Did your preschooler wander into the birth room, say, “Oh what an adorable baby!” and everyone in your family lived happily ever after?
Well, mine didn’t either. Preparing for the birth helped A LOT, but nothing really prepares you for Child #2 and your child to feel replaced. If it doesn’t happen on day 1, it will happen at some point. How can it not? Your child, who is older and has more expectations for better behavior, notices that you don’t pick as much on the new sibling. You also spend a lot of time feeding, cuddling and caring for this baby, taking care of things the older child can do herself. So it’s not hard to see why your child may not be feeling quite so special anymore. How can you positively involve your child with the baby?
While your preschooler should not be your top tier baby-sitter, she can gather things you may need for the baby’s bath or feeding. Se also probably remembers better than you right now and sees where you put the nursing pillow you can’t do without. She can even hold her sibling for short periods of time. Depending on the age and maturity of your older child, and the age of your baby, you’ll know how much supervision to give. Don’t overuse her help, though. Let her be a kid.
Whether it’s the big brother T-Shirt or a picture of the baby, help her to celebrate with the school community or people besides your shared friends and family. Langston was very proud to introduce his brother and his new role as the elder brother during Circle Time, even though the baby himself was too young to attend.
Your child may quickly realize that the younger sibling gets a lot of attention and relatively little criticism. Try to point out occasions when being older is special. For instance, your child gets to eat birthday cake, play on the playground and use toys his baby sibling knows nothing about.
This is the one with which I need the most help. Integrating the activities of my older child with a baby routine seems completely impossible on some days, but wearing the baby does help me to walk around with two children, take train trips and get out of the house.
But isn’t this supposed to be getting your child involved with the baby? Yes and no. Your child does not want to hear all baby all the time. My son hates the well-meant question, “How do you like being a big brother?” and changes the subject, though he’s happy to talk about his brother if others are talking about him.
For me, reading books was a good way to stay connected to my older son. We could talk about topics outside of the baby, and we could also spend time together while my husband got the baby to sleep. We could also go on short outings together without the baby in tow.
As my baby becomes a crawling and then walking toddler, I’m learning that getting used to each other is a lifelong process. My son thought his brother was pretty cute until he tried to put everything into his mouth. But he also enjoys making his brother laugh and helping him to learn new skills. (I never wanted the baby to learn to climb before he learned to walk). Motherhood is an unfolding adventure which I’m learning is best to approach one day at a time!
Kristen Witucki - New Jersey, US
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