Bringing a new baby home for the first time is a daunting experience, to say the least, but when there are siblings at home that may become jealous, feelings of apprehension can be intensified.
Preparing your other children whilst you are pregnant for the baby’s arrival can help make it easier for toddler or young child to accept new siblings. Here are ten tips to help young children accept new siblings:
1. Explain that there is a baby in Mummy’s tummy and that is how ‘you’ were made and where ‘you’ first ‘lived’. Young children like to hear stories about themselves and the baby being compared to them.
2. Build up a child’s role as being big brother or sister. Young children generally enjoy playing ‘big brother’ and, if encouraged, will look forward to the prospect of having a baby brother or sister to ‘look after’.
3. Involve your child in many of the activities associated with the baby, from changing nappies to bathing them and nursing them to sleep. This way an older sibling won’t feel as left out.
4. If jealousy does occur, be firm yet fair with your toddler. It will take some time for a child to adapt to the change and therefore shouting and being angry with them will only make the transition harder and longer.
5. Try and give your child as much attention as they received prior to the baby’s arrival. Although this might be hard with a newborn baby to look after, if a child feels neglected or ‘second best’ they are bound to feel jealous and resentful.
6. Get your partner or a friend to look after the baby so you can spend some quality time alone with your toddler.
7. As your baby gets a bit older, try and encourage an older sibling to play with them baby, or show it pictures and books.
8. Be patient. It is very important that you remain patient with older children. Talk to them and listen to what they have to say about why they may be behaving antagonistically towards the baby.
9. Reward your child. Whilst bribery is never condoned, it is important that your child is congratulated for the good behaviour he/she shows towards the baby. A trip to the park or a new toy can be a great way to encourage a child to behave affectionately towards the baby.
10. Ask your older child for their advice will make them feel important and like they are playing a significant part in the baby’s life. Consequently a toddler will be less inclined to feel jealous or isolated.