What about their impact on the rest of the family?
A special guest post from our incredible experts at the Parent Practice
- A new baby brings joy for parents, but it’s not surprising if older siblings feel jealous or resentful.
Parents need to have reasonable expectations about how well siblings will get along but we can take steps to nurture harmony.
First-born child(ren) will naturally feel displaced when a new baby arrives. They will need lots of reassurance that they are still loved, and they will need plenty of positive attention and understanding. Without this positive reassurance they are likely to ‘play up’ to get the attention they need.
Rather than trying to persuade older children that the arrival of a new sibling is great news, and how much they must love the baby, allow them to express their natural feelings of resentment and jealousy.
When parents let children know that the feelings they are experiencing are ok (even if their actions are not) it’s safe for them to tell us about them. This helps them move away from negative behaviour.
“It’s very different for you with a new baby brother. You are used to having me all to yourself and you may not like having to share me.” “The way you snatched that toy from Jamie shows me you’re feeling jealous. He has so many new things and gets so much attention. Perhaps you are feeling left out.” “Whenever you’re feeling that way you come and tell me and we’ll have a special big boy’s hug.”
It’s not unusual for children revert to babyish behaviours when a new baby arrives. Empathise when your child who is perfectly able to walk wants to be carried. “You wish Mummy would carry you too, don’t you? I guess you’d like to be a baby again and get all the attention that Harry is getting. I think I’d like to notice the big girl things you can do and write those down so daddy can see them too.”
Giving your older child lots of attention for the positive things she does –
Notice and comment on good behaviours.
“You’ve been playing so quietly with your trains for nearly 10 minutes now! What an interesting game you made – look at all the carriages lined up on that siding.” “It’s been lovely knowing you have been playing here safely and quietly while I changed Tommy upstairs. I really appreciate it.”
Use a visual token system to recognise these behaviours such as putting a piece of pasta in a jar for every good behaviour.
Talk about the things you love about her –the funny things she does or other things that make her unique.
Our first-born children need to know there are times when they will have our undivided attention. Put aside 5-10 minutes exclusively for each child to help reduce feelings of resentment towards the new baby, who takes up quite considerable parental time! Special time needs to be regular and predictable.
There will inevitably be a lot of change when the newborn arrives. Try to minimise any other changes during this period – if your toddler is about to be potty-trained, or move into a big bed, or start nursery school, plan this to happen well before the birthdate, or delay it until the dust has settled a little.Help older children prepare for the new baby in practical ways:
- Train them to play independently or spend time with others, such as grandparents, so you have time to look after the newborn.
- Prepare them for how they might feel about the new baby and what they can do when they feel like that.
- Discuss what will need to be done for the new baby and what baby will do, and how they can help you, playing with baby and teaching him how to do things. Your baby will smile when your older child plays with him –point out how much baby loves that.
- Look at photos of them as babies, commenting on how cute but how helpless they were and how much they needed doing for them. Talk about how much he has learnt as he’s got older.
Written by Melissa Hood from the Parent Practice on behalf of First Aid for Life