My preschooler, Jordan, was excited about his new baby sister before she was born, but after I delivered her, it seemed like Jordan had changed his mind. When my husband and I brought Jessie home, Jordan was just sitting on the couch and didn’t even greet me with a kiss. He was watching television, and I had to call him so he would come to us. For days, I was worried, and my anxiety grew deeper when I thought about my son. Why was he suddenly unhappy about having a sister? How would I help him adjust to the new situation? Will my family be affected by this major change that we planned in the first place?
Psychologists say that kids who are more versatile and carefree may adapt easily compare to those who are sensitive, like Jordan. Kids like him will take time with transitions like this one. They may react differently, such as asking to be fed when he was feeding himself already, or sitting on the baby’s seat to catch attention. My boy did this a few times, and we had trouble reprimanding him because he would cry and run to his room. He even snatched his sister’s arm one time when I was busy feeding her and I didn’t hear him calling me.
How I Helped Jordan
I called up my therapist friend, and I shared my concerns with her. I had to find ways to help Jordan adjust to his new baby sister because this will surely affect the whole family. She was kind enough to give wonderful advice that I eventually learned and practiced. Slowly, my preschooler son accepted his sister and loved him as much as we did. Here are some of the tips the therapist gave me.
- Watch The Baby With Him. While you’re watching over your newborn in the crib, call your first-born and tell him to watch the baby together. Hug him and ask him what he sees in the crib. Tell him, “Look at those eyes, love. And those tiny little hands. What are they doing?” This allows him to appreciate and admire what he is seeing. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he’d be amazed at the beautiful blessing.
- Let Him Do Support Roles. You can ask him to be your ‘bath buddy’ and let him soap his sister’s legs and feet while bathing the baby. Or maybe he can get diapers and prepare the things you need after bathing the baby, like the mat, rash cream, and clothes. You can talk gently to the baby together so he’ll know how to comfort his sister if she cries. Perhaps one day he will want to carry her, and if he does, just let him sit down and place pillows on either side of his body, then gently prop his baby sister on his lap, with you sitting nearby. What a sight! My heart simply melted when Jordan did this.
- Ask Him Advice Sometimes. You can ask him to decide on simple things, like what his baby sister should wear on Sunday’s family reunion, or what story you should tell her tonight. Better yet, tell him to help you read the story. Preschoolers can be animated and fun when they want to, and the baby might even enjoy them more than when you do the storytelling.
- Recognize How He Feels. Jordan had trouble expressing how he felt about this major change in his life – in our lives. Like him, most first-borns feel the same way, and it would be nice if you listened to them and let them share. If he’s grumpy or absent-minded, you can ask him what’s on his mind. Or you can tell him, “Are you sad that sometimes I can’t play with you because I’m busy with the baby? It’s okay. I understand. Tell me about it.” Hold him close and listen to him. Sometimes it’s all they need.
- Spend Alone Time With Him. No matter how caught up you are with baby chores, spend a little time with your first-born, time that is exclusively for both of you. Draw or paint something with him, if it’s one of his hobbies. Do some shopping together. Do something that makes him special, something that would remind him that he, too, is loved.
Most first-borns are not used to having a sibling, especially if the gap is quite far, but you must do your part as a parent and make way for brother and sister to find their way together, love each other, and be happy together as a family.