Adding a new family member is a big transition for everyone. If it’s your first, you have to get used to being responsible for someone other than just yourself 24/7. Even though I was a nanny for many years before becoming a mother, I still had a pretty significant adjustment period when we brought Zinashi home. Then when we added Elvie to our family, we had to adjust again, but also help Zinashi adjust to having another little person vying for our time and attention. While we’d done our best to teach her to wait and to be considerate of the needs of others before Elvie came, there was nothing that we could do that would truly prepare her. We laid some foundations, and Zinashi was truly overjoyed to become a big sister, everyday life sometimes presents big opportunities for little jealousies to creep in. It’s normal for an older sibling to feel a little displaced when a new baby enters the family, and we recognize that. Just a little added effort on our part has made the jealousy diminish. Below are six strategies we’ve used to help Zinashi work through her jealousy and enjoy being a family of four.
Our Six Strategies for Staving Off Older Sibling Jealousy
Clearly she was happy to become a big sister. We want to keep that happiness going as much as possible.
Have Regular One-on-One Time
Every day while the baby naps, I try to take a little bit of time to talk with Zinashi alone, but what has made the biggest difference is having a larger block of time each week that she spends alone with me. Often we just run an errand together, but the important part is that it’s uninterrupted time to talk and be together.
Point Out How Much Baby Likes Older Siblings
Zinashi is Elvie’s favorite person. She sees a photo of Zinashi and starts clapping, and she wants to be doing everything Zinashi does. I make an effort to point out every day some way that Elvie has shown admiration for Zinashi.
Let Older Siblings Help with Baby, Even If It's Not That Helpful
Sometimes there will be little tasks to be done that are truly helpful, such as grabbing a pacifier or a burp cloth, but other times there aren’t. Does Elvie’s hair need to be styled? No, but I called it a big help anyway. The goal is to make Zinashi feel like an important part of Elvie’s care.
Allow Older Siblings to Decline to Help
While I love it when Zinashi is into helping out with Elvie, it’s also true that Elvie’s care is not her responsibility. If I ask her to help with Elvie in some way and she would rather not, I don’t force her. I want her to feel good about her interactions with Elvie, whether they are playful or helpful.
Baby Your Older Child a Little Bit Sometimes, Too
One of the main things that has bothered Zinashi about being a big sister now is that she’s no longer the baby. I tell her that she will always be my first baby, and sometimes I help her with things that she can do herself. I’ve got to put actions behind my words, and things like letting her have a stroller ride or feeding her some of her dinner are easy to do.
Share Good Memories of Your Older Child as a Baby
We adopted Zinashi at age three, but she was still our baby. She loves to sit on my lap now and hear about what she was like when we first adopted her. We tell the story of meeting her and all the funny things she used to do, as well as cozy times we had together. We point out all the ways that she was and is adored, just like her baby sister.