Sibling Rivalry - Preparing your child for the arrival of a new sibling
I was pregnant and thrilled. Our first born, less so. After all, from his perspective, the little interloper was already taking up all my time and energy. We talked to our first born a lot about the imminent arrival of the baby. Realizing that the concept of time means little to a three year old, we’d decided to tell him that the new baby would arrive in the summer, near Christmas time. He liked this idea. It was exciting – like the countdown to Christmas.
We involved him in the preparations for the new arrival as much as we could. We dug out his old baby photos and talked about what he was like when he was a newborn baby. We also had fun discussing potential baby names together and laughing about all the names we had nearly called him. I also made sure that we scheduled playdates with my good friend who had recently had a new baby as well so that slowly the whole concept of the new baby became real to him.
As my due date grew closer, I talked to him about going to the hospital and we packed my bag together. Once the baby arrived, it was really important for me that he came in to meet the new baby so that the four of us had a chance to bond together before any other visitors came in.
Once we brought the baby home, however, reality kicked in. My first born wanted to help out with the new baby, but as you can imagine this was often difficult. Some things like breastfeeding proved especially tricky. He’d get really clingy and would often fly into tantrums when I was trying to breastfeed the new baby. Up until the arrival of the new baby, he’d been the centre of our universe. Now he had a rival to contend with. Of course he was throwing a hissy fit!
Also on these occasions I knew that it was just his frustrated way of wanting to spend more one-on-one time with me, so we’d try and make sure that happened. Knowing that there was a special time exclusively for him helped reduce his feelings of resentment and anger about the new baby. So when the baby was sleeping, I tried talking to him about he was feeling. Often this was difficult. He didn’t know how to articulate what he was feeling. He was just feeling threatened by the new arrival and very, very angry.
In the end I think it was the persistence and the regularity that made him feel better. Every day I would include him in the baby’s routine and every day I would ask him if he would like to help me. So I encouraged him to help me with pushing the pram, dressing and bathing the baby. I also explained that babies get a lot of attention, but it’s much more fun to be a big kid. I told him all the pluses of being an older child, like babies face the back of the car seat, they can’t eat ice cream, and they don’t get to play on the playground. Slowly he began to realise that he hadn’t been replaced and in fact he probably had a better deal being the older sibling!
How did you prepare your child for the arrival of their new brother or sister? I’d love to hear any tactics that worked for you!