You’ve had another baby and it feels like your happy family is growing; there is plenty of love to go around
Then, out of the blue, an older child announces ‘I wish it was just me again’ or ‘I don’t like my baby sister’ or ‘I want him to go away’ and your bubble bursts. You feel like you’ve let your child down, and you wonder if they will ever grow to like their new sibling.
Please be reassured that this is not unusual. A lot has probably changed for your eldest child; perhaps routines have been altered, the house is more cluttered, everyone is tired and you can’t be as available as you used to be. Your child may be feeling anxious about all these changes and it’s entirely natural for them to express their worries by blaming the new baby.
But what can you do?
- Acknowledge your child’s feelings. It is important that she feels heard. You could try saying things like: ‘Yes, babies do cry a lot, don’t they’, ‘It’s tough when mummy/daddy has to stop playing to feed the baby, isn’t it?’ It’s better not to simply tell the older child that she just has to get used to it and that this is the way things are now, as that may only breed further resentment on her part.
- Ask your child why the new baby makes him unhappy and what he liked about being an only child. It may then be possible to help him work through the feelings that he is struggling with and re-create some of the things he liked when he was the only child.
- Have some one-to-one time. Some protected time with your eldest while someone else looks after the baby may make her feel more secure, even if it’s only a quick trip to the park.
- Try to point out how much the baby likes her older brother, e.g. ‘look how much she smiles when she watches you on the swings’. It could help to make him feel as if he contributes to making the baby happy.
- Get her involved in some of the caring tasks for the new baby, e.g. ‘can you sing to the baby in the car?’ But don’t ask her to do too much, in case she begins to feel overly responsible.
- It may also be worth choosing one of the many picture books that are available which can help you together with your child explore the feelings the new baby has prompted. Try an online search using the term ‘new baby books for siblings’.
Finally, please be encouraged that this is unlikely to last forever. It may seem like it will, but it is probably a phase, and even in the midst of this time of adjustment your children will be contributing to each other’s social and emotional development.
About the author
Mark Chester is the Parent Support Manager at Care for the Family. He is the founder of Who Let The Dads Out? and has been writing and speaking about fatherhood for over 20 years. He has two grown-up children.
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