It took me a lot longer than I had hoped to get pregnant with Silver. We battled infertility for nearly 18 months beforehand and that created an even larger age-gap than I was totally comfortable with. There was going to be a nearly five-year gap between my third and fourth child, coming off the previous largest gap being under two years — so I was nervous about sibling jealousy.
I heard stories of sibling jealousy and just how difficult it was to deal with. I heard stories of older kids hurting the younger ones, acting out to get attention, moms having their hearts hurt over the anger of their older children — and well, none of that sounds fun. I was particularly concerned with how my third child, Bean, who was going to be almost 5, was going to deal with all the changes a new baby brings.
She’d been the baby for five years and loved the way her life was. She loved to cuddle me whenever she wanted, she loved to co-sleep when she had a nightmare, and she never had to be too patient for my time as the older two had experienced. I worried about how this was going to affect her, so when Silver arrived, I kept my eyes out for any signs and tried to be as proactive as I could.
I am pleased to say that in the two months that Silver has been in the world, the bond between Bean and him has just been so loving. She has shown no signs of sibling jealousy and has actually become so very fond of him. I believe it’s because of these few steps we have actively taken to help reduce the jealousy, and I am so thankful they seem to be working.
1. We didn’t change the rules
Bean loves to come into our room once in a while and cuddle with me in the middle of the night. We anticipated this wouldn’t change when the baby arrived — that it may even increase a bit as she adjusted to the change. For this reason, we made sure we didn’t change the rules when it came to her sleeping in our room. She doesn’t do it often, but when our door opens at 3 AM and she makes her way to the middle of our bed, I cuddle her just as I had before Silver arrived. In the odd times when she’s not able to (like when Silver is in the bed and my husband is there, too — a safety issue because there isn’t enough room), I will go sleep with her in her bed so she still gets her mommy cuddles. It was important not to have this comfort measure of hers gone because Silver is here.
2. Let her help where she can
If you ask Bean, she will tell you that she’s Silver’s mommy and that’s because she helps out where she can — and we let her. She’s changed his diaper, helped during bath time, chooses his clothes, finds his pacifier, tucks him in and gives him kisses and cuddles all the time. She calls herself his “real mommy” and I am his “yucky mommy,” meaning I do all the things she considers to be “yucky” like cleaning him after he goes to the bathroom, feeding him and wiping up any spit-up. This helps her have an active role and really helps her feel some good responsibility. She’s a sweet little caretaker and is really good at interpreting his cries and letting us know what he needs.
3. We spend a lot of time together
While it wasn’t an ideal situation and not planned out — it just happened with timing — we took our three older kids out of public school in January (just two weeks after Silver was born) and began to home school them. Because of this, we’ve been spending a lot of time together, and Silver is an everyday, all day part of their life. I worried that the kids wouldn’t bond with him as they had together because they were so close in age — we were never apart. Now, while things are a lot more chaotic and balancing all the things has become a challenge, I believe that spending time together as a family and including Silver in all the activities has really helped the kids all feel close.
4. We talked a LOT before baby was born
Like I said, I was really worried how the new baby was going to affect my kids, especially Bean, so we talked a whole lot about what to expect when the new baby came. I think all that talk really helped avoid the jealousy because they knew what to expect. We didn’t just have one conversation but an ongoing one for the duration of my pregnancy. We really tried to prepare them for how much time it would take out of my day. We talked about how they’d need to be more patient, that feeding the baby would come sometimes before them and they’d have to wait a moment. We played baby cries so they knew what it would sound like (I played their cries to them when they were babies), and we were honest about how little babies really do when they’re first home. We also talked often about how I would need their help and that they’re welcome to come to me when they have any questions or if they’re ever feeling left out. Bean was worried about Silver stealing her favorite pillow, so we went out and picked one out for him so he wouldn’t use hers. We stressed how things were going to change, but that we’d all get through it together.
5. We don’t blame things on the baby
I am very careful about how I word things around here as to not place blame on Silver. Yes, I am tired, but according to the kids that’s not because “the baby kept me up.” It’s because “I couldn’t sleep.” It may seem like a small thing, but when it comes to my third child, these things make a big difference. I am also very aware not to ask my children to be quiet. I know it backfires for me many times because their noise often keeps Silver up or wakes him from the nap I’ve been begging him to take, but I feel it’s important. I don’t want to make the older kids change up what they normally would be doing to please Silver — that places blame on him and that’s where the jealousy can come in. I will ask them to keep it down if Silver is asleep, but will say, “Can you keep your voice down so I can think?” or something to that effect rather than, “The baby needs to sleep.”
:: What are some of the things you did to help your children bond and avoid the jealousy? Share in the comments! ::
Photo credits: © Devan McGuinness
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