As with any major transitions in their lives, our children will need our help adapting and adjusting to their new sibling. There are many things we can do to ease this transition. 1) Prepare your child for his/her new baby
Explain in realistic terms what changes will occur when the baby arrives. Tell your child that new babies cry a lot -- when they are tired, hungry, hot or cold, have a wet diaper, need to be cuddled, or sometimes just because they are babies.
Setting up realistic expectations will help them through this challenging, exhilarating time. And, always refer to the baby as "ours" to let your older child have ownership in the arrival of your new member.
2) Reassure them of your love
In the story, Jermone's Jam, Jerome's mother says: "There will be lots of changes when the baby is new, but there's a big spot in my heart saved just for you." It is so important to keep reminding your older children how special they are to you, how much you love them, and how there is no one that could ever take their place in your heart and in your life. Lots of extra hugs and cuddles are a definite must!
3) Create a loving environment where your child can discuss concerns
Being heard is probably the most crucial thing you can do to help your child with the transition. And, understand that jealousy is universal. All children experience it in some manner. It is not a predictor of how well your children will relate to each other in later years. But, we do know that if children are not allowed, and even encouraged, to express negative feelings, these feelings will come out in non-productive ways.
Help your child talk through any negative feelings about the baby. This may be difficult for you to hear, but it is much better than the alternative. Anger, jealousy and confusion when kept inside can turn into violence. Children will find a way to express these feelings, through either physical or emotional outlets, if safe spaces for communicating these ideas are not created.
4) Avoid comparisons
We want to allow our children to be and become their own special selves. Highlight your children's unique gifts and mirror those back to them so they can see and be proud of their own talents and qualities.
Comparisons are just one of the ways we can cause jealousy and anger. Be aware of your actions and words; children are very sensitive during times of change.
5) Tell your older children how much you will need their help
Explain that babies need lots of extra attention because they can't do anything for themselves. They need help eating, getting dressed, bathing - and all of these are things that the big brother/sister can help with. Giving them responsibility with the new baby makes them feel special and a part of the new energy around the baby.
Don't make the mistake of building an artificial wall between the baby and the older sibling in an effort to protect the new baby. Instead, broaden your already existing family circle to allow for your new member. Don't shut out the older siblings, but allow them to nurture, cuddle, rock, feed and even help with changing diapers for the baby.
Have your partner, a friend or a sitter watch the baby and take your child out for special times (to the park, to get ice cream or for a walk -- just the two of you). Also, use the baby's naptime to read, sing, dance, play, and talk to your older child.
Time alone will be crucial to your child's self-esteem and to let them know how important they are to you.
7) Allow your older child to keep special toys and clothes Seeing all your toys disappear into the baby's room can cause anger and jealousy. Know that your older child may have outgrown certain toys but still be very attached to others (stuffed animals in particular).
In the story, Jerome gives the baby his favorite stuffed toy. His father is quick to tell him how proud he is of his sharing "but it's only to borrow. We'll get baby her own Sam tomorrow."
8) Reinforce the special things about being older
In the story, Jazz lists activities that Jerome can do. Try to point out your children's accomplishments and lavish praise on them. Reinforcing all the good things they do is extremely important at a time that will be full of "don'ts." It is only natural that there will be many negative rules that will be established (Don't scream around the baby, Don't pull the baby's arms, etc.), but remember to focus on the positives.
9) Be careful when assigning new roles
Overnight, your child's role has changed in the family. Don't expect him to grow up overnight just because he is the big brother. Many children revert to younger behaviors when the baby arrives and want you to call them baby, too. Knowing that this is perfectly normal (and only temporary) will help you deal with their changes.
10) Try not to fuss over the baby in front of your other child
There will be enough relatives lavishing attention on the baby and plenty of time for that when your older child is not present. You should talk to your child about all the attention that the baby will get. Let your older child know that you understand how he feels with all the attention going to someone else.