I scrambled my thoughts together to write a parenting post gathered from my first hand experience on how I prepared Tracy deal with the arrival of her little brother Fares, and how I helped her adjust. I must say that these are in no way foolproof, nor have I read about them in any book or online entry, they are solely based on my day to day struggle, and upon the encouragement of my friends to put these experiences into writing I finally did so.
There is nothing more exciting than expecting a new baby, but if the baby is the second in your family, the joy comes with a mini moment of panic. How do you break the news to your first born? How can you help your eldest adjust? Can you avoid jealousy between siblings?
Jealousy is a natural feeling, and perhaps we cannot avoid it altogether but we can help our kids adjust. Below are a few techniques I used and found to be very useful, I included real examples of real situations I went through with actual dialogue.
Before the baby arrives.
My golden rule is: Let your eldest think he/she wants the baby.
1. During my second pregnancy and once my belly started to show, I decided to break the news to my 2 year old. The first while and only once a week, I would mention that a baby is joining our family. As time progressed I began to talk about the baby daily while performing the most random of tasks.
Real example: While bathing Tracy I would comment on how the baby would be so small and cannot stand in the shower, how much he is in need of our help, and how big she is now.
2. A surefire way to know the true feelings of your eldest is to ask if they want the baby and make them think its their idea.
Real example: While making plans for the weekend, I would ask Tracy whether she would like to have a baby to take along with us on our family trips. “Do you want to take him to the mall?” “How about to your grandparents’?” “Will you hold his hand when he starts to walk?” “Will you push his stroller?”
3. Always reiterate their role in helping out once the baby arrives.
Real example: “Will you help mommy bathe your little brother and change his diaper?”
4. Read books about welcoming a new baby into the household, you will find there are many options at the library so choose a book character your child loves and bond over it. These books help children without the story being directly about them.
Real example: I went over to the mall library and chose a Tchoupi book, one of Tracy’s favorites, and on another occasion we chose another book with the main character being a bear.
Once the baby is here:
My golden rule is: Involve your eldest in all tasks.
1. A crucial matter when the reality of the newborn settles, is that the ‘favorite’ parent of the eldest child, meaning the one he/she is attached to the most, stay with him/her for the first weeks and pay next to no attention to the baby in their presence. I found this to be a major factor in helping Tracy deal with her brother’s sudden presence in what used to be her home.
Real example: Tracy is attached to her father, so for the most part he was always present with her and made it a point not to divert his attention to the baby in order for her to adjust properly and know that her brother did not change the status quo.
2. Don’t break the routine. Continue your daily life and chores as if nothing happened.
Real example: Tracy was still enrolled in daycare and she still spent her afternoons in the same way. No exceptions were made and nothing was altered.
3. Leave time for your eldest and don’t ignore them or brush them aside no matter how tired you are.
Real example: I would be breastfeeding my son with Tracy next to me and a book on her lap and I would read for her.
4. Patience is everything.
Real example: No matter how tough a day I was having, no matter how minimal my night’s sleep was, I never took it out on Tracy or snapped at her. She also needs my undivided attention, and had I reacted impatiently, she would have assumed that her brother is taking me away from her and she would resent him.
5. Helping out with tasks is essential, not only does it give you the chance to delegate and have a little helper, it allows your child to feel responsible and useful.
Real example: I let Tracy stand next to me while I bathe her brother, she helps out by pouring water over his head, by handing me the diaper, even by collecting his laundry to put in the washing machine.
6. Asking for permission is another trick to make your eldest feel important.
Real example: “Tracy, is it alright if Grandma holds your brother for a while?”
7. Teaching your eldest to share without forcing it is a way to dismiss the value of objects and focus on the relationship instead.
Real example: I always tell Tracy that this or that belonged to her but now she is a big girl and her brother needs them. Even things she has no idea were hers, such as little toys and even the crib. Other items she plays with now including her books, she openly shares them with her brother and doesn’t mind if he uses them for teething or even tears them. She says its ok because he is still a baby.
8. Respect your eldest and respect the baby. I dislike the technique of making the baby seem dirty or silly or anything of the sort to feed the ego of the older sibling. Praise your first born but respect the baby.
Real example: “Awww look how little he is, we should help feed him, he doesn’t have teeth like you and he can’t hold the spoon just yet.” or “You’re a big girl and can use the potty, your brother is still little so he needs a diaper, but soon enough he will grow and you will help teach him.”
9. Never compare the siblings, and never use jealousy as a way of compliance.
Real example: If your toddler is having a tantrum, avoid saying “Oh look the baby is so good and quiet” because it will cause them to steam and might lead them to hurt the baby. Instead, try saying “You’re a big girl/boy and your little sibling looks up to you.”
10. Make time for you and your eldest, one on one, with no interruptions.
Real example: At the 2 week mark once I was able to get out of the house, I went for dinner with my husband and Tracy to re-establish our bond. On another occasion I took her out just the two of us, she was so happy, she didn’t let go of my hand the whole time! Every now and them, I create a little adventure for us to do, it could be taking her to the supermarket or to the library, or even staying indoors and cook, read a bedtime story or paint, only us, with no disturbance.
I truly hope these tips helped, and feel free to reach out to me, I’m always up for a parenting discussion!