not unusual for an older sibling to pinch or poke the baby when he thinks no- one is looking! Hugging too tight or kissing too hard to show love is also very common. Be patient – initially he’s bound to be confused about his feelings for the baby.
  • Spend alone time together Babies can be very time-consuming and your older child may feel left out. It really helps to make him the center of attention in between all those feeds and diaper changes, so he feels you still love him just as much as before. Cuddle or read together while you’re breastfeeding or play together

when the baby naps. Let him help Some children like to help by fetching diapers or toys or bringing the baby clothes as you need them – don’t force this, but encourage and praise your child when he joins in. If jealousy strikes It is quite likely your older child will feel a bit put out and upset to begin with, though sometimes this happens later on when he realizes the baby is clearly here to stay! Lots of small children ask when the baby is going back.

Finding it hard to cope with the change can show itself in more tantrums, or sleep or feeding problems, or just being extra clingy and demanding. It’s also very common for older children to take a couple of steps back in development – they may start sucking their thumbs again or demand to feed from a bottle, regress on potty training, wet the bed, or ask for your help to do things they could previously manage alone, such as dressing.
From an older child’s point of view, babies look like they have a great deal! They yell and poop constantly – but still they get everything done for them, and absolutely everyone seems to think they’re wonderful. No wonder your big kid wants to act like one! The more you can sympathize and go along with this, even ‘babying’ your older child for a while, the more quickly it is likely to be over. Try to accept that it’s a normal reaction to your new baby arriving and will lessen as family life settles into a new routine. Follow these tips to help you cope: Set boundaries and stick to them, but try to act calmly and sympathetically – getting angry only makes bad behavior worse.
  • Reassure him Explain that you won’t use up all your love on the baby! Small children may not understand that your affections can be shared and need reassurance that they still mean as much to you. Ask grandparents and other visitors to remember to give attention to your older child, not just the baby. It can be very hurtful if they suddenly lose interest in a child who was previously the apple of everybody’s eye. A small gift and some extra cuddles and attention when they visit the baby really help.
  • Remind him Show your child photographs and tell stories about what he was like when he was a baby – It’ll get the message over that he got his turn!
  • Play up the positives Show that there are some advantages to being the big sister or brother. Let your older child have some special treats, pointing out they are just for him: going to bed later, reading with mom or dad, watching a favorite DVD. Remind him that the baby doesn’t get to do these things.
  • Cheat a bit by saying that the baby seems to love him best as he can make her smile!

Eileen Hayes, Supernanny Expert

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