C(l)a competition – How little ones become big siblings
All children rejoice with their parents when their mother’s belly slowly grows and a new family member is announced. But as soon as the baby arrives, a world collapses for little princes and princesses when their throne appears to be shaken.
The seriousness of being a sibling begins for a child when mother and baby come home from the hospital. At first, the newborn takes up about five to six hours of the mother’s time – time that was previously available for the first child. Now it has to accept more frequent “in a minute” or “I can’t right now” in response to its requests, has to be quiet when the baby is sleeping, even physical contact with the parents becomes less. A small child explains the new circumstances in its own way: Don’t mommy and daddy love me anymore now? Especially former only children and nestlings fear that with the baby in the family a new, terrible era has begun.
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Away with the little rival!
It is not uncommon for hostile feelings to soon arise in the older sibling: he or she would like to “get rid” of the baby again. Some first-timers demand that the parents simply take the little rival back to the clinic. Others want to give the baby away or even see it disappear into the trash can. When toddlers vent their hostilities, it can be harmless, but it can also be dangerous: a slap to the baby’s face, a bite to the arm, a finger in the eye, or even a forceful shove on the changing table. Parents should therefore not leave siblings up to the age of four alone with the baby. If an attack does occur, parents must set clear limits to this behavior. However, they should try to remain calm in the moment of shock. The child does not know what it is doing. It is fighting for love and attention with its own clumsy means. It is better to simply continue the thread: “Do you really want us to take your little sister to the forest? There she will freeze and cry, and no one will hear her!” It will turn out: No child really wants to take their little sibling out of the world.
I am little too
Especially one to three year old children have a hard time with the changes. They are still attached to their mother body and soul. Their oppression often manifests itself in psychosomatic symptoms such as sleep disorders or stomach aches. Older children suddenly fall back into early childhood behavior patterns that they had long since broken: they wet their thumbs, suck their thumbs, also want to drink from the bottle or speak in baby talk again. Almost 50 percent of all firstborns react in this way to the arrival of a sibling. However, parents should not overestimate the importance of wet pants and the like, but rather react calmly. The child has no bad intentions – most of it happens unconsciously. The time will pass quickly if parents turn to the child intensively and show him that he is of course still liked just as much! If, however, the airs and graces continue for several months, they should seek psychological help.
But the older siblings can do more
The younger a child is, the more violently it reacts to new additions to the family: the little ones still need a lot of emotional attention from their parents, and cannot do without any of it. Children from the age of four are already more independent; they react less jealously and are more likely to understand that the baby is making demands on the parents. But even toddlers can learn to come to terms with the new family situation with a little support: with age-appropriate attention. Many parents have had good experiences by entrusting the older child with light household tasks. In addition, it could help the mother with feeding, bathing or changing the baby. Or even take care of a “baby of its own” while spending time with the mother. The main thing is that it feels important. This is where fathers are especially needed. Already during pregnancy, they should establish closer contact and show the child: “We both can do things that are not possible with the little baby.” A day on the weekend could thus always be reserved for activities for two. It’s also helpful to ask friends and relatives to turn their attention demonstratively to the big one first.
You can do this at home:
- Look at special picture books when you announce the sibling.
- Flip through the photo album together: What was it like when the older one was a baby himself? Who took care of it? How much care did it need then? This also helps with later jealousies.
- You can practice the most important actions together on a baby doll.
- Give the unborn baby a name – the planned one or a temporary one – and always use it when you talk about the baby. In this way, it becomes a member of the family already during pregnancy.
- Involve the first child as often as possible in the preparations: from picking out baby clothes to decorating the room.