gmhTODAY 09 gmhToday July Aug 2016 - Page 98

Preparing Johnny For Siblinghood Article Brought To You By: I f you’re expecting another child or you already have more than one, chances are you’ve been concerned about them getting along. Many parents worry about how their oldest child will handle the introduction of a new baby. While jealousy is a normal rite of passage for firstborn children, there are ways to make the transition into siblinghood a smoother one. Children at different stages of development are going to handle having a new baby brother or sister differently. Here are a few ways you can make the transition easier. Early Preparation Regardless of what age your eldest child might be, early preparation goes a long way. Tell your child about the baby well before it’s born and be realistic about what to expect when it arrives. Depict the baby as a real person that will need a lot of sleep, milk, and diapers, and explain that it won’t be able to do much at first. This positively prepares your eldest for what he can expect so that he won’t be disappointed when the baby arrives. Any big changes such as potty training or moving from a crib to a bed should be done before the baby’s born so that your child doesn’t blame the baby for these changes. Under 24 Months Children at this age have a hard time comprehending the arrival of a new baby because they are still heavily reliant on their parents. It can be emotionally rough for them to suddenly have to become the big brother or sister. The loss of attention from mommy and daddy can increase the likelihood of sibling jealously and rejecting the baby as a member of the family. To help assuage these negative feelings, be sure to set aside some alone time with your toddler, even if it’s just a 15-minute story while the baby naps. Try to remember to smile whenever she comes into the room and give her hugs and kisses. You never know when she might need them. If your hands are full with the baby and your toddler whines for your attention, acknowledge her feelings by saying something like, “I see you’re sad that I can’t hold you. I’m sad too. Why don’t you come and snuggle with me while I feed the baby?” Ages 2-3 Kids in this age group often become weepy or clingy when a new baby comes into the picture. They may even regress and want to 98 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN nurse again or wear diapers again, even if they’ve been weaned and potty trained. Some kids will act out because it’s a guaranteed way to get your attention. At this age, they may feel very conflicted about a new baby. Part of them still wants to be the baby, but another part wants independence. Acknowledging, and to some degree, going along with your child’s desire to be a baby again can help him with any anxiety he might be feeling. Try saying, “It looks like you want to be a baby now too,” and let him act like a baby for a while, perhaps by cradling him or letting him make baby sounds. If you make a game of it, eventually he’ll tire of playing baby and move on. To appeal to his independent side, encourage your eldest to help with caring for the baby. Give him a say in anything from picking what outfit the baby should wear to choosing what toys are best for the baby, or even “carrying” the baby to its crib. Emphasize all the things he can do because he is a “big” boy and how helpful he’s being. He’ll be more likely to embrace the role of big brother and take pride in it. Just be sure to take cues from your child as to how much he wants to help. Ages 4-8 By this age, kids tend to be more reasonable about a new baby. They’re more caught up in school, play dates, and activities, which means they aren’t as reliant on you for everything. That being said, they still may worry about being left behind. Make sure you have some one-on-one time with your child, whether it’s a trip to the store or a 10-minute snuggle time before bed. Take the time to see how she’s feeling, perhaps by asking about what’s hard and what’s fun about the new baby. If she expresses jealousy or anger, don’t deny or discount those feelings. Instead, reassure her that you love her and find ways to be her advocate. If the baby broke her favorite toy, replace it and put her toys somewhere the baby can’t reach. While having a new baby may require a period of adjustment for your older child, having a sibling is a great gift. Older siblings gain experience nurturing, teaching, and leading, while younger siblings have someone to constantly watch and learn from. Even when they’re bickering, they’re learning the art of negotiation, compromise, problem solving, and how to work past painful emotions. Through thick and thin, having a sibling means always having a close friend. JULY / AUGUST 2016