Consider this: Before the baby came, your toddler was assured that he would have a wonderful little brother to play with and that it would be a lot of fun. Then your toddler’s younger brother is born, and he wonders, “Are you serious? Isn’t it supposed to be fun to have a squirming, red-faced baby who consumes all of your time and attention?”
He then “plays” with the baby in ways only he knows how. He enjoys playing catch. You scold him for hurling toys at the baby. He enjoys playing hide-and-seek. You yell at him to remove the baby’s blanket. He hugs the child, and you warn him to be more cautious. Is it any surprise that your toddler is perplexed?
Here are 10 ways to help your firstborn feel included and set the stage for a healthy sibling relationship.
Your priority should be to keep the infant safe. Your second task is to teach your elder child how to connect with his new brother. You should teach your toddler how to play with the infant just like you would teach any other skill. Talk to him, show him, advise him, and encourage him. However, don’t leave the kids alone together until you’re sure you’ve accomplished your second goal. Yes, I understand. It isn’t practical. However, it is necessary, if not critical.
“Hover” close by whenever the kids are together. Pick up the baby and distract the older sibling with a song, a toy, an activity, or food if you feel your child is about to turn rough. This action protects the kid while also preventing you from saying “No” again, which could foster aggressive behavior.
3. Teach soft touches
Teach an older sibling how to stroke the back of the newborn. Tell how this type of contact relaxes the baby and complements the older child on their work. This lesson teaches the youngster how to have a positive physical relationship with the infant.
4. Act quickly
Take immediate action if you witness your toddler hitting or rough play with the newborn. “No hitting, time out,” you can say emphatically.
Children absorb what they see and experience. Your older child will be observing and learning from your behaviors as you manage the infant. Your child’s most important teacher is you. In everything you do, you are demonstrating, and your child will learn the most from observing you.
Make an encouraging comment whenever you notice the older kid gently stroking the infant. Make a great deal out of the importance of the “elder brother.” Tell your older child how proud you are by hugging and kissing him.
7. Watch your words
Don’t hold the infant responsible for everything. “We won’t be able to go to the park since the baby is napping.” “Be calm or the baby will wake up.” At this stage, your child would get irritated. Use different justifications instead. “Right now, my hands are occupied.” “We’ll go after that.”
8. Be Supportive
Acknowledge your child’s unspoken feelings, such as “Things sure have changed with the new baby here. It will take some time for us all to adjust to this.” Keep your remarks broad and gentle.
“I’m sure you despise the new baby,” don’t mention. Instead, say something like, “It must be difficult for Mommy to spend so much time with the infant.” “I’m sure you wish we could go to the park right now and not have to wait for the baby to wake up,” or “I’m sure you wish we could go to the park right now and not have to wait for the baby to wake up.” When your child understands that you care about her feelings, she will be less likely to act out to obtain your attention.
9. Give extra love
Increase the number of small acts of love you show your child. Say more I love you’s, give more hugs, and schedule time to read a book or play a game. Temporary regressions or behavioral issues are common and can be alleviated with a little more time and care.
10. Get them involved
Teach the elder sibling how to be a good babysitter or how to keep the infant entertained. Allow the elder sibling to open the newborn gifts and snap photographs of the infant with the camera. Teach him how to put the socks on the infant. Allow him to strew the powder. When feasible, provide praise and encouragement.