The time comes. A new baby has become a part of your family. You have been talking with your elder child about a new sister (brother) for months, and you honestly believe that she understands everything. It seems that your beloved toddler can’t wait for the new baby arrival. Yup! Really!?
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Anger is Not a Sign of Misbehaving, But a Sign of Insecurity
I was one of these naive mothers who believed that straightforward talking is everything needed. My daughter was delighted with an idea to have a little brother, a new friend, a playmate she had wanted for years. Blah, blah, blah. Once the baby came and the first enthusiasm became a past, my sweet little child started to make chaos!
All of the sudden she needed a pacifier she hadn’t used for two years! The calm and well-behaved kid began to behave like a monster. Tantrums started to be a part of our daily routine. She was ‘starving’ at the moment I needed to feed a baby. She wanted to go to the bathroom as soon as I began to change baby’s diapers. And so on, and so on.
Unfortunately, it’s a pretty typical situation in the house after a mom (who has already had an elder child, especially if the child is very young) comes with a newborn baby from the hospital. If you are one of these moms, prepare yourself on time and discover ways to make the situation more comfortable for everyone. You need to find a right way to convince your elder child that you love her in the same way regardless of the baby. It won’t be a simple task, but it is possible. Let me show you how.
For a Start, Try to Understand Your Child
Believe me; your elder ‘little one’ is not jealous ‘without reason’. The child is probably sad and angry because she has believed that she is the only one for you. She can’t understand why you need someone else when you already have her. Try to understand her reasons. You are enough for her. She doesn’t want another mother. Why would you need another kid? Oh, yes, the baby is ‘guilty’! She can’t hate her beloved mom. It’s easy; she will hate the baby. That’s it.
You can’t simply wait for the situation to be settled by itself. Be sure that your kid won’t easily accept that ‘she isn’t your only priority’ after the newborn baby comes, and jealousy won’t ‘pass’ just like that. You need to understand that all this misbehave and jealousy is not only a presumption of a spoiled child. She is hurt, and she suffers. Her secure and well-established life has turned upside down, and she is not really sure what has actually happened.
For the beginning, try to figure out her feelings. From her perspective, she behaves appropriately because the baby ‘deserves’ unkindness and hatred. The worst thing you can do is to punish or ignore your insecure and angry child. Try to understand her and to help her. I know that it’s pretty hard considering you are tired, sleepy, and exhausted. But you need to try. Keep in mind that a simple answer on all your ‘Why?’ questions is – She just wants your attention. And be sure, no one can help your child better than you can.
What to Expect after the Newborn Baby Comes
1 – Kids under 24 months
You can expect that your kid has no a clue what is going on at the very beginning. Children under 24 months sometimes react as if you have brought a new stuffed animal to the house. But, don’t think it will be uncomplicated. It is emotionally pretty hard when your elder child becomes a ‘big’ sister (brother) in this age. Actually, it is probably the hardest time for your firstborn child to accept a new member of the family.
Very small children need the whole package of you, of your time, and they expect your undivided attention. Be prepared that such a small child is not willing to share. If she is forced to do so, she will become furious, jealous, and rude. Expect full resistance and complete refusal to accept to share HER parents, HER space, and HER home with an ‘intruder’.
In some cases, the firstborn child doesn’t seem visibly upset by the newborn baby’s arrival. Unfortunately, in the most cases, it is not good news. She is probably grieving the end of her previous life. If it is the case with your child, don’t expect tantrums or obvious jealousy until the baby starts taking her toys. It will be helpful if you avoid giving the baby your elder child’s favorite blanket or some of the clothes she likes the most.
What to do
Spend some time alone with your toddler during the day. It would be awesome if you can schedule a part of the day for her. Pick out a baby’s nap time for that purpose. You can also make an arrangement with your husband or a nanny to take care of a baby during ‘YOUR’ time. It will mean a lot for your toddler and can be the excellent prevention of more significant problems.
Smile to your kid and hug her. Kiss her even you are exhausted. But (the big BUT), don’t fall into the trap. Toddlers can be manipulative, and you should let your kid know that you can’t hug her and play with her while you are changing baby’s diapers or feeding the baby. Just tell her to wait for ‘YOUR’ time.
Books which can help
Joanna Cole’s ‘I’m a Big Sister’ and ‘I’m a Big Brother’ are two books-companions. I highly recommend you these extraordinary and helpful books. Use this top-notch guidance which will prepare your toddler for her first big transition. The story is told from an elder sibling’s point of view and excellently explains how is it like being an older sister (brother).
2 – Two to three years old kids
Children of this age can be weird when it comes to the new baby in the house. They are usually super jealous, and they want everything baby gets, no matter how ridiculous it is. They can ask for a pacifier or may request to drink from a bottle again. Sometimes they begin with bedwetting and want to use baby’s powder or creams. Expect that they will expect a Lullaby before going to sleep especially when the baby is nervous and fussy, and requires your full attention.
Also, nightmares and sudden demands for sleeping in your bed are pretty frequent for these children, especially if the newborn baby sleeps in your room. Sometimes elder sibling decides that 2 AM (when she hears that you feed the baby) is the perfect time for playing and making noise.
Well, you should know that all this behaving is the result of conflicted feelings. Your child just doesn’t know how to solve the problem of opposite feelings. On the one hand, she needs independence and feels that she is a big girl and that she can do everything herself. On the other hand, she wants to be a ‘baby’, because her mom spends a lot of time with a newborn baby. It can be very frustrating.
