Children between 18 months and 3 years of age are most affected by the introduction of a new sibling. It is often interpreted as 'less for me,’ "Less lap, less smiles, less time, less attention”. It can be very threatening.
Older children seem less affected as they have other activities in their life besides the new baby. It is common for toddlers between 18 months and 3 years of age to exhibit aggression, regression, jealousy, ambivalence, or a combination of these. In an attempt to validate his feelings, it would be helpful for the toddler to acknowledge that everyone is getting used to changes in the family. In order for parents to make the transition easier for the older sibling, parents can get the older child comfortable with the idea of a little brother or sister before the new baby comes home. Here are some ideas for a more peaceful sibling relationship right from the start.
- Talk about what he was like as an infant. It would help the older sibling to see baby pictures of himself. Information such as: "Tiny babies nurse a lot," or "Mommy will carry the baby a lot, just like I did with you" helps ease the transition.
- Get your older child to introduce himself to the baby. Encourage him to touch your belly. Watching the ultrasound pictures, listening to the baby’s heartbeat encourages a bond for the older child.
- Reading storybooks about new siblings help parents to introduce the idea of a sibling.
- Schedule milestone events such as potty training, moving from the crib to a big bed, starting preschool as early into your pregnancy as possible.
- Welcome your older child when he sees you in the hospital. Give him some undivided attention. Siblings' early days together are the building blocks for a long-term bonding process. Parents can take advantage of the toddler's natural fascination with babies by explaining what you imagine the baby is thinking. These can help him see his sibling as a real person. The older child may feel neglected, with mummy busy or tired after the arrival of the new baby and all the attention the new baby receives from visiting friends and relatives. It always helps the transition period for the older child to extend the compliments to include him. However, this time may be a good time for the toddler to spend more time with daddy.
- Assigning a task can be all it takes to help a toddler feel included. Feeling needed encourages bonding.
With a little parental guidance, siblings can grow up to be close chums. Friends come and go, but family is forever. “Jimmy and Bobby” can become a parent's dream come true and be friends for life.