All kids are different, and not every first child responds poorly to the arrival of a second one. In fact, some young children do not show any signs of sibling rivalry at all, instead welcoming new additions to the family with open arms. While some children are temperamentally predisposed to welcoming younger siblings, parents need to be prepared for problems to arise, and there are certain things you can do beforehand to make sure your firstborn adjusts well.
Preparing before the sibling arrives
Here are a few steps that parenting experts recommend to prepare your firstborn child for the arrival of a new baby:
- Talk openly about your pregnancy. Do not assume that your firstborn is still too young to understand what is going on. Kids have an innate understanding of what it means to have brothers and sisters, and they do not like being kept in the dark about these things.
- If you are going to be moving your first child into a different room, make the transition as early as possible so that he is adjusted to the new space well before the new baby comes. Things are simpler this way.
- Talk about it with your spouse. Make sure it is clear that you will share the job of easing the transition into the next stage of your family’s life.
- Give your child a baby doll and show her how to hold it.
- Encourage your firstborn to participate in preparations in any way possible.
- If possible, wait until your first child is at least in preschool to have your second. This way, you will only have to worry about giving equal attention when your oldest is home.
- Children who are closer to their mothers tend to get upset when new babies are born, while children with strong bonds with their fathers tend to do better. In the lead-up to the second baby’s birth, make sure the father and first child get plenty of bonding time.
All in all, it is important to make the first child feel that he or she is involved with the preparations for the upcoming baby. Approach this new development as a family, not just as parents.
Preventing sibling rivalry after the new baby is born
In general, having a happy and warm household where everyone feels loved is the best way to ease the inevitable sibling rivalry. But on a more specific level, you can avoid problems by distributing attention as equally as possible (when the oldest is home) and by working as a team with your spouse. Here are a few ideas that work for many parents:
- Take any available opportunities to give special attention to your older child. Even just a few minutes while your newborn is napping can do wonders.
- Talk to your older child about her feelings, and acknowledge them. Do not dismiss or discount how she feels.
- When it comes to giving your firstborn what he wants, meet him halfway. Children at certain ages (usually in the 2-4 range) tend to regress when a younger sibling is born. If your child acts younger than his age, do not try to fight it. Baby him if that is what he wants. It will only be a phase.
- Give your child extra treats around the time of her younger sibling’s birth.
- Provide your older child with a space where the younger child cannot go.
- Encourage your older child to participate in caring for the baby in any way possible.
- Continue to talk openly about the family situation, making sure to point out all the great things about being the oldest sibling in a family.
By Jamell Andrews