What to do
I got smart advice when I was in the same situation. One old granny told me to let my daughter play a baby-role for a while. I talked with my child, and we agreed about ‘OUR’ baby-time. While I was sitting in my rocking chair, she sat on my lap, and we pretended that she was a baby. At one moment, she would have started with ‘Goo-gee-gaga’ sounds until both of us burst into laughter. I believe that all that laughter beat sadness and anger.
Preparing the kid for a new routine is always a right way of prevention. For example, if you make breakfast for your child every morning, you should know that you won’t be able to continue regularly with that habit when the new baby comes. Let your child get used to the fact that dad can prepare a meal from time to time. The same thing is about reading a book before sleeping. Don’t make all changes at the same time.
A book which can help
‘On Mother’s Lap’, Ann Herbert Scott
It is a warm story about a little Inuit boy who loves cuddling with his mother while she sits in her rocking chair. He is upset when the baby sister comes but eventually discovers that there is enough space in his mom’s heart and on her lap for both of them.
3 – Four to six years old kids
Four to six years old kids are rarely jealous when the baby comes. These children can be surprisingly full of understanding, and you can easily explain to them that baby doesn’t throw the pacifier or spit up intentionally. Also, they understand that if they put away their favorite toy, the baby can’t reach it. Well, one of the most important things is that they are prepared to wait for 15 minutes for a story or a snack.
The fact that they have their own interests and aren’t connected to their mother all day long is pretty helpful too. They usually go to kindergarten or pre-school and have various activities. If you explain to your preschooler that you love her and that baby can’t change that fact in any possible way, she will be satisfied and happy.
What to do
Usually, it is enough to talk to your kid and to explain her everything she wants to know. Help your little one solve all her dilemmas and find time for her when she needs you. Go shopping together or let her help you in the kitchen, for example. In fact, if she feels loved and secure, there will be no need to be jealous. On the contrary, she can be of great help to you and the baby.
A book which can help
‘The Boss Baby’, Marla Frazee
It is a story about a newborn baby who seems to be too ‘bossy’. It is a funny, well-illustrated book that explores the effects one baby can bring into the family. As usual, humor is the best cure for all problems. Read this book with your firstborn child and let her accept the baby on her own.
4 – Seven to eight years old kids
The schoolers can be frustratingly unpredictable. It can be pretty challenging get them to
express their feelings. If they are jealous, they will show up their feelings through inadequate behavior. If you ask your kid about what is new in school, how does she feel, or are there anything she wants, expect answers like ‘Fine’, ‘OK’, ‘Hmm’, ‘Nope’, ‘Yeah’, ‘Aha’, and so on.
If your schooler is defiant, if mumbles, or disregard and ignore the baby, everything is crystal clear. Don’t be annoyed. Only accept the fact that children of this age are complicated. You need to take more effort to persuade the child to open up and start to talk about her feelings.
What to do
Some experts recommend ‘secret’ night talks. In most cases, you won’t get any adequate answer during the ride home from school or during the lunchtime. But, it is most likely that your kid will be in the mood to talk to you before going to bed. It can be ‘your’ time without harassment and interruption of any kind.
Take advantage of that time to ask your firstborn child for her opinion and to discover what she precisely finds fun or annoying about the baby. Ask her if there was anything you could do to help her. Also, you could tell her about the time when you were in her shoes and how did you feel at this time.
Also, you can try to ask her for help with the baby. Try to set things up so that your child has the feeling that she is necessary and irreplaceable because only she can help ‘HER’ mom. Just be careful. All of this is about helping your kid, not about you. Your elder child is not a nanny!
A book which can help
‘Ten Rules for Living with My Sister’, Ann M. Martin
It is a tender story of a little girl Pearl and her elder sister Lexie. Lexie is a popular girl who has a boyfriend. Pearl is not popular and has only a Bitey, the cat. Pearl irritates Lexie. When their grandpa moves into their house and takes Pearl’s room, sisters started to share one place. Let your kid enjoy reading the story about two sisters and their way to find a solution to live together, and how they begin to understand and love each other.
The Best Advice Anyone Can Give You
Avoid attempts to ‘fix’ your kid’s negative emotions. You can’t solve her problems. The only
thing you can do is to talk to her, show her that you love her, and accept her anger. Yes, it’s ‘politically correct’ advice. The naked truth is that you have to come up with various ideas and use small parental tricks to help your kid. I know, the new baby is a huge part of your soul as well as your elderly child. They are equal for you, but your elder ‘little one’ will probably refuse to accept this simple fact.
I understand that you are tired of washing, crying, feeding, cooking, nights without sleep, and of all the other terrible things the first weeks after the baby arrival are full of. The baby is probably awake all night long, and you feel nervous, drowsy, and almost desperate. All that is too much for you and you really don’t need the elder child’s tantrums and her unnecessary hysteria.
If you want a bit of peace in the house, you have to find a way to ‘outwit’ your child and to show her that she is ‘the most important’, which means that it is ridiculous to be jealous to the ‘boring’ new baby. Yep, I know, it’s not a ‘by the book’ advice, and I don’t suggest you to lie your kid. But, it’s unlikely that you will be able to explain to your two-year-old child that she has to share her mother’s attention because her mother ‘loves her and the baby equally’. If you can do it, you deserve my full respect and admiration.
As far as I’m concerned, I followed my mom’s way. Her answer to all my ‘jealous’ questions was always the same – I can’t love you and your baby brother equally. I love you four years longer. I answered my daughter to her ‘jealous’ questions in the same way. And it worked every single time.
If you think about it better, you will realize that this answer is perfect. That’s precisely what your child wants to hear, and you actually tell her the truth.