Change is a constant. Seasons, preferences, and families change. However, not all people are good at accepting change. A firstborn, the baby of the family, grows accustomed to being cuddled and getting the majority of attention from mom and dad. When news of another baby comes along, some firstborns get the baby blues, unwilling to share mom and dad. Here’s how to get your firstborn excited rather than bummed about a baby being on the way.
Understand Rather Than Fix
It’s normal and almost expected that your first child will have mixed feelings about another child in the family. Rather than thinking that something is wrong with their feelings, do your best to try and understand. Making the firstborn feel as if they are wrong will only reinforce their fear that they are losing affection from their parents. Make them understand that it is not like you have a certain amount of love to give and will now have less affection. Remind them that your love for them is infinite, and if anything, they have a bigger responsibility since the newborn is on the way.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Rather than punish bad or unwanted behavior, reinforce and reward good behavior. Praise your firstborn for helping mom and dad during the pregnancy and paying attention to their new brother or sister once they’re born. The firstborn may grow to like the idea of having more responsibility and being the ‘big’ sibling who looks out for their younger brother or sister.
Involve Them in the Process
To prepare them in being an older sibling with more responsibilities, involve your firstborn in baby planning. Have them help choose colors for the baby’s room, toys, etc. For example, have them select matching sibling shirts celebrating St. Patty’s Day, Christmas, etc. Find more at Zoey’s Attic. Have them help mom and dad prepare for the baby so once the newborn comes, the older sibling is used to being a provider and feels like they have a new role.
Evolve Through the Years
After you get your firstborn acclimated to having a newborn around, you’ll need to understand what to do moving forward to further nurture the relationship. In some cases, it involves knowing when to ‘stay out of it,’ allowing the siblings to settle things on their own terms.
Stay Out of It
Of course, if one is about to hurt the other, you need to intercede, but meddling is not always the answer. As one doctor suggests, kids may use fighting as a way to get attention or manipulate parents. Plus, it can cause a rift in the relationship with one of them if you seem to be ‘taking sides.’ Let the kids handle their differences on their own. You can’t be there during all their interactions throughout life, nor should you be, so allowing them to settle differences with siblings helps them learn valuable life skills.
Don’t Separate Them
Parents may separate kids, which can make it easier to parent or to avoid conflict. However, specialists encourage moms and dads to keep family members together. Rather than think about activities that inspire them to argue, seek pastimes that will make them form a bond and common hobbies, such as sports, art, reading, etc. Keeping them apart can send a message that it’s not important to form a bond with family members.
Skip the Labels
Parents and family members may label siblings as the “smart one,” “athletic one,” or “troublemaker.” However, such practices may inspire competition or resentment toward parents and other siblings. Worse, when parents label, other people, such as extended family members and friends, may begin thinking about and describing kids in that way too.
See Them as Individuals
Parenting is not like running a factory. You can’t expect to parent your firstborn one way and feel as if you can be equally effective with subsequent kids. See your kids as individuals, and realize that what works with one may or may not be effective with others. You have to do your best to understand what works best for each sibling.
Make Time for Both
Alternative to doing things as a family, be sure that you make time for each kid as an individual. You don’t want one to be included due to the desire of another, and don’t assume just because an older brother or sister likes to do something, their younger sibling will have the same preferences. Do something special with each child depending on their unique personality and preferences. For example, one may like to take photos while another wants you to play sports with them.
Kate Cox is a freelance writer who is Mom to twin girls aged 9 and a 3 year old son. Her articles mostly focus on kids and parenting and can be seen on a number of Mommy blogs where she contributes from time to time.