You are most likely aware that sharing isn’t your child’s favorite activity in the world. If it is, lucky you, but for most, it doesn’t always come naturally. Now imagine your child not only having to share their favorite food or toy, but their favorite people too—their parents! It’s no wonder that having a new person in the house causes them to act up. Like trashing their sibling’s nursery. Or asking completely innocently if they can return the baby. It’s tough out there for the oldest child who has now become a washed-up celebrity, dreaming of their golden years when they had it all.
Jealousy is a completely natural feeling for first-borns and some spontaneous crying about the unfairness of it all is to be expected. It’s the way you handle these feelings and interactions between siblings that is important. This adjustment period can really make or break your children’s relationship down the road.
Here are a few ideas to help make that adjustment as smooth as possible.
Acknowledge your child’s feelings
Understand that your little one may have trouble with the new circumstances and will act out or express some negative feelings. Instead of scolding, moonlight as their therapist and validate their emotions and make sure that they feel heard. Let them know that you will always love them no matter what and help them feel better. It’s too bad they can’t join in when you drink some red wine to de-stress at the end of the day.
Spend some one on one time together
Make sure to carve out some alone time for just the two of you so that they won’t feel like they are being replaced. This can be for as little as 10-20 minutes a day, but it is important that you are giving them your full, undivided attention. No checking Insta or planning your newborn’s first birthday on Pinterest. You know who you are.
If you are feeling completely overwhelmed, have your partner schedule special activities together with your child, like eating too many chocolate chip pancakes or God forbid, going to a Chuck E. Cheese. Your partner might even appreciate some bonding time alone without diapers and bottles.
Or ask for help from a relative or a friend. They will love to talk about how they changed your eldest’s diapers when they attend their wedding years from now.
Keep them busy during the day
Be ready with some fun games or things to do around the house to occupy your firstborn. Now’s the time to head over to Pinterest and go wild. If they are consumed by some overly complicated DIY project or have covered you in slime, you have done your job. If you are running out of ideas, check out this list for some new activities to do inside.
“I have to share my parents and the new guy is getting presents too?” Life seems to get more and more unjust for your first-born as they watch the loot pile up for their sibling. It’s nice to offset this jealousy by giving them a small surprise gift every now and then so that they don’t feel like they are getting left behind. We’re not advocating buying off your child or bribing them to behave, but everyone likes surprises and they work best when unexpected.
Reward their good behavior
Let your child know that you appreciate all the effort they are putting in to get along with the baby with many hugs and compliments. Tap your acting skills and overdo it, especially in front of others: “Thank you so much for helping mommy feed the baby! You are the best big sibling ever!”
It may be hard, but these are the moments of your young children that you will cherish forever. In just a few years they will be fighting over who has to do the dishes and how much time the other has spent in the bathroom. The question is, do you want them to only send each other Christmas cards every year, or go on trips together with their future families? If you have the chance, going on trips as a family when they are young can really help them have a closer relationship.
There will always be some sort of competition between the two, but if you play it right, underneath it all will be love and a bond they won’t be able to find anywhere else.