Imagine that your partner brought home a roommate. They didn’t ask your opinion first or even consult you beyond letting you know a roommate would be moving in on some vague date in the far-flung future. This roommate is loud and cries a lot. They sometimes use your stuff. They’re very messy, and your partner spends an awful lot of time cleaning up after this roommate. Worst of all, your partner seems very taken with this roommate. You even walk in on them cuddling. Yuck, right?
Now switch some of the roles, and you have just experienced what it’s like for a firstborn child when mama comes home with the “gift” of a new sister or brother. Once upon a time, they were the center of your universe – or at least felt like it. Now they have to share you and they’re sharing you with someone who seems to have few, if any, redeeming qualities. Is it any wonder that jealousy and resentment can rear their ugly heads? It doesn’t seem so surprising when you consider it like that.
Luckily, we have some tips for soon-to-be second-time moms who are worried about smoothing the new sibling transition.
Try to put yourself in your first’s shoes
This is a BIG change. If your first is younger, they may not understand exactly what the new baby’s relationship to the family is – hence questions like “When are you bringing the baby back to the hospital?” Older kids may act like they’re fine while letting resentment stew, so be on the lookout for signs that they’re missing one-on-one time with you or feeling the weight of new responsibilities.
Enlist your first’s help
Sometimes newly minted big sisters and big brothers feel more positive toward a new baby when they feel a sense of ownership. Think of a toddler proudly saying “This is MY baby brother!” One way to foster that sense of ownership is to ask your first for help… bringing you a fresh diaper, picking a bedtime song, or showing baby how to hold a rattle.
Or let your first lead the way
Sometimes a parent’s best intentions fall flat when they try to enlist an older sibling’s help because the new big sister or big brother feels like the arrival of the new baby means new chores. If your bigger little one isn’t interested in helping with diapers or picking baby’s outfit, don’t push it for now.
Redirect in the face of regression
If your big girl or big boy suddenly wants binkies and bottles, try offering up a brand new big kid cup or toy. Remind them of how great being a kid is – sure, babies get a lot of attention, but they can’t go down slides, eat ice cream, or play the drums! Find some time to do big kid activities with your first; even 10 minutes a day of baby-free time can go a long way. Older kids may start behaving more like little kids, but it’s a phase that will pass.
Remember how little they are
While you were pregnant, your first may still have you’re your baby. When you brought the new baby home, your first probably seemed HUGE and so surprisingly MATURE. That’s probably okay if there’s a big age gap, but if your first is two or three or four try to remember how very little they still are. Baby them if that’s what they seem to need.
Let them lead the way
Sometimes your first is going to be crazy about the baby. Sometimes they’re going to be kind of meh about the whole big sibling thing. That’s okay! Don’t force sisterly or brotherly love right now. The baby isn’t going to care for a couple of months anyway. If your first has questions about the baby, answer them. If they’re acting like a little parent, smile. If they seem to need a little extra love from you, give it gladly.
Finally, when your first seems resentful because they have to wait, remind them that the baby sometimes has to wait when you’re finishing up a story or a game of Candyland. And that you love them and the baby both, but they’ll always be your first forever and ever.