Updated: Aug 30, 2020
If someone asked you to pick a favourite child, you’d be amused. It is because you love all your children, unprejudiced. Though your firstborn (or any of the elder siblings) isn’t going to know or understand that, especially if they are too young to understand what you say. We often think that the newborn needs more attention but it is the sibling that needs attention. The newborn needs care and to be looked after. They are happy as long as they are warm, well-fed and clean. The sibling(s), on the other hand, find it hard to come in terms with the new feeling of possessiveness.
There is a shift in attention when a newborn arrives. Friends and family when visiting, bring goodies for the newborn leaving the sibling pine. Everyone enquires about the baby and are cautious from letting the sibling cause any harm. Some even compare, needless to say, if the sibling can understand what you say, it lays the bed to sibling rivalry.
Firstborn syndrome or older child syndrome is what the elder sibling faces when all the love and attention gets directed to the little one. All this while, they were the centre of your universe and now they have taken the back seat. From being the only baby of the house to now taking charge as the responsible elder brother/sister, they experience a 180-degree change. In the process of having to compete for attention with their sibling, competitiveness becomes a part of their personality. In general, the firstborn is mostly progressive, independent, they lead, strong-willed and might be a perfectionist. As being the first child, we parents tend to be extra cautious and enthusiastic. We want them to learn as much as possible and unknowingly drill them to achieve.
When we have our second child, we often make the mistake of thinking that the firstborn can take care of himself/herself. In addition, we want them to scale up and become the responsible big brother/sister. The shift in attitude towards them makes them feel neglected and pressurised. And this is where sibling rivalry roots from.
Here is what you can do for a smooth transition from the only child to the loving sibling
● Communicate - Prepare your child for the arrival of the newborn by communicating to them. Give them a positive feeling about their sibling such as they are going to get a new play buddy. Unless your child is too small to understand, making them understand about the arrival of their sibling is vital.
● Let them be children - your firstborn is still a child and let them be so. Let them be how they were prior to the baby. Don't burden them with the stigma of a big brother/sister. Rather teach them to be gentle and compassionate. This will also inculcate the character of nurturing in your first child.
● Dedicate time for your firstborn - Spending time alone with your firstborn will do wonders to your relationship. Your child will know that you can give them undivided love and attention and your bond will become stronger. Play with them, take them for a stroll, involve them in a few daily activities (ones which are safe).
● Involve them in taking care of the baby - Asking them to watch the baby during your bathroom break or while you answer the door, or to help with a diaper change and cleaning the newborn's spit-up are small ways to get them involved in taking care of their sibling. This way, they'll not feel neglected but also grow to be a caring sibling.
If you have twins, there is always the 'elder' and the 'younger' amongst the twins and this happens naturally.
These apply to most of the families though some families face exceptions. Your firstborn might be a special child or they simply might not be of the above personalities. You might've lost a child after your firstborn and you might be overprotective of the newborn. In such situations, seeking guidance from a professional family therapist is vital in building the family bond. There is no hard and fast method of parenting. It is malleable and flexible and that's what makes it beautiful. It is one of the most testing phases but also the most beautiful.
Image source : Unsplash