Moms learn how to listen without using their ears. You already know that your child can communicate that all is not well in her little world without uttering a single syllable. If your typically sweet child exhibits some not-so-sweet antics after a new sibling arrives on the scene, she is sending a message, and it goes something like this: "I don't like sharing you because you are loving, and you are mine." As that loving mom, you can help your child understand that her place in your heart and on your lap are secure.
Validate Your Child's Feelings
A young child may struggle to talk about her feelings, and an older child may simply feel too ashamed of the disapproving feelings toward her sibling to verbalize them. Encourage your child to talk about her feelings and reassure her that negative feelings are sometimes a natural part of the experience. Humor is a magical balm for children's worries. Try interjecting humor into a story about a personal childhood memory of one of your siblings. You can both giggle, and your child will understand that her feelings are neither bad nor unique.
While there are still only 24 hours in your day, you manage to elevate multitasking to a fine art by making time for everyone. Yet your older child will remain unimpressed and unconvinced that you will ever have time for her again. You can prove her wrong with a little planning. For example, it's easy for your older child to feel excluded when the little one is resting quietly in your arms. Engage your child in a conversation about her favorite topic -- herself. Praise your child for being a wonderful helper, remind her of a cherished baby memory, or choose a special story for later. These events teach your child that even when your hands are full, your heart remains full of love for her.
Read and Play
Transform two favorite activities into learning activities. Share books with your child about adjusting to a new sibling and coping with negative feelings. Talk about the story and ask your child to imagine how a character might feel at a specific point in the story. The activity helps children identify feelings related to the new sibling and teaches empathy for others, including the new sibling. Or, make up your own story, and let your child’s stuffed animals act out the story by assuming the characters’ roles.
Although your undivided time and attention are in short supply, reserving one-on-one time for your child is guaranteed to produce a smile. The agenda is not important, and taking your child on a trip to the park or the pharmacy is likely to produce a similar outcome of pure joy. Use small windows of opportunity to make a big difference in your child’s behavior and attitude related to her new sibling.
Becky Swain's first publication appeared in the "Journal of Personality Assessment" in 1984. Her articles have also appeared on various websites. She is an adjunct college instructor, licensed school psychologist and educational consultant. She holds a Master of Science in clinical psychology and a Doctor of Philosophy in educational psychology, both from Mississippi State University.