Your firstborn has been the center of your world for a while now. They are used to getting all the attention and being everyone’s favorite. But now, things are about to change because you and your partner are having another baby. You are overjoyed, but your firstborn might not be feeling the same way. Change is scary, but it’s also inevitable. When your firstborn has been the only apple of your eye, it’s natural that they feel insecure and perhaps even jealous to share that space with a newborn baby.
There is no cause of concern here. Sibling rivalry is universal and inevitable and can start as early as when the younger child is just born (1). However, parents have to be careful in how they handle the situation. They should try their best to not let feelings of jealousy creep in the older child. With healthy support from parents, both children will eventually start loving their siblings. Here are a few ways in which you can support your older kids to avoid feelings of neglect in them:
1. Talk To Them
It’s common for children to not express what they’re feeling, especially when it’s something that is disturbing them. Older kids might feel jealousy but not tell their parents thinking they might be shamed or reprimanded for feeling that way. Have a conversation with your older kid and ask them how they feel. Tell them that it’s okay to experience a mix of emotions ranging from excitement to fear of uncertainty. Most of the time, an open conversation is more than enough to make them feel safe and heard.
2. Pour Out Words Of Affirmation
Your firstborn is a baby too, so they need to understand that they are doing a great job as an older sibling. Tell your toddler that you’re proud of them for helping out with the baby. Talk to your baby in the presence of your toddler and tell them that they have an awesome older sibling. These statements of affirmation will positively impact your older kids’ behavior towards the baby. When you affirm the role of the older brother or sister to them, they look forward to this new role and instead of being jealous, start taking on the responsibilities expected of them.
3. Speak For The Baby
Tell your toddler that the baby loves and adores them. Your older kid is likely to care more for their baby sibling if they believe they are loved, needed, and looked up to. When you hear your baby cooing and see your baby smiling, let your toddler know that it’s because they made them happy.
4. Appreciate Them
Maybe your toddler sat by the baby’s side until the little one fell asleep. When you notice these things, make sure you appreciate your toddler. Be proud of them, and they will too! Telling them that they’re doing a good job will only encourage them to do better.
5. Take Turns
Sure, your baby needs more of your time and attention, but that doesn’t mean that your toddler needs none. Sometimes, it’s okay to tell your baby to “wait” for you and spend some quality time with your toddler. It’ll show them that they are valued and are not the only ones who need to be patient and “wait”. Plan this out with your partner as well that both of you spend sufficient time with both your toddler and the infant. The feeling of being left out can cause kids much chagrin and you dont want your firstborn to go through that, do you?
6. Special Quiet Time Activities
When it’s nap time for the baby, it’s unfair to ask your toddler to sit idle and do nothing. Instead, you could arrange for activities for your toddler that involve no noise. They can paint, draw or solve a puzzle while the little one takes a nap. The more you guide their actions only considering the baby, the more jealous they can get. So you can involve your older child’s help in making the baby sleep and keep an eye out for the little one for a while if you are temporarily engaged.
7. Feed And Read
A baby feeds several times a day, and your toddler is bound to get bored, angry, or even feel neglected. Therefore, while your baby feeds, read a book to your toddler or tell them stories. By doing this, your toddler gets to spend time with you and not feel left out. As parents, even for you, it can be tiresome tending to multiple kids. Such activities that allow you to tend to both kids come as a lifesaver.
8. Welcome Visitors
You could schedule some visits to grandparents, cousins, and your toddler’s favorite uncles/aunts to help give them a break from being second in line to the baby. These relatives will still focus entirely on your toddler because the baby is probably sleeping or feeding. This way your toddler will get some much-needed attention that he/she has been secretly seeking all this while. You can also request your family or friends expressly to shower more attention on your firstborn.
9. Let Them Help You
Instead of alienating your toddler from duties and chores involving the baby, include them in everything. They could pass the diapers to you while you change the baby, or they could help you just by being by your side while you bathe the baby. Involving them in baby stuff will encourage them to be a part of the little one’s life without feeling ignored.
When an older kid has to welcome a new member into the family, it can be pretty challenging. Therefore, prep them well beforehand and involve them in small ways in the baby’s life. Follow the tips above to help them ease into an older sibling role. If things don’t go according to plan, don’t worry, you have another day to try again. Did your older kid have trouble adjusting to the baby? Let us know how you managed that in the comments below!
- Theoretical Perspectives on Sibling Relationships