Like most parents, we too thought of having another baby (God gave us twins in our second go) to give company to our first born (the classic reason). That was the plan…till Little Mister Trouble refused to accept the one thing we so happily and lovingly (amidst anxiety of losing exclusivity with my firstborn) planned for him.
The twins arrived home and overnight Baby V was a whole new person. From laughter-filled mornings to cries of ‘species’ decibel, from hugs and kisses, he went to mortifying aggression, from not giving a hoot about my presence (equal parenting rocks right?) to now clinging on to me for dear life (almost becoming like the tail our ancestors had lost). Soon we figured we were in the midst of a breakdown where the firstborn refused to accept his siblings.
Since we are dealing with this at the moment (just 2 months into it), I’m sharing a first-hand account of how we are making our child comfortable with the presence of new and important family members.
Prepare ahead: The best time to prepare your child is to introduce the words “baby brother/ baby sister” while you are expecting. Ask them to gently touch the growing belly and more so do it gently (you can even make him feel the kicks at a later stage). That way the child is mentally prepared to see a new person, even though the initial days after the arrival might be difficult.
Ownership: A lot of good friends told us to address the twins in front of the toddler as “your baby”. The moment the child senses that these babies are not competition, rather they are on his side, more so “his own baby” (toddlers love everything “mine”) and that they are a team, he becomes more loving.
Drop the hierarchy: Suddenly addressing the firstborn child as “big brother/sister” doesn’t necessarily work. No matter how many times you say it, he is still a baby himself, and will not grow overnight. Request the grandparents to also refrain from doing this. Instead of becoming more accepting, he begins to feel alien to this new term and promotion that he hadn’t asked for. For slightly older children who have asked the parents for a sibling, this will work, but again give them the responsibility, not the title.
Responsibility: Include the child in the daily chores of the babies, like getting a fresh diaper, or throwing away the soiled diaper in the bin, fetching a napkin and wiping the baby’s face after a burp. Kids (especially if they are clingy to you) love the inclusion and sense of responsibility. After all, they want to do everything themselves.
The benefit of doubt: Children are loving by nature, but they also have great instincts. The moment we arrived home from the hospital, Baby V touched the babies ever so gently and gave them a kiss on their cheeks. This was completely unprompted by us. However, this may not always continue. The child’s instinct tells him that the new members are a threat to his standing in the house and that his parents are now giving attention to the new babies as well. Thus he tries to hurt the babies in ways of pinching, hitting on the head, etc. If we keep telling them off for coming close to the baby in fear of them hitting, the child will sense it and do exactly that. Treat them with respect and give the benefit of doubt, while being watchful.
Love & attention: That’s the only thing your child is craving for. The babies are too young to know much, hence you can always feed them and pass them on to the grandparents while you spend exclusive time with the toddler. The firstborn needs to be constantly reminded that he is still loved and cared for. Spend more and more time with him while engaging him in things to do for the baby.
Don’t hide: One very important thing my gynecologist told us was the more we hide from the child, the more curious about it he will be. This applies to even while you are nursing the baby, changing their nappy, bathing and even putting them to bed. Let the child hang around you while you are doing these and he will see these are normal and natural.
Most importantly ask for help from parents and friends and reach out to experienced parents if you think you are unable to handle the situation. Remember it is just a phase, but needs to be dealt with carefully and responsibly.