Getting ready for a new baby brother or sister?
By Lotus – Mommy To Max blog
One of the main reasons I wanted to have two kids close in age is because I hope Max and Alexa grow up to be the best of friends. Of course I know that closeness in age is no guarantee of a close relationship. So I also try to do everything in my power to help ease the transition for Max from being an only child to having a sibling.
Prior to giving birth to Alexa, I asked everyone I met who had a younger sibling (both my husband and I are the youngest in our family so we have no concept of being an older sibling): How should I treat Max so that he has minimal resentment when Alexa is born?
1. Be Mindful of Fairness
The prevailing answer was to treat them both fairly. There is a natural tendency to protect the younger and “weaker” child, the baby.
However, after Alexa was born, we were always mindful that the same rules we have for Max apply to Alexa as well. Of course she doesn’t understand what we are saying but we make it a point to tell her things like:
- Alexa, don’t hit your brother, say sorry!
- Don’t put your feet up on the table!
- We just got home, time to wash your hands!
I have noticed that Max is very observant as to how we treat Alexa and I can tell that it’s helped him to know that she has to follow the same house rules.
2. Teach Responsibility
We incorporate Max, whenever possible, into helping take care of Alexa. During diaper changes, he loves to bring us her diaper, wipes, and lotion. When Alexa gets upset during car rides, we ask him to sing songs or hand toys to her to help calm her down.
We always tell Max that he is the older brother and it’s his job to protect and take care of his younger sister. But when Alexa is old enough, we will let them both know that it’s their job as siblings to take care of and protect each other.
3. Repeat Postive Mantras
Another tip I learned from someone who has three young children that get along fabulously well is to do repeatedly use positive mantras. We tell Max all the time:
- Alexa loves you.
- She thinks you’re funny.
- You make her happy.
- She loves playing with you.
The hope is that Max will subliminally reciprocate the same feelings if he thinks Alexa feels a certain way. Meanwhile, in reality, she might be completely oblivious to her brother.
4. Do Not Force Sharing
For the most part, Max and Alexa are amazing together. But the trickiest times are when he gets possessive over his things and doesn’t want her to play with his toys. At this point, we don’t force him to share. We remind him that he should share his toys because she shares her toys with him. (In the spirit of fairness, whenever Alexa plays with Max’s toys, we ask her to thank him for sharing with her and vice versa.) But if he persists, we do not reprimand him, we simply show her another toy that she can play with.
If Max continues to be possessive, we firmly insist that he must allow her to play withsomething but he can choose which toy it is.
5. Give Individual Attention
Before Alexa was born, the only type of attention Max received was individual attention. Now, they are almost always together and he hardly gets any individualized attention. As a result, we pushed Max’s bedtime a little later so that, after we put Alexa to sleep, we can still spend some quality time with him.
Also, Mr. C, being the favorite parent, tries to make Max feel special by having more one-on-one time with Max. He will often take only Max out on small trips and errands. They also have monthly trips to the barber which will be their opportunity to bond going forward.
6. Respond Consistently and Decisively to Unacceptable Behavior
Finally, we have made it explicitly clear to Max that he may never purposefully hurt his sister. (Intent is important!) So if and when he ever does anything intentionally to hurt her, the consequences are swift and clear.
There was a period in time when Max was testing his boundaries with his sister. He was suddenly more aggressive with Alexa but we are always firm and consistent in our response. Thankfully, as a result, we are now past that phase.
Overall, we just make every effort not to treat Alexa in a way that might cause jealously on Max’s part. Sometimes, this results in Max getting preferential treatment. (There are times we have put a crying Alexa down to hold a whining Max before telling him that he’s had his turn and picking Alexa back up. Sorry, Alexa!)
The difference is that he has experienced a time in his life without her whereas she has not. However, as Alexa gets older and becomes more aware, these differences will cease to exist. After all, the last thing we would ever want is for Alexa to grow up thinking that we treat Max better!
No one ever said being a parent is easy and we are constantly balancing on that fine line.
Lotus is a mom blogger and research-junkie who loves to share her favorite products with parents who would rather save their time to do other things. Like sleeping. Or eating. She also blogs about her family and parenting because, you know, it’s a mom blog.
Find her here!