by Jennifer Shakeel
So you are having a new baby. A wonderful addition to your happy family, or so you think. I have gone through this twice. First there was just our oldest daughter, and she loved being the only child. Then we were pregnant, a surprise to us all, and we had to prepare her for a new sibling. She was three at that time, four when her baby brother was born. That was eleven years ago. Recently we added another baby, one that was planned to our family. With 14 years between our youngest and oldest and 11 years between our second and youngest, we really thought that things would go smoothly.
I should say that we worked to make sure things went smoothly. Our son had some concerns over no longer being the baby in the family, but was looking forward to being a big brother. Our oldest was excited the entire pregnancy, she couldn’t wait for the baby and was really excited when we found out we were having a girl. They both expressed some concerns over whether or not we would love them the same, if they would have the same place in our hearts. I was surprised at their ages that they still worried. Part of the reason that we waited so long for our third child was because our son did not want to not be the baby.
Anyway, we did all the right things. We talked to them on a repeated basis about their feelings over the new baby, what their fears or concerns were. We understood that we could tell them anything we wanted, but they would have to see it to believe it. So really we had to wait until our daughter was born. We included them in as much as we could through the pregnancy, they went to the ultrasounds, they came to every false alarm at the hospital, and their dad went to get them immediately after school and brought them to the hospital when we had her. We let them hold her, talk to her, made sure that they knew they were just as important as the new baby.
What we weren’t prepared for was the issues between the siblings. Honestly, we had never thought about it. Our oldest didn’t have an issue with her dad and me, but with her brother. She had issues with the fact that her little brother, who before the birth of the baby, drove her up the wall and she just wanted him to leave her alone… now she was upset when he wanted to spend time with the baby and not her. She would play with him, but when she did she was mean to him, where she would hurt him. I finally had to sit her down and talk to her about what in the world was going on, and then it dawned on me. She was jealous over the fact that it wasn’t just her attention that her brother wanted anymore. Now there was a baby.
Our son was in a perplexing situation. He wanted to be the big brother, but at the same time wanted to still be the baby. So his solace was with his older sister, because it was with her that he could still be the little brother. Yes he was excited to be the big brother, but he didn’t really want to let go of being the baby or the little brother. After talking to them both, we decided that this was something they were going to have find their own way through but they both knew that they could come and talk to either myself or their dad. Fortunately, by the time our baby daughter was two weeks old our older two children had come to terms with their feelings. They both realized that what we had told them over the last nine months was true. We did love them just as much as we did before the baby and that we did not change the way we treated them or our relationships with them.
What does all this mean? It means that regardless of the age of your older children having a baby is difficult for them. I remember when we had our son, our oldest daughter didn’t like him at first. Actually I have a picture from the hospital that sums up her feelings at the time. She is clinging to me and looking down at her brother and the look on her face pretty much says, “This is my mommy and you need to go away.” She used to take his socks off when he was a baby just to wake him up. She was 3 and a half when her brother was born. Yes, I even at one point got the, “You love him more then you love me,” comment.
You will hear this, especially if your older child is younger. I want to tell you now, that it isn’t that you did anything wrong. Your response should be the same as mine, “I don’t love the baby more then I love you, the baby just needs me more right now.” You have to explain to them that there are some things they are able to do on their own, but the baby cannot do anything on their own and need help with everything.
I am not sure that there is a way to completely prepare your older children for a new sibling so that there are not any bumps in the road. My best advice is that you are open with them; listen to them when they express their feelings and concerns. DON’T tell them that they are silly for thinking that, and don’t blow it off. Talk to them. Explain what everyone’s knew role in the family. While our son was anxious over not being the baby in the family anymore he was excited to be a big brother.
Another suggestion, if you have pet names that you call your children make sure that you do not refer to the baby with those nicknames. For example, our oldest is daddy’s princess and my girlie girl, our son is our Little Man so there is no way in the world that our baby daughter can ever be called daddy’s princess, she is daddy’s angel and my girlie. Don’t think that your older children don’t pay attention to these names, they do.
Honestly, the best thing you can do is talk with your children. There are books that you can get and read to your younger children. You need to calm their fears, and get the excited about being a big brother or sister. Happily, through a lot of talking and involvement in the pregnancy and the life of baby once she was born has made it easier on our older children to deal with the new addition. Now at seven weeks it is hard for any of us to remember life without our baby daughter.
Jennifer Shakeel is a writer and former nurse with over 12 years medical experience. As a mother of two incredible children with one on the way, I am here to share with you what I have learned about parenting and the joys and changes that take place during pregnancy. Together we can laugh and cry and rejoice in the fact that we are moms!
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