I think I’ve heard more stories about older children not accepting the arrival of their new baby siblings than I have heard of full acceptance. Comments such as, “Throw X into the rubbish bin,” and stories about the older child bullying the baby have naturally made me apprehensive about the kind of relationship that will develop between Gavin and Gareth.
With Gavin still rather attached to me, it’s hard to imagine how he would take the idea of sharing Mummy with his baby brother. At the same time, I also want to balance off my time with Gavin to ensure that his baby brother doesn’t get too much of the short end of the stick. Of course, by nature of the fact that Gareth is the second child, he will never get to experience the relationship I had with Gavin when I was able to fully devote myself to him.
The general consensus has been that the second child “knows no better” since the older sibling is present from birth. Since you can’t miss what you never had, that means child that we really need to manage is the older one. However, that doesn’t mean that no. 2 shouldn’t get to have Mummy all to himself from time to time either.
So how do you raise two children as harmoniously as possible? Well, I have heard lots of ideas but never having tested them out on my test subjects (and I won’t be able to until Gareth is born), it’s hard to say at this point how effective I think these methods are. Nevertheless, I thought it would be a good idea to sum them up here.
1. Get the older child up to scratch on things
First things first, it is important to actually tell your older child that there’s going to be a new baby in the family. Of course, depending on how old your older child is, there will be differing levels of understanding as to what it really means to have a new baby in the family.
Gavin was nearly two and a half when hubby and I found out I was pregnant. Since then we have told Gavin and he even seems rather positive about the whole idea. He is completely fascinated by my growing bump and equates my protruding belly button to the baby. He loves stroking the baby bump when he’s nursing which I encourage as a sign of affection from him. Gavin tells me he loves baby and he talks to Gareth from time to time. A couple of times he told me that Gareth wanted to play trains with him.
Sounds good so far. However, I was still a bit concerned that the news was still pretty much all in concept and that the actual understanding that a real live baby is coming to live with us hasn’t really been grasped. Right now, baby and Mummy are a single being. What happens when baby becomes a separate little bundle of his own?
Well, we went to a friend’s house and I carried her newborn baby in Gavin’s presence. Gavin displayed no animosity toward the baby nor were there any fits of jealousy. In fact, when the baby lay in her crib crying, he ran to her and said, “Baby don’t cry.” He was intensely curious about the baby the entire time and liked to peer at her from over the edge of the day cot. It would appear to me that Gavin has innate older brother qualities because I have not taught him any of this behaviour.
The real test now will be when a baby is permanently in our midst – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The temporary presence of a baby might be one thing, but the full-time presence is something different altogether.
I still remember an incident when Gavin was very young – below one year but crawling. His godsister’s usual babysitting arrangements were up in the air and her mother had to go to work so she spent two whole days with us. The first morning she arrived, Gavin was beside himself. He simply loved the idea of having someone his size to play with.
It went well until the afternoon nap. After he woke up, I brought him downstairs and he saw that his godsister was still around. Not only that, but she was sitting in his highchair being fed by his Ah Mah (grandma). Suffice to say that there was such a look of hostility on that young face that one would not have thought possible. It was almost as if his godsister had overstayed her welcome, for gone was the morning’s excitement of having a playmate.
2. Exchange of presents
This was recommended by several parents – my MIL, my cousin and my BFF. After the arrival of the new baby, there will be lots of presents and gifts for the baby. Much of the attention will be focused on the baby and the older child is quickly forgotten.
Indeed, I felt this after Gavin was born. Everyone seems to forget that I existed and only had eyes for the baby. As an adult, I can still remember how it felt. Just imagine what it must feel like if you are a child with even less understanding?
To help the older child cope, it is recommended that you buy a few extra presents and wrap them up. Most of them can be just little surprises, but get one nice present that is given to your older child when the baby is born and tell him it comes from the baby. The remaining presents can be handed out from time to time as visitors come bearing more gifts for the baby. This way, your older child won’t feel so left out.
3. Sending the older child to school
I think this is going to be a long one, so I’ll talk more about it in the next post.
In the meantime, if you have any suggestions of your own, I’d love to hear all about them in the comments below.