One of the most heartwarming scenes a mom can witness is seeing her toddler or preschooler gushing over the new baby. Sometimes, however, things don't go as smoothly as planned and the older child develops resentment for his younger sibling. How can you prepare ate or kuya to show the new member of the family some love?
1. Start early Adjusting to having a new baby in the house takes time for everyone, including your older child. It will help if you introduce Ate or Kuya to bunso even before he’s brought home from the hospital. Have her feel the baby kick in your tummy. Talk about possible names for her younger brother and sister. Take her along shopping for the baby’s things — she can help pick out toys that the baby might like.
Avoid calling your older child “baby” once you find out about the pregnancy as well, said Teresa Gumap-as Dumadag, author of Mommy Loves You Just the Same, a children's book to help children welcome a new baby into the family. Call your older child “Kuya” or “Ate” to let him or her get used to the new role.
2. Assign small tasks Looking after a newborn will occupy a lot of your time, but take care not to alienate your older child. Involve Kuya in the everyday tasks. Ask him to get a clean diaper when you’re changing the baby or pick out a onesie after bath time. At bedtime, ask if he would like to sing a lullaby to help the baby sleep. “These ‘chores’ give [your child] a feeling of responsibility and make her feel like an important member of the family,” said Pearl Simmons, a communications and community education specialist, in a column for BabyCenter.
If your baby is a little older, avoid giving your firstborn too much responsibility, however, as this can foster resentment, added Simmons. He may not like being a Kuya anymore if he feels like there’s too much work involved. 3. Don't be too strict “Too much ‘Don't touch! Be careful! Let him sleep!’ can quickly discourage an older sibling from bonding,” said Babble writer Kelle Hampton. Give Ate instructions on how she can show affection. Everyone who holds the baby must be gentle, for example, and clean hands are also a must. With your guidance, let your child touch, kiss, and hug her new baby sibling if she wants to. If you love smelling your baby, let Ate or Kuya do so too! 4. Be generous with praise and attention When your older child is with the baby, give comments like, “Look! The baby’s happy when you play with him!” Praise him when he shows love for his sibling too. You can say something like, “You’re very kind to help push the stroller, Kuya.” According to Simmons, “This will help her feel like a vital part of the baby's life.”
5. Set aside bonding time Remember, your older child will feel like she’s competing with the new baby for your love and attention. While it’s unavoidable that caring for your baby will preoccupy a big chunk of your day, make efforts to show that spending time with your older child is still important to you.
“To avoid any sibling resentment, watch that you don't quickly abandon an older sibling to run and help a fussy baby,” said Hampton. “If the baby starts crying and you're playing with his older sibling, even if you're on your way to attend to the baby, say something for your older child to hear such as, ‘Just a minute, baby. I'm playing with your sister right now, and I'll be there in a minute.’”
6. Give reassurance Your child may ask you who you love more — him or the new baby. A better answer to “I love you both equally” is to tell your child how you love both of them uniquely, advised BabyCenter. “You might say something like: ‘You are my only Amy. In the whole, wide world there is no one quite like you.’”
Moms can tell when an older sibling needs a little extra love and attention. Think of ways you can care for the baby while still bonding with your older child. You can read a book together while you feed your little one, for example. Simmons said, “By talking and listening to your [child] and meeting her emotional needs, you'll help her adjust to her role as a big sister and encourage her to develop a positive and caring relationship with her sibling.”