Sibling rivalry can be a source of stress at home. An older child could feel insecure about his or her status as the center of attention at home and the apple of the eye of the parents. The new addition to the family may be very unwelcome to the child who came ahead. There are ways to relieve the tension.
1. Tell the older child honestly and in a direct manner of the coming birth.
Timing is the key to this approach. The older child should be told at least a month before, but not more than a month and a half, of a sibling coming to join the brood. If the child is informed too early, he or she might forget about the whole thing. If told too late, the child will not have enough time to let it all sink in.
2. Explain changes in your routine when the baby comes.
Tell your child things like: “You will be sleeping in the other room (or bed) when the baby is here.” Make the changes a couple of weeks before your baby’s arrival, so the older child will not connect the two actions and feel he or she had to be relocated in favor of the baby. Keep on telling your child you will always love him or her no matter what.
3. Clarify what happens when you go into labor.
Some weeks before you are due for delivery, explain to your child that you will have to go to the hospital when time comes for you to give birth. Your absence for a day or two will be enough to distress him or her. If you have arranged for a friend or relative to keep your child company, you could stage a dry run to gauge his or her reaction and you can fine tune matters. You child will feel he or she is a vital member of the family if you let him or her visit you and the baby in the hospital.
4. Get your child involved in caring for the baby.
Your toddler can help out in bathing the baby by letting him or her fetch the towel from the cabinet or wash the baby’s feet. Older siblings might find this fun and it is a good way to teach them responsibility. You may not have to tell him or her to talk gently to the baby or hum a tune when it cries. It could come naturally. If he or she insists on holding the baby, ask him or her to sit on a chair or the bed. Put pillows beside him or her and put the baby on his or her lap. Just make sure not to go too far away.
5. Spend time away from the baby with the older sibling.
The older sibling will naturally feel a degree of jealousy as he or she has to share his or her mother with someone who needs a lot of time and attention. Never scold your child if he or she shows you this.
It is better to assuage his or her feelings by saying something like, “I know you want me to spend more time with you, but your brother is still a small baby and there is no one else to take care of him but me.” This way you make it clear that you understand his or her viewpoint. You can read a book to your toddler or color some drawings with him or her while the baby is asleep.