When I was pregnant with my second child, one of the biggest questions I had for parents of multiple kids was how to help my first child adjust to having a sibling. We were given great advice from parents around us and felt that the process went a little better than we had expected. That is until baby sister started interacting and everything came completely unglued, three months into what felt like our new normal.The first few weeks having baby sister home with us were definitely hard. There were tears shed by big sister and by me because of the adjustment of shared time. I, of course, hated that it was making my sweet toddler sad to not have my complete attention 100% of the time, but also wanted to spend adequate time soaking up the newborn phase that I knew would slip away all too quickly. Just as everyone told us, within a few weeks we had started to settle in. Fast forward to about 6 weeks; the time when we really started to see baby sister come out of the newborn sleep-all-day phase and give us peeks of her personality more and more. I started noticing a bit of an attitude arising in the almost three-year-old. I chalked it up to the approaching "threenager" stage and didn't think much more into it. As more weeks passed, we noticed the association of the temper and outbreaks to the attention that baby sister was getting. One day, I was talking to my mom and expressing my concern and confusion about the new and very obvious bad feelings coming from my normally so sweet and mild girl. She reminded me that suddenly baby sister wasn't just a little pile of human anymore; she was smiling, cooing, and intentionally interacting. We were now giving her praise that big sister was used to being the only one getting, and she wasn't going to accept that without a fight. Here are a few tips that helped us with the setback!
Parent DatesWe had done "dates" with her before, but at that time, she wasn't a big sister that was getting to escape and just be with her mom or dad for a while. We immediately started them up again and even did them multiple times a week. They are sometimes as simple as running to the hardware store with dad to get a part needed for something, and other times she gets to pick where we go for dinner and what we do after dinner. She loves it and will even ask for them after a long day of sharing mom with a sick sister.
Talk It OutFrom day one, we have been very intentional about the way we speak to and with our kids. It has really helped big sisters communication skills and pays off big time. When she seems to be getting upset or irritated by her sister, we pause for a moment and talk through what she is feeling. We ask if she is feeling grumpy (irritated, sad, angry, etc.) because of something happening around her. Then we help her walk through her emotions and figure out a way that we can fill her cup! I have noticed that sometimes all she needs is for me to get down to eye level and explain to her why I am needing to give extra attention to baby sister. For the most part after that, she is ready and willing to help with things for her sister or even to just relax and be happy reading mountains of books.
Let Them Be The BabyWhether you meant to or not, you likely babied them a whole lot more before the new baby came around. Suddenly, a small person shows up in HER house and you start holding her less, and are constantly carrying around the new baby. Then this new human they are forced to accept starts doing little things like smiling and rolling over for a toy and they get applause and praise. Yes, you did this same thing for big sister or brother when they were little too, but they don't remember it! They need to be praised for the small stuff again! Tell them you love when they smile, that it is so handsome or pretty! When they show you a trick you've already seen a hundred times, clap for them or offer a high five like it is literally the coolest thing that could hit the face of the planet.
Of course, you don't start spoiling them like crazy and allowing them to get away with everything, but take a step back and remember that they are still so little! Just because you have an actual baby, it doesn't mean your older child is now a perfectly behaved and matured person of society, even if she can talk and walk and function on her own much more than the baby can! Jealousy probably won't go away for a while, because siblings sure know how to bicker and compete with each other. However, if you can be mindful of the giant adjustment your bigger kiddo is going through, even months after baby sibling arrived, you will quickly discover the antidote for the jealousy in your phase!
Written by: Alyssa Liston