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Monday, August 25, 2014

Minimising New Baby Sibling Anxiety

I had my own strategy for keeping such sibling rivalry or insecurity to the minimum. It may sound pretty radical to some, but since it worked pretty well in helping my three older kids to adjust to a new sibling, I figured it might be worth posting about just in case anyone else might find it useful. 

The strategy started from the first encounter.

What I did the moment I came back from the hospital was to immediately put the baby down, purposely ignoring the baby and paying ALL my attention to the older one. I waited for the older one to notice, comment about or ask to approach the baby. The conversation went something like this:

Older kid: Baby is crying.
Me: Oh, is that so? What should we do?
Older kid: Carry baby?
Me: I suppose we could. Are you going to carry or shall I do it?
Older kid: I dunno how to carry.
Me: Then may I carry him then?
Older kid: Yes.

I figured that a newborn is not able to understand much of what's going on and will cry a lot anyway. Thus, I always gave priority to the older one and asked his "permission" or sought his understanding before attending to the baby. When both needed me at the same time, I attended to the older one first. Somehow, when the older ones saw me ignore the cries of the baby, their protective and compassionate older sibling instinct kicked in and prompted them to urge me to do something about it. 

Also, I NEVER showed overt affection to the baby in front of the older one during the first few months. I didn't comment that the baby was cute, good or anything positive while the older kid was the around. Instead, I made it a point to praise the older one for being a wonderful sibling especially when he/she responded kindly to the baby. I didn't ask them to keep quiet while the baby slept, or asked them to help with the baby unless they showed interest to help on their own. After I ascertained that the older kid had completely accepted the baby, by which time the baby would have started to show more awareness, I gradually required more consideration from the older one. 

So far, my strategy worked for my 4 kids.

Even as they grow older, I make sure I discipline the younger ones the same way I disciplined the older ones and not use age as an excuse for the younger siblings to misbehave. I avoid asking them to give in to the younger ones. In fact, I will protect the older ones if the younger sibling is disturbing them and physically remove him/her from their presence. 

I'm thankful that sibling rivalry or anxiety at home is kept to the minimum and they are very loving to one another. My older ones take very good care of the younger ones. Although sibling squabbles are part and parcel of growing up in a big family, I did not have to deal with significant regressions or jealousy due to sibling anxiety. I have indeed been blessed with pretty smooth transitions between children.

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