Having another baby is a decision that not only impacts parents but also the child or children you already have. Some siblings deal with this easily while some do not. Also the ability to cope does not get better with the age of sibling. Older children have longer to get used to having all the attention given to them and thus they can also be susceptible to emotions of rivalry.
Sibling rivalry is a reality at all ages. Indian parents can help ease the transition through some of these tips we offer below.
Inform early and explain the process
- When you are pregnant and ready to announce it to the rest of your family, make sure the older sibling knows it first, maybe by a few extra days.
- Explain to your child what is going to happen to your body over the next few months. Tell him how he went through the same process also.
- Highlight the positives of having a new baby.
- Make the child a part of the process by giving her specific roles. You can tell her to remind you of supplements you need to take or of doctor's appointments.
- Listen to your child if he has an opinion. But try not to be judgemental or critical if he has negative views. And do not get into a debate.
During the pregnancy
- Pick some of the child's favourite activities (unless they are too physically demanding) and do them with her. Even if you do not participate fully with her in all her activities, doing her favourites with her will reassure her.
- If you are unable to do something, state that you are not able to do it because of your body's changes. Do not blame the baby inside you.
- If your child is old enough, take them on a visit to the doctor. You should first check with your doctor if this is OK
- If you are buying things for the new baby, let your child pick them out for you. She will love to make decisions that help her new sibling.
Separation and big changes
- Indian children are naturally bonded to their mothers (as are children worldwide). It is also important that the child develop similar close relationships with other members of the family. This is important when the mother is pregnant again. The other relationships can help compensate.
- If you plan to put your child in a daycare or preschool or school, don't do it immediately before or after you announce the pregnancy or when the new baby is born. Your child will tend to associate the separation from you, with the new baby. Make these changes well into the pregnancy or a couple of months after the baby is born.
After the newborn arrives
- As soon as feasible, let your older child come to the hospital to see his new sibling
- Pick some of the child's favourite activities (unless they are too physically demanding) and do them with her. Even if you do not participate fully with her in all her activities, doing her favourites with her will reassure her that you have not forgotten her.
- Get your older child involved in the activities for the new baby, like a bath.
- Make sure that new dad plays a part in taking care of the newborn so you can spend time with your older child.
- Be watchful of older siblings around new babies. Do not leave them alone. Their curiosity may be troublesome to the newborn.
- Do not criticize or punish the older child if he says something negative about the baby. Ignore it unless it is very serious.
- Do continue to point out and correct poor behaviour. The older child is sensitive to criticism but in our eagerness to be extra-nice to them, we should not let them think they can get away with more.
- By the same token, when the older child does something positive, praise her immediately thus reinforcing positive behaviour.
- If you find your child being moody, or throwing temper tantrums, be gentle and understanding in your response. These are typical reactions. Spend as much time with them as possible and talk to them a lot like you always do
- Teach your older children about empathy and fairness. Often when they do something, asking them "How would you like it if this was done to you?" can be a powerful message. For example, they may ask you to ignore the newborn to do something for them. You can use this opportunity to teach them about fairness.
- Inform your child's teacher about the newborn so they can keep a more sensitive eye on your child
Sibling rivalry does not end here. It often continues well into adulthood. As parents, we need to work with our children and help them find a happy equilibrium with their siblings.