The prospect of a newborn baby is life changing. There’s a lot of excitement leading up to the event, and everyone is in a state of anticipation. Everyone, that is, except for the older sibling. To them, a newborn seems threatening. They may question their role and see the baby as a rival for your attention and affection. Getting your older child involved with the newborn from the start can be a great way to foster a loving relationship and to keep sibling rivalry to a minimum.
Prepare Older Siblings Before Your Baby’s Arrival
Talk to your older child about some of the changes that will be happening. It might also be helpful to get a book or two dealing with this subject that’s written especially for young kids. This provides siblings with ample opportunities to ask questions and to imagine what life might be like when their brother or sister arrives. Some parents also find that it’s helpful to point out that the baby is lucky to have them for an older sibling and that the baby will learn much of what they know from watching their older brother or sister. This is usually more effective than telling the child that they are fortunate to be a big brother or sister because they may not agree.
Allow Older Siblings to Help with the Baby’s Care
Many siblings long to help with their baby brother or sister from the moment they arrive home from the hospital. This is a wonderful impulse that should be encouraged, but ground rules should definitely be put into place. You’ll want to establish rules that are suitable for the age and temperament of your older children. You might set rules stating that the older sibling can pick up the baby, but is not allowed to walk while doing so. You can also make it clear that the older child should ask before doing something with the baby and that they should not hold the baby when you are not present. This helps to ensure the baby’s safety and guarantees that your older child’s experiences with the baby are comforting, reassuring and create a greater bond.
Bathing, Eating and Dressing
Older siblings will love to be given a chance to help with daily chores that involve the baby. They can draw up a chair at bath time to watch the process, and they typically enjoy being able to shampoo the baby’s head or wash their tummy. Many older siblings love having a chance to arrange the baby’s hair after bathtime.
Depending upon the age of your older child, they may help with preparing bottles or completing other eating related tasks. Burping the baby can be an especially fun chore for little ones. You can hold the baby to your shoulder while their brother or sister pats their back. Bigger kids find the baby’s burps funny, and they feel a sense of accomplishment of a job well done.
Let kids choose outfits for the baby to wear. Guide them according to the weather and temperature, but let them make some decisions about the specific pieces chosen. This kind of daily involvement lets you interact with both children and fosters the idea that you are all part of one family.
Schedule a Little One On One Time
A baby can be a huge distraction for everyone in the household, and it’s important to show older siblings that they haven’t been lost in the shuffle. Plan some time when your partner or a babysitter can be with the newborn so that you and your older child can spend some quality time together. This shows your child that in spite of all of the attention that’s being given to the baby, he or she is still just as important as ever.
Encourage a Little Hero Worship
As you hold your baby when your older child is present, coo to the baby about how lucky they are to have an older sibling. Point out how the baby smiles when the sibling is near. Most children can’t resist the charm of being adored by a newborn sibling.
Jessica Blake writes for OrganicBabyNook.com a website dedicated to helping new parents find the best resources for their family.