Meeting new baby: introducing your big kid to their younger sibling
As parents, you might well be excited about the impending arrival, but don’t expect everyone to be as thrilled as you are.
You’re three or four years old and happy to be the apple of Mum and Dad’s eye. You’ve heard all these rumours that Mum is playing host to a brother or sister but, to be honest, you won’t believe it till you see it. They wouldn’t do that to you... Would they?
Picture the scene: Your partner arrives home to you with a much younger, smaller version of you. Not only are you told that they love this new person as much as you and that they are going to be living in your house, but that you are going to be best friends... forever. As a child, there is no rationalising. Things are black and white to them, and although some children accept a sibling with little drama, for others it can be a big upheaval.
Ultimately, children want your love and attention. The age gaps (within reason, obviously) between your children really don’t make much difference in terms of the relationships. Little jealousies are inevitable, but it’s our job, as the adults at the party, to help positive relationships develop. So from the moment a new sibling arrives, there are things you can do to get their relationship off to a good start.
If the hospital allows, bring the older child in to meet the baby, but keep the visit short. Siblings are less daunting outside of the house. Believe me, it all becomes very real when they arrive home. If the big brother or sister comes in to visit, maybe have a picture of them beside you to show how much you still love them.
When you finally get home with your new baby, have a stash of inexpensive gifts for your older child. The new baby will be showered with presents, so you want to try and eliminate a little of the jealousy.
My niece, Ava, was definitely more impressed with Freddy the goldfish than her little sister. Just look at that shocked face. She was gutted.
Involve the older child in activities with the new baby. For example, helping to get everything together when it's time for a nappy change; helping out at bath time; helping to pack baby's changing bag if you're going out.
Don’t be too protective. Your older child is going to look like a giant beside the new arrival, but try not to assume that they will hurt the baby by getting too close. You may feel that you will need eyes in the back of your head but both your children need to develop their own relationship.
Spend time with your older child. Maintain routines or special moments you have always had. For example, if Mum always reads the bedtime story, aim to keep doing it. Try to get the new baby minded for an hour so you can go out for a treat to the park, or for coffee. Spend quality time with your child to show them that you still care.
Personally, as the eldest in our family, I sometimes wish my parents had stopped at one. But, for the most part, my siblings rock. It can be a difficult adjustment for all of you, but if you approach it with a positive attitude all will be well.
Niamh O’Reilly is a sleep coach. She's also a baby and childcare guru, a 'parent nanny' and the answer to many a weary parent's woes. When it comes to baby and child issues, Niamh is your woman. Always on hand to offer a no-nonsense solution, in an approachable way. Niamh's book, No Fuss Baby & Toddler Sleep, is now available to buy from all good book stores or online from Amazon.com.