There are a lot of factors that contribute to your children not being able to get along in the beginning. It can be overwhelming and frustrating, but many of these are resolvable and controllable. It also depends on the age of your children and the gap between them.
Firstborn children sense that there will be important significant changes when a new baby is on the way. They usually don’t want to share your attention with a new sibling. It’s important to help them build a meaningful relationship with each other, so they’ll be more willing to compromise. When my daughter was born, I made sure to focus on my son when possible and help him bond with the baby.
Be communicative and reassuring, as they’re going through a big change. Helping your child transition smoothly during this time requires a lot of attention and love from you. It needs to be a slow and gentle process.
Discuss the concept with your child. If you’re expecting a new baby, explain that this new baby is not a replacement for him or her. Instead, help them understand that their new sibling is just an addition to the family. Frame the idea of a new baby in the home as it being a new friend for them to play with.
Discuss your relationship with your own siblings, how you’re good friends with them, and how much you love them. Use positive language that demonstrates the loving and beneficial relationship you or your spouse shares with their brothers or sisters. You can even have an aunt or uncle over for dinner and show that you have a loving and caring relationship with them.
Also, in your conversations, be reassuring and comforting. Your child may feel threatened and jealous—they don’t want a new person in the house taking up their space and resources. Consistently express your love for your child and explain that you and your partner have enough love for both of them.
If it’s possible, visit friends or family with a newborn baby. Show your child how small and fragile babies really are. Explain that the baby will be dependent on you and that everyone in the house has to be very sensitive with the newborn.
Discuss what kind of activities they will be able to do with the new baby. Let them know that babies cry and sleep a lot and that sometimes mommy will be busy caring for the new baby. However, also explain that eventually they’ll be sitting up, walking, and able to play.
Get your child involved! Giving them a sense of involvement and responsibility helps ease the process a bit. It also will keep them busy. For example, explain that the baby needs to be fed many times a day. This might be hard on your child at first because you’ll be spending those intimate moments away from them.
Assign specific tasks and roles that will keep your child busy while you feed. The goal is to make them feel important, needed, and part of the process. So, try to assign little unimportant tasks like handing you a diaper or humming a gentle song while the baby is trying to sleep. The essential thing is that you make your child feel that you are all one team working together.
It’s completely natural for your older child to feel jealous when a new baby comes along. One good way of handling this is by making your child feel special and unique.
Never compare them, even by accident. Children can take these kinds of comments as criticisms. Instead, make him or her feel like their own star. Ask your child for advice and include them in little activities. At the same time, spend some time alone with them on a regular basis.
This time helps your older child feel special and reminds them that you’re their mommy too. Children can be very possessive and jealous. It’s important to continually remind them that you love them and that they really mean a lot to you.
As you probably already know by now, children love to be praised and rewarded. Offer them a hug or a compliment for being kind to the baby or being cooperative with you while you were doing something concerning the baby.
Make them feel special in front of other people too! Give them positive validation and compliments in front of friends and families. This will encourage them to continue treating the baby in a gentle manner.
Sometimes your firstborn is just not accepting of the new baby. They may show aggression or even regression. Some even exhibit signs of anxiety. This is all natural. Don’t worry, it’s their natural instinctive behavior.
When dealing with aggressive behavior towards the baby, don’t punish them. But be stern and make it very clear that the baby is very sensitive and fragile and that no pushing or physical violence is acceptable. Give your child other avenues to express their frustration or anger.
If you find that they’re regressing and reverting to doing baby-like things, understand that this is your child mimicking the new baby. It’s a call for attention. They believe if they act like a baby, you will show them the same intimacy as the newborn. Be patient and empathetic. Have an open conversation and try some of the other problem-solving tactics listed above.
Many children also exhibit signs of mild to severe anxiety. This stems from their fears of being separated or not as intimate with you. Treat this by spending more one-on-one time with them and making them feel special.
Be patient and gentle with this process and try to understand why your child is reacting the way they are. It’s natural for your little one to feel jealous and angry. Try these tactics and the transition process should go smoothly and you’ll be living as a happy unified family in no time.
Cristin is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice, and the loving mother of two wonderful children. In her free time, she can often be found in a yoga studio or catching up on her favorite shows.