June 3, 2013

New Babies and Older Siblings

The romantic 5 piece suit for boys.
As y’all know, about ten months ago my husband and I welcomed our second little boy into the world and our family. At the time, we had a 4 ½ year old son who had not only been an only child for the first four years of his life, but he was also the first grandchild on both sides of the family. My brother and his wife had a 2 year old, but they lived several hours away and rarely came to visit, so our son was used to getting all the attention…from everyone!

Naturally, my husband and I were just a little anxious about how he was going to handle a new baby, who would undoubtedly get a lot of attention that would normally go to the first-born. We had talked to numerous people who had a lot of problems with their only children when a new baby arrived. One girl that I went to church with had a four year old daughter who would throw temper tantrums. On one occasion, she got on the kitchen counter and dumped out an entire box of cereal all over the kitchen in an attempt to get attention.
It turns out that our worries were for naught. As I sit here typing this, my firstborn is happily crawling around with a train, letting his 10 month old brother crawl after him. They are making their own fun going through “tunnels” between the couch and in-tables and when they get tired of that, they will make their way to the firstborn’s room to play for a bit before nap time.

Although our firstborn is naturally a great, caring and overprotective big brother, there were a few things that my husband and I did (and still do) to help encourage this behavior. If you are expecting a new little one in the coming months and are a little anxious, below are a few things that may help your firstborn adjust.
1.      Talk about baby. Before the baby arrives, make a point to talk about how much fun the two of them are going to have together growing up. Ask your little one what things he/she wants to do with his new brother/sister. When the opportunity arises, explain how much work babies are and that they require a lot of attention from adults until they get bigger. I’ve found that my firstborn does better when he knows what to expect.

2.      Ask for help. Most of the time, firstborn siblings want to help with the baby and when parents constantly shoo them away when they are tending to the baby, it only creates more frustration within them. Therefore, look for things your firstborn can do to help you. For example, every morning when I change the baby’s diaper, my oldest is right there with me. He knows his “job” is to throw away the dirty diaper and put the baby’s night clothes in the hamper. The fact that he has a “job” makes him feel important and like he is a part of caring for his baby brother.

3.      Spend time alone with the firstborn. Finally, my husband and I each try to make a point to spend a little time with the firstborn without the baby in tow. Sometimes, the baby gets left at Grammy’s house and other times one of us will stay behind with the baby while the other one spends quality time alone with big brother. This makes our firstborn feel special and gives him time alone with us where he doesn’t have to compete for our attention with his little brother.

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