Sibling rivalry starts as soon as you announce your pregnancy. It can also get serious if left as it is. For a toddler, having a sibling is a threat. It can turn into a serious matter because kids this age can become aggressive; throw in more tantrums or worse, even regress. Dealing with regression is too tiring for an expectant mother’s depleted energy. It means out of stress, your elder child starts to act out more like a baby. He may have accidents, request to be held up more and even to nurse a bottle. This is expected but avoidable. You can help your first-born to cope up and adjust well with baby’s arrival by knowing what to expect and what to do.
Preparing your Firstborn for Baby’s arrival while Pregnant
- Breaking the news
As soon as you have confirmed your pregnancy, break the news to your child first. Your child can get disheartened if he heard it first from your friends and relatives. Do not let your child be the last to know.
- Change into a new sleeping arrangement early
If your child already has a room for himself, that works well. If he is still co-sleeping, consider transitioning to a new sleeping arrangement while pregnant. A bigger bed or a small bed conjoining your bed may do. Let him be used to having dad by his side since this will be the sleeping arrangement as soon as the baby comes over. You must begin this as early as possible so that when the baby comes, your toddler will not feel displaced.
- Talk and set his expectations early on
Communicate well with your child now, as you might not have much time once the baby is already born. Set realistic expectations with regards to how much you can dedicate your time and attention to him during pregnancy and at post-partum. He must understand that mommy can sometimes have less energy to care for him due to morning sickness and sleepiness.
- Emphasize him/her as a big brother/big sister
Address him as such and let him feel that he has done well and is a big kid now. Start to give him small tasks such as watering the plants, feeding the pets and fetching diapers; just be sure to praise him well for every job done right. He must feel himself advancing into a new stage with bigger responsibilities and more perks. Let your kid participate in preparations for the baby. Take him with you when you go shopping for baby’s supplies and let him choose one or two outfits for his incoming sibling. Treat him for being such a responsible big kid by letting him order his choice of dessert, choosing games to do on a weekend or letting him pick up his favorite foods at the grocery.
Easing the Transition when the Baby Arrives
- Set time and pay attention to your elder child
It might be just a few minutes of your time daily but dedicate it solely for your elder kid. He is used to being the center of attention so set a time every day for your one-on-one bonding activity without the baby as a distraction. A great way to hit two birds with one stone is to let your elder kid help you with tidying up the room or washing baby’s clothes. Let him feel that his efforts to help out are greatly appreciated. As soon as baby fell asleep, sneak up some moments with your toddler to enjoy a cup of ice cream while reading books at the nursery glider.
- Let your first-born communicate his feelings
Do not disregard your child’s negative feelings no matter how insignificant. He might not be saying much but in reality, he is feeling awfully left out. Let him voice it out to you and you must acknowledge him without reprimand. It is important that your first-born must be verbal with his frustrations, or else, he can resort to discreet actions such as hurting and making the baby cry whenever you are not looking. Accept his feelings yet draw a firm line. Let him understand that hurting the baby is not allowed. He is a big brother now so show confidence that he will eventually be someone that his younger sibling can look up to in the future.
- Give toy gifts
During baby shower and immediately after your delivery, there will be lots of toys for your newborn baby. Prepare a small toy for your elder kid and give it to him during such occasions. It can be as simple as a stuffed toy or a fluffy blanket or pillow with his favorite cartoon character. Let your elder and newborn exchange gifts especially during baby’s arrival at home.
- Attention and space
Your friends and relatives will surely shower your new baby with admiration. Your elder must never be out of the picture. Remind your visitors to also pay attention to him. Ask him/her how he is doing as a big brother / big sister. Give your older child some space of his own, something that is not shared with the new baby. Let him redesign a small nook in your bedroom or living room. Put his favorite toys here and if resources and space are adequate, let him put up a little area where he can camp or play alone. Tell him that this space is all his own and that he can show it to his younger sibling once the baby is already big enough to play.
Sibling rivalry isn’t easy to deal with. It takes a lot of patience and insight to work with your older child. Yet he must eventually accept his new role and it’s up to you on as a parent to help him. What’s important is for your big kid to have your attention. He must realize that your love will never diminish; it will just evolve as he grows up.
Sarah Morgan is a sister, daughter, wife, but most especially a mother.
Being a mother makes me realize that life is a great adventure. No day is always the same, which makes every day so much more exciting.