It seems just like yesterday that I was pregnant with my first born. We were young and freshly married. The pregnancy came as a surprise to us, just weeks after returning home from our honeymoon getaway in Cabo. Like any soon to be new mom, I was terrified. My constant thoughts revolved around… “I’m not ready to be a mom yet!”…” Am I even old enough to be a mom?”…” How am I supposed to keep this thing alive?”… I can’t even be trusted to keep a plant alive, who would trust me with a baby? “. But then 9 months later I was holding that tiny alien in my arms, and all those natural mom instincts just seem to drop out of nowhere.
For the year and a half that followed our whole life was consumed with this new baby. He was the center of our universe, he got all of our attention, and let’s be honest, he pretty much ran the show around here. So when we found out we were expecting alien number 2, I had a whole new set of worries. Okay, I was still worried about how I was going to keep this one alive as well, because I’m pretty sure it was sheer luck that number one was still kicking, and now I was going to have 2 to worry about! But I was also worried about how the transition to adding a new sibling would go.
No matter how much we tried to explain it, 2 year olds just don’t grasp the whole pregnancy thing. He looked at us like we were certifiably crazy when we tried to tell him there was a baby in mom’s tummy. I’m convinced he thought that my growing belly was the result of the countless burritos I was consuming on the daily. So to a toddler, a baby pretty much just drops out of thin air (maybe this is where the whole stork thing comes from). And in an instant, their whole world is turned upside down.
I wanted this transition to go as smoothly as possible. I didn’t want my oldest to feel like he was getting replaced or his spot was being taken. I hoped to create a lifelong friendship not a rivalry. Here are some things I did that I think really helped to prevent sibling jealousy in the new baby.
Put The Baby Down
Remember back to when your oldest was your entire universe, and you spent hours a day making it all about them? So do they! Sharing the spotlight is tough, especially for a toddler, and babies are needy little spotlight stealers. So for 10 minutes a day, make it all about them again. Of course, make sure all of the baby’s needs are met first, and then put them down in a safe place. If you don’t have a Rock ‘n Play, yet, get one! They are little miracle makers for making babies sleep! For 10 minutes give your oldest child your undivided attention. Do something that is special to them. Get down on the floor and play cars with them, do an art project together, something you used to do pre-baby. If you get a text message during this time, ignore it. If the baby cries during this time, ignore them. 10 minutes of crying never hurt a baby. It is almost better when the baby does cry, because the child really knows that you are their only priority right now. That even though the baby is crying, you are only focused on them, and for this 10 minutes the baby comes second.
I always did this when my oldest would start to act out. Instead of getting mad, I saw it as a cry for attention. After the 10 minutes was up, his behavior was instantly better.
From the minute the new sibling arrives, tell them how much they love each other. I would say things like, “Look at the way she looks at you/smiles at you, she loves her big brother so much”. Or when he is looking at her, “You love your little sister so much, don’t you?”. This is what I like to call parental brainwash. Brainwash them from an early age, to know that they love each other!
Get Them Involved
I’m pretty sure that God has a design flaw in kids. When kids are toddlers and you don’t want their “help”, all they want to do is help. When they finally get to an age that they can be useful, all of sudden their desire to help has completely disappeared. Despite that, get them involved anyway! Even if their “help” takes you 10 times longer then if you did it yourself, still let them do it. My son’s job was to get me a diaper when it was time to change her diaper, and then to throw the dirty diaper away. He could do this all by himself and felt so important, that he got to be a big helper with his new sister. Don’t forget to constantly remind them what a great big brother/big sister they are. It’s that brainwashing thing again. Always praise them for being a good sibling and they will grow up and do/act the way a good big brother/big sister would!
The introduction of a new sibling doesn’t always go smoothly. We took many precautions to make sure that this new time stealer would be a welcome addition, and not someone that he felt he had to be compete with. We wanted to make sure that we did all we could to foster a lifelong friendship and not a lifelong rival. These two rug rats are now 5 and 3, and so far they have become best friends. The oldest took his role of big brother very seriously from the minute his sister was born. He was and still is totally smitten with her, and she totally looks up to him as her role model, friend and protector. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t these freak angel kids who never fight. They can argue and fight with the best of them, but at the end of the day, they truly are best friends.
What are some of your best tips for preventing sibling jealousy or helping an older child adjust to a new baby?