You’ve gotten the thrilling news you’re expecting, you have lots of time to prepare and as enthusiasm builds with the pending arrival of a new family member, you notice not everyone is quite as warmhearted. You may rationalize that this will work itself out as time goes on. After the baby is born, your family will be one happy cohesive unit singing songs and joyfully skipping through life. However, be cautioned Mommies, it’s imperative to dial in to what your son or daughter is saying, or not saying, about the impending arrival of your bundle of joy.
It is common place in today’s fast paced society to not appreciate or honor feelings individuals have. Especially as women, or young girls, the message is often to just deal personally with those feelings and don’t act upon them – put them away in a small box as if they never existed. This type of behavior doesn’t help with any child’s development, self-awareness or sense of personal accountability. Understanding a need or feeling, addressing it and then permitting those emotions to help build self-esteem are a wonderful stepping stone in becoming a well-rounded young adult.
When an existing child in a home becomes anxious, agitated, does not listen, throws tantrums for no reason or stops playing well with others, these are all signs of sibling rivalry. It’s important to honor your existing child, or children’s, feelings. Help reassure them that feelings of jealousy are perfectly normal – most children have these feelings at some point in their lives. It’s ok if they are irritated that the new baby is taking up too much of your or your partner’s time. (Gently remind them it’s not ok to hurt the baby in any manner.) Give them the facts. New babies will take up a lot of Mommy‘s time, sometimes their fun to play with – and sometimes they’re not because they really can’t play yet. Bottom line is, be truthful and honest. Kids know the truth; they want to hear you speak it.
Kids of all ages feel these emotions for numerous reasons. Kids who are younger are learning to declare their independence, while teenagers are often working on developing their independence. Each child has their own mood, flexibility and nature which create their exceptional personality. This will play a large part in how ready they are to accept the new baby and move onward. For all ages it’s fitting to have them understand what a role model they will become for their new sibling; how impactful and significant that relationship will be as each of them gets older.
Once your child understands it’s ok to have feelings of jealousy, resentment or anger and they are allowed to honor those feelings, in a way that doesn’t harm others, they can begin the process of acceptance and moving forward. Hopefully, this will allow any tantrums or poor behavior to stop as well.
Don’t expect this change to take place overnight. Admit that it will be trying and upsetting. Just as adults take time to process emotions and change, so does a child. They haven’t developed the critical thinking skills to process information the same as adults. So have a little patience, it may take more time and reassurance from you. Don’t overlook reminding your child that you love them, and that love will never change. Reassurance in the face of change is a critical step in developing trust and self-confidence. Even finding time to spend with them one-on-one, no interruptions would show them you still feel connected with them. Kids are big on action; they like to do it not hear about it.
As your new baby grows, your family will begin to blend together. New adjustments take time, and before long the existing sibling(s) will see how important they are, too. In our household, our 7 year old twins adore their 17 year old step brother – they always have. To them, he is the rock star who could do no wrong. It took some adjustment, but over time he began to understand how important a role a big brother is, and what a special individual he is to all of us.
Buddha says: “Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”