Some Advice From the Voice of Experience

Hello. This is the Voice of Experience calling. I thought you might be interested in some nuggets of wisdom in helping your child prepare for siblings.

(1.) Expect to have some jealousy from your oldest directed at the new baby. Even if that child is excited to have a new brother or sister, there will be a moment when he or she is insanely jealous of the attention that sibling is receiving. Beware. It emerges at unpredictable times. For example, due to an illness, our oldest was barred from visiting Mama and her new baby brother at the hospital. The result was that she was furious with both me (for abandoning her) and her newborn brother. Less than 24 hours after arriving home from the hospital, our 13-month old stomped on her brother's head as he lay on a blanket spread on the floor. After that, she loved him. It was as if she was having her say, and then she was over it. (She was, however, furious with me for far longer.)
This behavior also manifests itself in older children (four and up) who are used to being the center of attention--particularly first borns who are also the first grandchild, niece/nephew, etc. Our nephew altered his baby brother's perfectly nice name into something that wasn't, all from changing one little letter. In that one tiny change, it was obvious to all how he felt about the new addition to the family. Amazingly, when our eldest child--the first girl on my husband's side and the first grandchild on mine--appeared a mere three weeks after her cousin, our oldest nephew became her biggest fan. He would sit next to her and hold her hand. We often wonder if, in the beginning, he would've preferred it if we had swapped babies.

While you should plan for the inevitable, there is something you can do to circumvent it: bribery. Purchase a toy that is from the baby to the big brother or sister. It is not from Mommy & Daddy. It is not from Grandpa & Grandma. It is not from Aunties or Uncles. It is from little brother or sister. And it works. Especially if it's a toy the oldest has long been eying.

(2.) To help children get excited about welcoming a new sibling home, allow them to show some pride in as messy a way as possible. We've all seen those adorable "I'm the Big Sister!" or "I'm the Big Brother!" shirts. Avoid them like the plague (they really are overpriced, anyway. Particularly hospital gift shop t-shirts). Unless your child is still really a baby herself (as in the case of our eldest, who was, as I said, only 13 months old when little brother came along), let him or her make their own shirt or onesie. Get a new garment and some fabric paints and let your child design the shirt. Unless your child is a young prodigy, you will need to write the words for him or her. "I'm the Big Sister/Brother", along with any other writing your child can think of. We added little hearts with the names of that particular sibling with the new baby's name in them, but of course this only works if you know ahead of time what the baby's gender is. Leave all coloring and design aspects to him or her. Then set this aside for the first time he or she visits their new sibling in the hospital. Our kids still have all of their shirts (mainly because their Mean Mama, yours truly, only let them wear them a couple times before packing them away). For our youngest daughter, who was not quite 2 when little brother came along, we decorated a onesie for her to wear.

(3.) Many people videotape messages to their child while Mama is in labor (or while awaiting the c-section). Why not include older siblings in this ritual as well? You'll have some precious memories recorded of the excitement everyone felt as they prepared to welcome the newest family member. One of our favorite video clips is of my oldest son, who was just shy of 3 at the time, welcoming "baby Tohwe (Tori)".

(4.) Do not refer to the baby as "my" baby. Refer to the baby as "our" baby. Allow the older child some ownership and pride in the newest little one.

So there you have it. Probably the best advice you'll ever need with regard for preparing your children to be big siblings. It is a big transition going from no children to one and from one to two. After that, it's just addition. Enjoy!

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