by Shirley King
A wonderful gift parents can give their child is the ability to get along with other people. For a child, this begins with the bonding an d attachment in the parent-child relationship.
Later, with the birth of a sibling, parents have the opportunity to help their child to learn how to deal with the ups and downs of personal relationships with others, beginning with their new sibling.
Parents want their children to get along together, to care for and love each other. There are several things parents can do with the birth of a second (or more) child, to help get the relationship off to a good start, that hopefully will last many years into the future.
1. Parents need to bo emotionally available, and listen with their heart to their child–acknowledging, accepting, and understanding her feelings. “You sound annoyed at the idea that a baby is coming. I understand.” There’s no need to deny, reject, or try to change what she feels.
2. Parents need to help their child feel good about herself. Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, write, “Children who think well of themselves are less likelt to attack their siblings and more likely to be helpful to them.”
3. A mother also needs to work on her own self-esteem and create positive feeling about her pregancy and upcoming birth. Your joy and optimism will convey to the child that all is well in the world.
4. The concept of time is much different to a child than it is for an adult. Instead of saying the baby is coming in five months, say the baby is coming sometime around Easter.
5. Talk to the child about the baby. Prepare her for what’s to come. Go see other newborns if possible.
6. Parents can include the child in daily affirmation for the baby. One mother said aloud with her daughter, “Our baby is happy, healthy, beautiful, and smart.”
7. If you’re tired or sick, don’t say, “I can’t play now, this pregnancy is giving me morning sickness,” because she could resent the baby even before it is born!
8. As soon as possible after the birth, include the child in the bonding process. Show her how to have loveing eye-to-eye contact with the baby and how to hug gently. This will help her fall in love with the baby. If she’s fallen in love with him she’ll be more likely to share and play with him when he is older rather than fight with him.
9. Get help with meals and housework for the first week or so if possible. Spend this precious time with the baby and the child together. On the couch you can nurse, and read a book to your child. This will help her not feel “dethroned.”
10. Children who feel totally and completely loved by the parent will accept the parent loving someone else–in this case, the new baby. Be sure your child feels your unconditional love for her no matter what.
11. This is a great time to encourage, notice, and comment on the older child’s kindness. Say things like, “Valerie, I appreciate how you brought Ryan his rattle. I’m sure his heart is smiling from your kindness.”
12. Bring “Our baby” into the child’s life as much as possible. Help her to know how we’re all familt together and now we have more love here.
13. Encourage empathy. Say “Oh, listen Leah, Logan is getting fussy. Let’s see what he needs. I wonder if he’s hungry. What do you think?” This will help to devolp he empathy and compassion for others and help her to learn to ask herself, “How can I help?”
14. This is not the time to enroll her in a day care or preschool. It would be too easy for her to feel “gotten rid of” which might lead to aggresion against the parent or the baby.
15. And finally, a word about the family atmosphere. If the parents are happy with each other and handle their disagreements respectfully, the children tend to reflect this attitude in their relationship with each other. ask yourselves, what sort of family atomsphere are we promoting and modeling?
The love with in families is what we’re talking about here. The preparation we parents can do each time a baby is born can help ensure the family love will carry on. With a lot of education and time, we can help our children, bring that love one day into their future families. Isn’t that worth it?