Photo Courtesy of Sharon Russell-Benton, Benton Photography.
Each time a new baby enters the family, there is a period of adjustment, for everyone. After having 3 kids myself, I have experienced 3 periods of family adjustment, and 2 of those periods with other siblings in tow. Sometimes you are surrounded by chaos; kids melting down, demanding your attention from all sides, hitting or grabbing the baby. It can take tremendous energy to just get through the day, trying to manage all the behaviors.
I think one of the hardest elements of sibling adjustment occurs because we often feel that we have a limited amount of time and attention to go around. Especially if we are also working, doing housework, and the rest of our time and energy goes into caring for baby. It can be hard to find the balance between giving older siblings the loving attention they need, while balancing the needs of an infant.
I have seen with my son and daughter that they are often happiest when they can be a part of the family bonding experience. If they feel they can contribute and help with baby, they feel valued and important. They are recognized as productive members of the family. It gives them a sense of confidence in their abilities, and promotes development of ethics and responsibility.
My 2.5 year old son loves to feed the baby, and hold her. My daughter enjoys making funny faces at her, and getting her to laugh. This bonding time allows them to feel more positively about the baby, and develop a relationship with their new sibling.
However, sometimes kids just need time alone, and to be recognized as individuals. They need their own time with parents as well. It can help to carve out time each week, to spend with each child. Even 20 minutes a day, or an hour long play session on the weekend, can give kids the emotional boost they need to get through the rest of the week.
What happens when you have older siblings who are much older than baby? They may find taking care of the baby to be more of a chore, like baby-sitting. Make sure that they are getting their own time to play with friends, get out of the house, and participate in their own activities. This will give them the independence and space they need to be able to come back and reconnect with their family members.
Remember, it is about fostering a balance. Between family time, sibling bonding, and alone time or individual attention. When older siblings receive this balance, they are much better able to adjust to the transition, and this helps to minimize any “acting out” behaviors they may display. It gives them a sense of purpose and validation as productive and important members of the family.