My family has been blessed with not one, but two beautiful new arrivals over the past few weeks; Sylvie (Baby number 3 for my brother Tom) and Theo (Baby number 2 for brother Benj). But amongst all the excitement for the family there is always one very real concern. How will the older kids take to this new invasion on their family life?
Initially of course there is always excitement. This 'baby' you've been talking about with the children over the past 9 months has finally arrived. But naturally for some children, especially those who have been effectively an only child until this point, they struggle with the fact that attention, from parent and visitors alike, is now centred on the new babe. But don't think that an older child, who has gone through this transition once or maybe even twice before is now a dab hand. Every new baby brings new concerns for a child, depending on their age, where they now sit in the sibling pecking order and sometimes even the sex of the new baby can make a difference to how they react. Being a big sister to a little brother can feel very different to a new baby sister if you're at an age where boys and girls have seemingly different interests and roles. I heard one comment which put this well - "She thinks being a big sister to this new baby is a big responsibility and she doesn't quite know how to take it yet." It's so easy to try and make an older sibling feel important by giving them this responsibility of being the oldest but hear it enough times, from enough people I can understand why this might suddenly feel a bit overwhelming to an older child of 6 or 7.
We've put together some suggestions for how you can make this the trials and tribulations of sibling integration a little easier for your children:
1. Presents for all
You don't have to be a genius to know that kids love receiving gifts so when visitors come with gifts for the baby, it's great to be able to include the children in the present opening process. Make sure that your child is practised in the 'handing over' of a gift to the new baby once it's been opened, so they start understand the art of sharing. 'In the know' visitors, who've experienced this sibling integration process themselves will often bring gifts for the older kids too. However, this can't always be expected and so having a few wrapped presents set aside for your children is a good way of letting them know they haven't been forgotten.
2. Create the right atmosphere
Children feed off the energy around them so it's important for them to see you as calm and relaxed as possible with the new baby. We all know kids can be a little rough sometimes but it's important to talk to them calmly around the baby, explain why they need to be gentle with them. However, when your job is to protect this new bundle of joy, it's easy to overreact to a rough pat on the head or a poke in the ear, with a telling off or raised voice. Reactions like this can cause distress to your older children and start an association between them getting into trouble and the new baby.
3. Sticking to routines
If your older children are in a routine, try your best to stick to it as this will allow them to feel secure during the arrival of the new sibling. Whether it's going to playgroup or having a bedtime story, the children should still have these honoured to them. This is also a great way to get partners to help out and allow your kids to have some time away from you, in turn helping them develop some independence. 4. Be Patient Despite the best will in the world, your children will have moments where they find it hard to have the new baby around. They'll likely be vocal about this and sometimes this open resentment to your precious baby is hard to take. In some cases you might feel your older children regress to displays of babyish behaviour themselves but be patient; it's completely normal and it will pass eventually!