Since having a new baby, I’ve noticed that my 7 year old doesn’t like to be away from home. I’ve diagnosed him with a very mild case of first-born jealousy. He loves and adores his little sister, but he is also little and needs our time and attention just as much, if not even more during this time of transition. A little envy is completely normal, I was expecting it and somewhat prepared for it because, once upon a time, I was the older sibling witnessing everyones obsession with my baby sister. I remember it and torture my mom and sister with reminders from time to time.
I think it’s impossible to completely stop all feelings of jealousy, but there are a few things you can do to manage your older child with your newborn:
Before baby arrives:
Talk to your older child as much as possible about the new baby and changes that they can expect. Tell them that you will be away for a few days in hospital and who will look after them while you’re gone; tell them that the baby will sleep a lot but will also need to be held all the time and explain what breastfeeding is, if you intend to do so.
I know it’s difficult to explain to a really young toddler but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say anything.
Get them involved by telling them that they will be your little helper when the baby arrives. You can both sing for the baby and they can help you with fetching things like nappies for the baby.
Share stories of their infant days with them. Big brother always asks if “he did that too” after he sees his sister do something. He loves hearing about how he was like as a child and it helps him to relate better to her.
When baby arrives:
Show and teach your child how to interact with their new sibling. Show them how to kiss and touch the baby softly. This will ensure the safety of your newborn and also make them feel involved.
Be patient, they may do one or two inappropriate things at first – don’t overreact and lose your temper. Being an older sibling is a big job and a new skill they have to learn. Show them how to love and look after the little one and encourage them to be gentle and kind.
Stay close by when they are together, just in case and never leave a very young child alone with a baby. I can totally see a 3 year old dragging a baby off a bed, but a 7 year old might not (for a few seconds that is). If little man wants to hold his baby sister, I ask him to sit back comfortably on the couch first with a cushion to support them and I move a few steps away to give them their time.
Praise your older child when they do something good, like rubbing the baby’s back gently or helping you fetch a diaper.
Spend time alone with your older child – don’t make everything about the baby. Play a game with them, watch their favourite TV show with them, go to the park or grab an ice-cream. Try to do one thing a day; I know it’s near impossible on some days.
Be conscious of the words you use and give your older child lots of extra love and reassurance. Be careful not to make them feel like second best by using the baby as an excuse for everything. For example, instead of saying “I’m busy changing the baby”, rather say “we can play in ten minutes”.
Remember that your older child will learn the most by watching how your interact with the baby. Most things will be trial and error in the beginning, but with time your infant will grow and learn to play, then it will actually start being the fun that you promised your older child.
I would love to hear how you dealt with introducing a new sibling. Please share your tips in the comment section.
Modern Zulu Mom