From Only to First: Siblings

Your first born is everything. Your mini-me gets all that love and attention without any real competition (except maybe from the dog). But then, your only child becomes a big sibling. As excited as you are to grow your family, you wonder how your kid will be with their new brother/sister. You can’t help but feel guilty knowing that all that time you spent with them will soon be limited with the arrival of a new baby. Despite these worries, the second child is on its way and your first born will be an influence in their little sibling’s life, whether they want one or not.

Under the Influence

Sibling relationships have as much influence on a child’s development as parenting does. Siblings are a child’s first playmate and a major influence on their social skills. Older siblings develop leadership and conflict resolution when dealing with their brothers/sisters. Additionally, they also help little ones their boost skills like language and sharing at an earlier age. Studies have shown that younger siblings help build empathy and understanding of another person’s perspective in their older counterparts. As they mature, siblings further influence each other in a more practical sense; such as chores, homework, or peer relations outside of family.

From One to Many

No one said that the transition from only to oldest would be easy. Our son was an only child for 3 years until the birth of his twin sisters in 2020. Although he was excited to have new playmates, they weren’t what he initially expected. Early on, he became aware that the attention he was once given as a singleton had been significantly divided. He wasn’t used to more responsibility and the independence we needed from him when his sisters arrived. His nights (along with ours) were not quiet, and his toys became fair game if left out on the living room floor. However, with guidance and patience, we found our own rhythm as a family of five.

 Here’s some things we’ve tried to help the transition:

  • Prepping is everything. No one likes to be caught off-guard, including kids. Let them know that they will be a big sibling and what to expect before, during, and after their little brother/sister arrives. There are a lot of books about babies and becoming a big brother/sister to help talk about their new role (our pick was How to Grow a Dinosaur by Jill Esbaum which our son references from time to time). You can also invest in a baby doll (or use their favorite stuffed animal) to help them understand how to appropriately play and care for a new baby.

  • The more things change, more it stays the same. Some things should stay constant to ensure your kid feels stable and secure with this change. Try to keep your child’s routine the same as much as possible, including their hobbies and social/extracurricular calendar. The more their schedule stays intact, the less likely they will hold a grudge or assume favoritism.

  • All hands on deck. As the newest member of your family arrives, include your child in all the hoopla. This can be picking out toys, books, or outfits, helping decorate the nursery, and getting all the baby gear together. Once baby arrives, encourage positive interactions between the two. That may be getting the bottles for their new sibling, making silly faces to make them laugh, or even rolling on the floor during tummy time. These engagements, although small, help build rapport and establish a bond for years to come.

  • Praise. Let your oldest know when they are doing a great job as a big sibling. If they helped with diaper changing, say thanks. If they stopped their little brother/sister from sticking a fork in an outlet, appreciate them. If they tolerated a 30-minute scream without a meltdown, let them know they handled it like a champ.  A simple sign of appreciation goes a long way in your kid’s confidence and encourages them to interact with their sibling more.

  • The waiting game. Although your youngest may be pitching a fit for moment, teach them to wait if you’re currently addressing the needs of your oldest. Not only are you establishing the foundations of patience in your baby, you’re also letting your firstborn know that they are still important and not second-fiddle.

  • It’s still you and me, kid. Plot out time to have one-on-one time with your kiddo, especially if that was something you used to do before baby. I like to build Lego models with my son when his sisters are asleep, and I still read to him every night. I cherish these moments with him and remind him that he is still my “baby boy” and that I love him very much. This helps him know that despite the presence of his little sisters and the attention they need, it doesn’t take away from the love I still have for him as a mom.

Your eldest will follow your lead on how to act and interact with the newest family member. So, show them the ropes and remember that you raised a wonderful kid who will be a wonderful older sibling.

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