- Involve the child in preparing for baby’s arrival. Encourage her interest.
- When you introduce your older child to his sibling, let someone else hold the baby. Have your arms open and ready to greet your “first baby.”
- Let the siblings exchange “birthday gifts.” Have a gift ready to give your older child from the baby, and have the older child choose something special to give the baby.
- Give older children — including boys — a doll they can feed, care for and love.
- Use the children’s names, as opposed to “big sister” and “baby.”
- As soon as possible, schedule a special outing for your older child with one or both parents. Make it a regular occurrence, and tell the older child how much you enjoy the time together.
- Relax. Don’t be overly protective of the newborn, and include the older child in caring for the baby.
- Acknowledge your child’s negative feelings without scolding.
How to Handle the Hurt
When you feed or cuddle your baby and the older sibling is within earshot, talk to the baby about him. “Do you know what a terrific brother you have? He’s going to teach you so much!”
Be ready to put the baby down for a minute if the older child expresses hurt. Embrace the older child and mirror his feelings: “This baby hurts you. I’m glad you told me. Do you need a kiss?” Or “You don’t want her here, but she’s a member of the family now. I wouldn’t let anybody take you back.”
If the older child takes aggressive action that could harm the baby, try not to show your alarm. “Treat it like any other negative behavior, with a timeout and a talk,” O’Connor says. “But never leave your baby alone in the same room with a sibling under 5.”
Amid their child’s outbursts and tears, parents can console themselves by remembering the gift they’ve given their firstborn. “Younger children teach firstborns a lot,” says Jackie Rosenberg, a child-development specialist in Sherman Oaks, Calif. “Older children learn they are no longer the center of the universe, that they need to care for others and share.”
And that’s one baby gift that will last a lifetime.