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Sibling Reaction to Baby

Sibling Reaction to Baby

Even children initially excited about having a baby brother or sister may ask you to take baby back to the hospital after a few days. You may notice your older child demanding all of your attention, wanting to be held or carried constantly. As your older child realizes the family dynamics are changing it’s natural for him to become jealous. Below are some suggestions on how you can help your older child adjust to their new sibling.

Be extra affectionate

Shower him with love. Just a bit of extra affection will reassure your older child that he has a special place in your heart and that you're there for him. Ask him to let you know when he's feeling upset, and when he does, give him an extra hug, kiss, or minute of reassurance. Try to convey that his little brother or sister needs more attention from you right now but that it won't always be that way. Spend some special time each day with your older child, just him.

Listen to and accept the child's feelings 

it’s not wrong for older siblings to express their fears and apprehensions. In fact, it's healthy. Encourage him to share his emotions. Often, simply letting your child talk about his feelings with you can help minimize the uncomfortable resentment that might build up. He may be very confused by anger or conflicting emotions and it's important to validate these feelings. This is a sensitive time and learning how to cope with uncomfortable emotions is not easy for a young child. Remember, offer extra hugs when he's feeling angry at the baby, and try not to dismiss his feelings. If he says: "I don't like my baby brother" don't respond by saying: "Of course you like your brother!" Instead, accept his feelings and reflect his own statement back to him: "It sounds like you're feeling frustrated with your brother today."

Be supportive 

Your older child sees that baby gets lots of attention, so it's only natural for him to assume that he'll get more attention if he acts like a baby himself. Don't worry, this is only a stage. It's okay to honour his wish to be "a baby" again. After all, when you expect less independence sometimes you see more. Also encourage him to do the things he's learned as a big boy, such as tying his own shoes, setting the table, using the toilet, or drinking from a cup. Punishing regressive behaviour will only reinforce his feelings of stress. 

Keep an eye on things 

If your older child behaves aggressively toward his new sibling, (perhaps by biting or hitting) intervene immediately with a clear, simple directive such as, "Remember to be gentle with baby," and then take your child's hand and show him how to touch her gently on her arm or leg. 

Help your child learn to express anger and displeasure through words, not actions. And remember the more time you spend correcting him, the more he learns to get your attention through misbehaviour.

Focus on each child separately 

Find time to spend with each child separately. It will help them to feel that they have their own "special time" with you, and they'll be less likely to feel jealous when you focus on your baby.

Reinforce the family bond 

Encourage older children to see their important place in the family. This helps to strengthen the family connection and can help to reinforce the idea that your older children are a unique and special part of the family. One way to do this is to create a family scrapbook and discuss the special memories each member has helped contribute.

Remember together

Look through your older child's baby book. It will help him to see that he was once just like his new sibling. Take pictures of him with the new baby right away so he can see how baby fits into the family, and make sure to reinforce his position as older sibling by letting him know how big a help he is to mom and dad. All these things will help him to see the family as a unit in which both he and baby play important roles.

Encourage sibling interaction 

Let your older child play with the new baby and help with baby-related chores. Allow him to sit in the middle of the bed or on the floor and hold her. To help him feel that he's got an important participant in baby care, ask his opinion from time to time: "What do you think we can do to stop her crying?" or, "Do you think she'd like to play with this soft teddy?"

Allow some noise 

Asking a child to be quiet for extended periods of time just isn't realistic. Newborns are perfectly able to sleep through normal household noise, so there's no need to ask your children to tiptoe around the baby. Encourage him to express himself and he'll feel less resentment as he grows.

Create a special place for the older child's toys, clothing and books

Your child will learn the art of sharing soon enough. In the meantime, having his own space will reassure the child that his things are still his alone and that they're secure.

Ease the transition

Try not to move your older child out of his crib or his bedroom to give it to the baby. This might reinforce the idea that he's being displaced or pushed aside. Instead, begin the process of moving your child from the crib or the room earlier in your pregnancy. If you're going to need his crib for the baby, let him come along to help buy a "big boy bed." Dismantle the crib and put it away months before you reassemble it in baby's nursery.

Maintain rituals

With a new baby in the family, change is inevitable. But for children it can be tough to cope with. Try to balance some of that chaos by keeping up your traditional family rituals and pre-baby schedules as much as possible. Making sure your older child's mealtimes and bedtime remain close to what he's used to will help him to feel secure in the midst of all the change. If you handle your child's feelings with the right amount of love and sensitivity, it won't be long before any jealous feelings have transformed into sibling pride.

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