I had my second baby almost two years ago. At the time my first-born little girl was almost 3.5 years old and was very excited about her new baby brother. Since I had heard many nightmarish stories about first-born jealousy, and I was determined to avoid it, I took many measures to prepare my girl for a sibling.
As soon as my pregnancy was confirmed by my doctor, I informed my little girl that she was going to have a baby brother or sister. As she was at the stage where she carried a baby doll everywhere, no surprise – she wanted a baby sister. Therefore at the 5th month scan I opted to find out the sex of the baby – and much to my little girl’s disappointment – it was a boy!
It is important to prepare your first-born for the arrival of the new baby
So then we embarked on ‘baby brothers are so cool’ chats with her and since she was (and still is) a very understanding kid – she bought every word we said.
6 months passed and her excitement and anticipation for this fun little playmate kept growing. Then at last my little boy arrived – and from the look on no.1’s face, it was clear as day that he was nothing like what she had envisioned.
When older kids are told they are to have a sibling, they imagine the baby to come out ready to play with them. In our attempts to make no.2 sound interesting, we tend to leave out the part that these new little beings are time-consuming, forever-feeding, pooping, crying machines! If we did tell them this, they are going to resent the newborn even before they came, right?
The first-born may have the impression that the new baby will be a ball of fun; and be disappointed when they realize the baby cries a lot and is not all that ready to play!
So it can be justified why older kids act out when their younger sibling enters the picture. In addition to stealing their spotlight and stealing mummy’s every free minute (which she used to devote to no.1); the little guy is not as fun as they thought he would be!
Experts say that it is normal for the first-born to act up and show signs of jealousy when no.2 arrives. They may exhibit signs of jealousy in several ways, such as regressive behaviour, separation anxiety, temper tantrums, clingy behaviour, withdrawal and even aggression towards the baby. Parents should expect such reactions but take steps to address them.
Even as understanding and well-behaved my little girl was, she did display some of the above signs. In her case, her anger was mainly directed towards me. Which I understood was natural, as before baby came we spent loads of quality time together and I really had to make an effort to keep this up post-baby.
Prepare your first-born by getting them to bond with the baby even before baby arrives. Get her to talk and sing songs – the baby may even recognise their sibling’s voice when they are out in the open!
Here are some tips for dealing with first-born jealousy
1. Prepare no.1 for the arrival of the baby
Show them newborn babies when you go out. If you have friends who have babies, schedule visits so your first-born can spend time with them.
2. Discuss advantages of having a brother or sister
How they will be able to play together when baby is bigger and how they will have a friend for life in their sibling.
3. Take your first-born along when you go shopping for the baby.
Involve them in picking clothes and baby toys. My little girl chose to get a teddy bear done at ‘build-a-bear’, which she named and gifted the baby when she visited him in hospital. To this day she is thrilled with her purchase and talks about it no end.
4. Entertain the idea of baby bringing a gift for no.1
A friend suggested this to me and it worked a treat. it feels a bit like bribing no.1 to like no.2 but it works!! So the baby comes bearing gifts – instant plus points for baby!
Allow your first-born one-on-one time with the baby. show them how to hold the baby correctly and gently. You will be surprised at how willing they are to learn!
5. Try not to leave out the not-so-great parts of having a baby
If your first-born is old enough to understand, explain that this is just how they were when they were a baby and that the new baby too will grow up as time goes.
6. Once baby arrives, involve first-born in as much as you can
They will feel needed and valued. Get them to assist during bath time and get diapers when its changing time etc. My little girl loved picking baby’s outfit after his bath.
7. Show first-born how to hold the baby correctly…
But tell them they can hold baby only in your presence. This will help the siblings bond together. Just to make sure, always have an adult hover around if no.1 is alone with no.2.
8. Be generous with your praises
Use praise and positive reinforcement when your first-born offers to help with baby or is patient while you attend to baby.
Spend quality time with your older child doing something they really enjoy.
9. Try your best to spend quality time with no.1 (while the new baby naps)
Plan to do something she loves doing, be it arts and crafts (if you can’t leave the house) or taking them to the playground. The playground will also give you the opportunity to get some lite exercise post-baby.
10. Encourage your first-born to talk about her feelings
If something is bothering her, talking about it may give you a chance to explain. In the long run this will help too as you will create an open relationship with your child where you are able to talk openly about anything.
Get your first-born to open up about their feelings by talking to them regularly.
Do you have anymore tried and tested tips that will help other parents when dealing with first-born jealousy? Please to leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts.