When a firstborn child is faced with the prospect of day-to-day life with a newborn sibling, their reactions can be widely varied. Even if you’ve prepared for the birth of a new baby diligently in the months leading up to her birth, you shouldn’t be surprised when your older child reacts in a somewhat unexpected way. Kids’ reactions are as varied as their personalities, and these are some of the most common things that older siblings say about the new baby in the house.
- “I’m a baby, too!” – When an older sibling is in the throes of toddlerhood and is forced to accept life with a newborn baby in the house, it’s not uncommon at all for her to regress a bit. Refusing to complete tasks for themselves that they were handling competently before the baby’s birth is actually your child’s way of ensuring that you’re still there to help her, and is such normal behavior that it’s almost stereotypical.
- “She cries too much!” – Even if it wasn’t so long ago that your older child was crying at the drop of a hat, the amount of crying that a newborn does can be enough to draw protests out of him. This is especially true if an older sibling shares a room with the new baby.
- “Mommy, I need you!” – In order to make sure that you’re still available to her, your toddler child may become more demanding immediately following the birth of a younger sibling. While this clinginess can be difficult to manage, it’s important that you don’t scold her or entreat her to “stop acting like a baby.” This reaction is more likely to cause your older child to feel real resentment for her new sibling than it is to curb the behavior.
- “I don’t like her!” – Sleep deprivation, losing the starring role in the family, and being forced to consider the needs of someone who is younger and more dependent can cause your child to declare that he doesn’t like his new sibling, or make other derogatory and derisive comments about her. It’s best to make sure that your older child is getting as much one-on-one time and relaxation as possible if this behavior presents itself, otherwise the resentment could linger and become problematic.
- “I’ll take care of her!” – Children who are a bit older when the newest addition to the family arrives often feel a strong attachment and sense of protectiveness over the baby, leading them to make a concerted effort to take care of her needs. If your child is insistent upon providing assistance or completing small tasks to “take care” of your child, it’s a very good sign, despite how frustrating it can become when they insist on performing baby-related chores they simply aren’t able to manage on their own.
- “I can do things that she can’t!” – It’s not abnormal for your toddler, preschooler or early-elementary aged child to take every available opportunity to remind his parents that he’s physically, intellectually and emotionally more advanced than the new baby that seems to be taking everyone’s attention.
- “Can I help?” – Whether it’s the novelty of caring for a newborn or a genuine desire to be helpful, older children will often ask if they can help parents and childcare providers care for a new infant.
- “I made her smile!” – Despite assertions that newborn smiles are the result of gas, your older child is likely to fervently believe that they’ve accomplished the Herculean task of making the new baby smile, should the corners of their mouth so much as twitch upwards.
- “She likes me!” – Discovering that a newborn doesn’t wail when she’s being held by an older sibling can be enough to convince the older child that the newest member of the family likes him, a source of endless pride for most youngsters.
While regression, jealousy and similar reactions can be very frustrating, especially when you’re trying to juggle the demands of a newborn against the needs of your older children, it’s important to keep in mind that such a major shift in the fabric and routines of your family can be a bit traumatic for your child. Try to be as patient as possible, avoiding the urge to scold or punish him for the way that he feels.