The birth of a new child is a joyous event celebrated by the whole family. But for an older sibling, the arrival of a new brother or sister can trigger fears of being displaced, overlooked or not as special. For children who are showing signs of jealousy toward their new sibling, it is important to address fears as well as get them excited about what it means to be a big brother or sister.
Make the event a special occasion for the older sibling. During the birth and the days that follow, most everyone will be focused on the baby and the mother. Shift the focus by congratulating your child on becoming an older sibling. Take him to his favorite restaurant or playground, buy him a new toy to mark the occasion or give him a thoughtful card that reinforces the importance of being an older sibling.
Give your children equal attention when possible. While friends and relatives are sure to be fawning over the new arrival, try to give both your older child and the new baby equal amounts of your attention. You can make time for both by reading or playing with your older child while you feed the baby. Don't forget one-on-one time, either. Even though arranging for a sitter can be difficult, make time to spend alone with your older child. Experts from KidsHealth, part of The Nemours Foundation's Center for Children's Health Media, suggest that one-on-one time can help your older child know that she is still special to you, that she can still have your undivided attention and that she doesn't have to compete with her new sibling for your love.
Empower your older child by explaining how important his role as big brother is. Tell him all the ways in which a big brother can protect and look after the new baby as it grows. Bolster his self-esteem by giving him a special age-appropriate task related to care of the infant, whether it's reading a story, singing a song or feeding him. When your child feels connected and helpful, it can help reduce his feelings of jealousy.
Don't treat your older child as another parent. Even though there is a new baby in the family, the job of the older child is still to be a child. Forcing your child to grow up before her time by making her care for her baby sister or brother, beyond a few age-appropriate tasks, can create strong feelings of resentment both in the present and later on in life. Divide the task of meeting the majority of the infant's needs between yourself, your partner and the other adults in your life.
Have an honest talk with your child. Ultimately, his jealousy springs from the fear that he is being replaced in your heart, a truly terrifying fear. Assuage his fears by telling your child that the presence of a new sibling doesn't mean that he means any less to you.The experts at KidsHealth recommend telling your child that his feelings are okay, but that he still has to express them appropriately.
- While you want to give your older child the chance to grow close to the new baby, you don't ever want to leave the baby alone with a young sibling as the older child could harm the baby, whether willfully or not.
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