Building A Healthy Sibling Bond With The New Baby
A new addition to the family, how exciting! Getting a younger sibling is a big deal for children. How your firstborn may fare during those first months with a new baby are uncharted territory and no matter how prepared you may think you are from all the experienced well-wishers, do remember no two children behave the same, no matter what.
Irrespective of your child’s age, the key is to make sure that your older child gets individual attention after the new baby arrives.
For example, if you’re taking pictures or videos, use reverse psychology and have your new baby to be part of the older sibling’s photo shoot rather than other way around, where the focus is always on the new baby. Or perhaps have a few small gifts on hand, a t-shirt with the older sibling’s favourite character saying, ‘Thank you for being my big brother or sister. I love you.’
Research shows when siblings are first introduced to the feelings of big love, when you cuddle up with both your baby and your older child on your lap these get conveyed on to each other. If you can get the older one giggling, the oxytocin being released will further help them connect well with each other.
No matter who, what, when where or how, conflicts are a natural part of every relationship. However, it is important to remember the magic ratio of 5:1 between the positive versus negative interaction in a relationship, i.e., every relationship needs 5 positive interactions for every negative interaction. So, every time you get your older child laughing or snuggling together with your infant, your older child strengthens their positive bond.
Discussing the baby’s feelings and needs with your older child, I clearly remember when I was introducing my son Sultan to my older daughter Khadeeja, I would say:
“Look at Sultan’s face…
How do you think he is feeling?
What can we do to help him?”
This especially works in reverse. Talk to the new baby, in front of the older child, about his older brother or sister’s needs and emotions. What I would say:
“You know, your sister Khadeeja is so sad right now,
she needs extra hugs… You know you need to now go to Papa as I need to spend mummy time with Khadeeja
Your sister needs time with her mum, too.”
Does the baby understand, probably no, but over time he will? But this tremendously helps your older child feel that their needs are as important to you as the baby’s. We know that acknowledging feelings raises the Emotional Quotient of everyone involved.
Inviting and involving the older child and honouring her or his contributions work like magic. I would say:
“Oh no, why is Sultan crying?
Let’s go see what we can do to make him happy…
You were right, he was hungry, see he stopped crying!
Sultan really likes how you understand him and try to help him when he needs something.
How do you know what Sultan needs?”
This makes your older child responsible and confident in their actions.
While being involved your older one may not understand their strength and may push, prod, or pull. Staying calm and redirecting will need to be practiced and it will take a lot of self-control, but it makes a tremendous difference in helping your child find constructive ways to relate to their younger sibling/s.
Encouraging your child to amuse the baby is one of the oldest tricks that always works, is have your babies’ big sibs be silly and playful with them. As your little one begins to smile and laugh in response, this will soon trigger the nurturing cycle of amusement and adoration. A lot of positive responses or words also help your older ones connect to your little ones saying things like,
“He only smiles like that when you’re around” or
“He likes when you hold his bottle.”
Make your older child feel good by having them show the little one how they do things, such as put on his/her socks or brush her/his teeth, tidy away her/his toys.
Linking your behaviour to the baby’s needs also helps. Explain that babies are so tiny and new that they don’t know how to do anything like feed, dress up or drink water– things that you as an older brother/sister are good at. When this is emphasised not only will the child accept the little one but will be so proud of being the older one and will try to be even more independent.
Lastly, make time to do something special with each child.
Bring some books that talk about the new baby … My favourites are
- Waiting for Baby (New Baby), by Rachel Fuller. Create your own story as you flip through this board book displaying a toddler who sees Mommy off to the hospital, meets the baby for the first time, and helps Daddy so Mommy can rest.
- I’m a Big Sister (I’m a Big Brother), by Joanna Cole. A big new sister equates what she is be able to do with what babies can do, then tells her parents know how extraordinary she is.
Mrs. Samina Khanyari
Jumeirah International Nurseries (JINS)