When the new baby comes home, the joy and excitement can lead to the first born child (or even just older children) feeling somewhat “dethroned” and ignored. When this occurs, it is common to see changes in that child’s behavior; they may begin to feel jealousy toward the new arrival and in some cases, may even strike out to hurt them. Others may simulate being a baby once again by crying, talking ‘baby talk,’ and even having wetting accidents.
Your challenge is to find creative ways for oldest children to feel different from their siblings and to develop a sense of value to the family by implementing the following ideas:
The first tip is the BIG BROTHER or BIG SISTER buttons available at most party supply stores. They were intended to make the first born child feel special when the new baby comes home, but I love the idea so much I encourage parents to use it beyond just that one special time.
Find creative ways for the oldest child to assist with the new sibling, but never leave them alone with the baby. They may be able to sing to the baby, help with the bath, or be helpful in collecting items needed for the baby’s care at the moment.
Carve out time to have one-on-one time alone with the other child(ren). Set up visual schedules or timers so the older child can have something to watch for to know when their special time is approaching. You may even want to consider having special toys that only come out when mom must attend to the baby.
Explore holding family meetings once a week, especially if you have school age children or older. It will promote a sense of importance among all the children and will help them feel a greater sense of respect from the parent(s). The meetings can be held on the same night of the week and everyone should be included. If one person leaves the meeting, it’s over until the next meeting.
Other tips for the family meeting include keeping them brief, making them fun, and being consistent, especially if some of your children are younger. It is helpful to have everyone sitting in a circle and do your best to avoid answering the door or telephone. Doing so sends a message that the family is more important than anything else.
If the oldest child can write, I suggest introducing the role of THE SCRIBE, the person who serves as the meeting secretary and takes the notes of what was decided and what was said. Preserved in a tin box in my closet is a folder of meeting minutes that were taken by my oldest child throughout the years of our family meetings. The lists of rules and decisions are presented in perfect penmanship in red crayon on white-lined paper. These documents are more valuable to me than any historical parchment paper documents I could ever own.
The next time you’re facing challenging behavior, check to see if it happens to be your oldest child. Perhaps they are trying to tell you that they don’t feel so special anymore and just need some encouragement that they still matter to you.