A new addition to the family is always a challenge. More often than not it is good news. However, there is always a myriad of considerations to make for the newcomer and no matter how much notice you have had, how many preparations have been made, the change will disrupt the lifestyle and rhythm of the family.
Most parents who introduce their first born to a new brother or sister are well aware of, if not totally accustomed to, the difficulties that may arise. Parents read up on the subject of ‘how to introduce your child /children to a new sibling’. They talk to their children and to other parents to prepare themselves for the new addition and to avoid the possibility of hostile sibling reception.
Unfortunately, it seems to me that much of the parents’ good intentions are quickly forgotten when “New addition” comes along. What usually happens is that a lot of focus is now on the new family addition and not much follow-up is done on how the older sibling receives the new baby. Usually the older siblings seek attention through tantrums and rebellious behaviour that only ends up frustrating the parents. Yes, the older child may get some intense attention but it may be in form of reprimands for bad behaviour, which may only sow seeds for future sibling rivalry and /or unhealthy competition.
Parents tend to regard sibling fights and disagreements in an off-handed matter-of- course way. When John or Mary fight and complain about each other, parents tend to ignore the situation or rationalize it by telling themselves that kids will be kids, he or she didn’t mean any harm, or that they will outgrow the fighting.
On the other hand, some children warm to a new sibling without incident. They welcome the new bundle of joy and take to it like their very own special something. They go on to take the role of “responsible elder” or “protector” without any displays of regression to childish tantrums or aggressive behaviour. Others spend a lifetime believing they are not as good as the newcomer.
They persist with the offensive attention seeking behaviour fostered by feelings of jealousy and resentment. Sometimes there are also deep-rooted feelings of inadequacy as the adult “ooh” and “aah’s” at the new baby, showering the new baby with attention and praises and often forgetting to validate the older child’s feelings! These same early feelings of inadequacy can grow into sibling abuse: a family’s dirty secret that unlike spousal abuse, rarely makes headlines, but leaves invisible scars.
But preparing for a new addition to the family shouldn’t fill us with feelings of dread and worry. As parents we just need to make an effort to be more aware of the older siblings as well as our partners. Even the other parent can start to feel jealous and resentful when all the attention goes to the newcomer. How much more vulnerable are our children to the power of their emotions.
Parents, let us learn to enjoy and treasure moments with ALL of our children and to respect and acknowledge each other’s feelings as a family on the whole. I have learned that there is a lot of healing in sharing! Enjoy the bundle of joy – together!