Parenting: How to Help Your Firstborn Become Friends with the New Baby
By Peter Andrews
It's normal for a firstborn child to feel upset and unwanted when a new baby arrives. He or she is used to being the only child and had the family's complete attention so far.
So when your second bundle of joy arrives, he can easily feel jealous because he sees a most of the attention going to the new arrival.
Remember that the big brother or sister will need plenty of attention when the new baby arrives. He or she may not be able to articulate his need for a hug or to sit in your lap. All the same, his needs do not diminish just because there's a new baby in the house.
The older child needs reassurance that he is still loved and important enough to warrant time and attention. He may equate time with love. A new baby will naturally take up more of your time and energy, but it is often difficult for an older child to accept that.
Some children regress to earlier behaviors like thumb-sucking or wanting to drink from a bottle. These behaviors remind him of an earlier time with life was more comfortable and secure.
Here are 10 things you can do to make it easier for the older child to get over his frustrations and become friends with the new baby.
#1. Before the baby arrives, paint a realistic picture of what it will be like with the baby. Tell him about the endless diaper changes, night-time crying, need for sleep, etc. Let the older child know that the new baby won't be a playmate or a friend for a long time.
#2. Involve the big brother or sister in preparing for and helping out with the baby. For example, ask for his opinion on whether you should buy the feeding bottle with the trains on it or cats on it.
#3. Make sure you find time to spend with the older child. This could be when the baby's sleeping, or when someone else is looking after her. Do the things you used to do with the older child before the baby came -- reading stories, playing with toys, etc.
#4. Request friends and family who drop in to see the baby to visit with the older child first.
#5. If it is possible, suggest to friends that a small gift for the firstborn would be appreciated when they bring gifts for the baby. Now, it may not always be appropriate to make this suggestion. If so, keep small toys or other gifts handy to give the child when baby receives a new gift.
At this stage, don't worry about teaching the child that he won't get a gift every time someone else does. That can come later.
#6. If your firstborn reverts to earlier behaviors, take it as a signal that he needs more attention. Don't pay attention to his regressive behaviors, though.
#7. Let the older child participate with you to a small extent in taking care of the baby. For example, he could start up a crib mobile, or could offer a pacifier to the baby.
#8. Allow the big brother / sister to hold and cuddle the baby, under close supervision.
#9. Give the firstborn a "baby of her own to play with, dress, feed, etc.
#10. The older child may express some of his frustrations to you. He can't sleep because the baby cries too much, or he doesn't get to spend time with mommy, etc. Empathize with him. Let him know that you share his frustrations and feel the same way.
Use these simple suggestions and watch your firstborn get over his frustrations more easily and become friends with the new baby.
About The Author
Peter Andrews is a successful author and has written extensively on parenting.