Do you have a new baby at home now? But the older brother or sister isn’t too on board with your new arrival? Here are what some parents’ tactics on dealing with a new baby and the older baby together at home.
Hugs and reassurance: “Before I pick up my new baby for feeding (the baby is in the playpen or crib), I would walk over to my older child and give him a hug for 30 seconds first, telling him how much I love him,” one mummy says. Try to insert many hugs and reassurances (looking and talking to your older child) throughout the day when both small kids are at home with you. Another parent holds the new baby for a bottle feeding, but has the older son sit next to him and lean on him. “Group hug,” the father says, “includes my older son too so he doesn’t feel left out and not being held.”
New toys (and not-so-new toys): I sent a new toy for my friend and he saved it. “Our new baby is due soon, so I am saving new toys in the closet for my 2 year old son, to be given to him every 2-3 days at home so he gets distracted,” the dad explains. In fact, he purchased a few new board books and toys for “sibling jealously emergencies”. Every time a visitor comes and gives a gift to the new baby, he pulls out a new toy for his older kid. “Even a new page of stickers works,” he says (tearing out one page out of a sticker book). That way, the older sibling feels that he is treated equally, with his new present. (Don’t have new toys stored at home? Whip out an older toy he hasn’t seen for a while, he will get excited about that older toy too!)
Can’t get them to play together? At least keep the new baby safe from the older sibling: One father tells the story, “Our daughter was 15 months old when our new twin babies came home and she spent the next few weeks ignoring them, as if the babies didn’t exist. Occasionally we would find her secretly (thinking we weren’t looking) trying to kick or smack her newborn baby brothers.” We just gave her lots of reassurance and made sure that the newborn babies were safe from her “secret attacks”. About 5 months later, she started being interested in her younger siblings in a positive way. “I filmed her sharing a toy for the first time with the baby twins,” he says excitedly.
A mother of two boys said her older son had jealously issues, as she stayed home with him for three years and he was used to being the only child at home. Then she hired a nanny to watch him, while she nursed and cared for the younger brother. She spent significantly less time with her older 3 year old son, thinking he was grown enough for toys and TV (and would soon attend pre-kindergarten anyway). He started sulking and seeking her attention by demanding she do something for him (put on my socks, help zip up my jacket) or throw tantrums. The day she realized things were really wrong was the day her older son dragged the large kitchen trash can next to the younger baby in the rocker, then attempted to move his baby brother into the garbage can. She stopped him, with him screaming, “Throw him away! Or give it back! I am the baby!” Then her son hid and cried in a corner. That day on, she had the nanny bottle feed the baby and spent time feeding and playing with her older son. Instead of mainly caring for the older kid, her nanny split her time between the new baby and the 3 year old. A few weeks later, he was back to being a happy, playful child at home.
Encourage the older sibling to participate in helping with care of the new baby: I asked a family what they did for their small boys to get along so well. “We ask the older brother to grab a new diaper or put the baby’s dirty clothes into the laundry basket,” the parents said, “So he feels that he is helpful and a big boy.” They assign him tasks, then praise him when he does them. The toddler feels accomplished, despite only being 2.5 years older. They encourage the older son to “show new baby” how he can build a tower or put a puzzle together. “We sit down and open an animal book and he points out the animals to the baby,” the mother says, “and he feels proud he can do all this.” She includes her older son in the care of the younger son, so he behaves this way. She also reads to both together, asking the older son questions about the story book.
The common theme is that with the arrival of a new baby, to continue giving your attention and time to the older sibling so she or he feels loved and reassured. Toddlers are very much into “fairness” and demonstrating that you are fair with time, attention and toys to both kids will work in the long run.