older sibling and new baby: tips on handling the changes

After nine months of anticipation your older children are so excited to finally meet their new baby brother or sister. What you don’t realize is some kids (mostly the younger ones) get so excited they don’t know what their limits are in terms of handling and playing with the baby. But it’s a catch 22: the more you tell them no and to stay away from the baby, the more they feel unwanted and not as important anymore but if you let them learn on their own, they may do something that could harm the baby out of excitement.

I recently delivered a baby boy and my almost 3 year old son was beyond excited to meet him. He is at an age where he does understand things that I tell him but like any toddler he will many times decide to do what he wants regardless of what mommy and daddy say. The week I came home with the new baby, Ayven got strep and was told that he could not go near mommy or his new baby brother until he had antibiotics for at least 24 hours. No mommy or baby brother on top of all the changes in the house is A LOT for a three year old. Being put in this position, I really learned how to get through to Ayven and teach him boundaries when handling his baby brother while still making him feel he is just as important. Also check out our post on preparing your little one for an arrival of a sibling.

teaching a sibling to be gentle

Here are some tips that worked for my family:

Stay away from the word “Don’t”: Don’t touch him, Don’t kiss him on his face, Don’t lay near him..the word don’t is very negative and for a toddler to hear that with all the changes going on will make them feel unwanted. Try to put yourself in their position that this new person is all of a sudden in your house for good and mommy is ALWAYS with him. Instead of the word don’t explain to them that what they are doing is not gentle and show them a correct way of showing affection.

Distract them: If they are overly hyper or in trantrum mode which is putting them in a position where they are not able to show their affection for the baby in a controlled manner, distracting is the best technique. It’s just a sign of searching for attention so take them to the side and do something with them like a puzzle or building with legos. You will be amazed how much even 10 minutes of attention will calm their minds.

Let them help you: Believe it or not there is a lot toddlers can help you with. Ayven restocks the diapers in the diaper caddy when we run out or he helps me put away the baby’s clothes. There are always little tasks you can give them which will make them feel part of the baby’s life and responsible at the same time.

Include them: If there are activities where you can include all the kids I would say do it. For example, when it’s time to read in our house, I have both boys with me. It makes the older one feel like part of the family and that mommy and daddy are doing things together. You can sit and watch a movie, even if the new baby is facing you, to the toddler it’s something you are doing together.

Reward them: Reward them for being a good big brother or sister. Positive reinforcement is key at this age. If they do something to help mommy or the baby or even play well with the new baby, give them a treat or at least some recognition.

One on one time: Make sure you give one on one time to each kid and they all see it. Show them how mommy and daddy wants to spent time with each child on their own and as a family. It is really crazy how it makes the kids feel super special that they get “their” alone time in. I have been letting Ayven sit on the counter while I make dinner. I teach him about all the different foods and he gets in his mommy time and of course gets to be a taste tester!

A tip for all the mommies out there! Don’t stress out when you have all the kids together because they feel our stress. Stay calm (I know it is easier said then done) and take one thing at a time 🙂

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