Since ‘Beetle’s’ arrival four weeks ago, a question that we’re continually asked is how L has taken to the change. It’s obviously a totally valid enquiry. After 3.5 years of it just being her, she now has a sibling. Not intending to get too dramatic about it, but this has the potential to knock her world of its axis. For her entire life, she’s been an only child. However, the appearance of a little brother means that her life going forwards will no longer be the same as it was up until a few weeks ago. The times they are a-changin’.
To date, everything has been for her and about her, with very little consideration required for anyone else. That’s not to say that she’s spoilt. Far from it. She’s a very sweet, caring and considerate child, but (I imagine) there’s a huge difference between sharing a toy at nursery compared to sharing your parents, your house, your toys and your life with a newborn baby. A little human, which let’s be honest, she didn’t really have a say about. It’s a forced change rather than one she signed up to.
We’ve obviously considered the impact on L to some degree. However, truth be told, it’s not until I started to write this post that the sheer enormity of the change has sunk in and made me reflect on just how well she’s coped. That’s probably my fault – I have high expectations and standards for her, so I assume that she’ll always take to situations like the proverbial duck to water. I guess, to some extent, I expected her to be a great older sibling, so it’s not surprised me that she’s currently on that path.
I should give her more credit though – she is only 3.5 years old after all. I know that she’s done brilliantly over the last few weeks – not only when it comes to being around her brother and in how she interacts with him, but also in adapting to the change and the impact it’s had on her life. She loves to help us out when we’re doing something for him, she proudly boasts to anyone that’ll listen about him and she’s genuinely so excited to see him in our bedroom every morning. It really is the cutest thing and I couldn’t be prouder.
Sure, the first four weeks as an older sibling haven’t always been as plain sailing as the above may sound. There’s been times when she’s played up, not listened or gone in a mood – however, these could just be attributed to her being a threenager. She can also be a bit over zealous – for instance, patting him a bit too hard or holding him a bit too tight, however this comes from a nice place rather than one filled with spite and hate.
Surprisingly, there’s been no jealousy – or at least no external behaviour which suggests jealousy. It would be completely understandable for her to feel this way as she now has to share the limelight with her little brother. The only thing that could be construed in that way has been her saying that “Mummy is Beetle’s best friend” and that “things have changed”. I kind of expected tantrums galore or regressive behaviour, but luckily this hasn’t been the case…so far…
Part of the reason why she’s responded so brilliantly to being an older sibling will be down to her personality. As mentioned, she’s naturally caring, thoughtful and considerate, so it’s not surprising to see this behaviour around her brother. However, I’d also like to think that we’ve helped prepare her for the change in our own way – both before the birth and since he popped into the world.
So, with that in mind, I thought I’d share four things which we’ve actively done to get the older sibling used to the younger one.
Talk To Them About The Change
A big part of accepting change is having the time to get used to it and the opportunity to think, ask questions and talk about it – bet you can’t tell I used to be a business consultant, eh?! She may not be *that* old, but at just over 3 years old, we felt our daughter was mature and smart enough for us to start having proper conversations about the fact that things would change. To be honest, we’ve always spoken to her like an adult, so we saw no reason to treat this situation differently.
She obviously knew the missus was pregnant, so this acted as a starting point to talk about what the future would be like, namely there’d be another little person in the house. This allowed us to talk about her role as older sibling, discuss how things may change and build up the excitement in preparation for his arrival. Something that really helped was buying a big sister book (‘I’m A Big Sister’ by Joanna Cole), as this allowed her to understand and ask questions with the book as an aid.
Keep Things The Same (Or As Much As Possible)
Something we’ve been keen to do is not change our regular routine too much. For nearly three years, it’s just been L and I at home during the week, so we have a regular pattern when it comes to days out, nursery and toddler classes. Despite the new baby and the missus being around, I’ve been eager to stick to doing the same things so that L doesn’t associate ‘Beetle’s’ arrival with negative changes and impacts on her life. In fact, if anything, it’s got us out more as a family.
For instance, stopping her two days at nursery because both parents are at home would make logical sense from a money perspective. However, she loves nursery and it wouldn’t be fair to take that away from her just because she now has a baby brother. Similarly, we do Water Babies and Tumble Tots each week – particularly during the early weeks, it would have been easy for me to say “I’m too tired today” or “we need to stay at home because of your baby brother”. However, again, this is ‘punishing’ her because of a change that she had no say in. Keeping things the same ensures no negative associations are made with her brother.
Get Them Involved
Again, getting all change management-y on you, people are most likely to adapt to and adopt change if they feel they are part of it. So, rather than exclude L from things, we’ve tried to get her as involved as possible. The last thing I want is for her to be feel like she’s been left on her own as the missus and I focus on ‘Beetle’, so we’ve done everything we can to get her involved.
This doesn’t have to be big things – just anything to get her feeling like she still matters and that we need her help. So, for instance, we ask her to assist us with all manner of little brother-related tasks – getting nappies and wipes, choosing his outfit for the day, putting away his clean clothes, helping to burp him, pushing the pushchair, giving him a bath or soothing him when he’s crying. As she feels part of the change and a vital part of the cog, she has no reason to view him as a threat.
Give Them The Opportunity To Bond
The sibling bond takes time. Each and every day, we see L’s feelings towards her brother grow stronger and stronger. This is incredible to witness – and also a huge relief. I think part of this just happens through osmosis. The more he’s around and we’re all together, the more she sees him as part of the family and begins to care. It’s pack mentality.
We’ve also given her the opportunity to bond when she wants to. So, for instance, if she asks if she can give him a kiss or have him on her lap, then we’ll make this happen. It’s a balance though – we’ve learnt not to force it. In typical kid fashion, if you ask her if she wants to do something, then she’s more than likely to say “no”. So, we’ve given her the space to choose to bond when she wants to, rather than making her do it. I think this has worked well.
So those are my initial thoughts and suggestions on sibling relationships in the early days. It’s a huge change for the older sibling and it’s important to make sure they’re OK and not forgotten about as you’re stuck in the baby bubble. What are your experiences of younger and older siblings? Is there anything in particular you did during the first few months to ensure a good bond? Let me know below!