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Helping a Sibling Adjust to Baby

In my previous blog I noted that my friend, Bev, emailed the mommy focus group, asking if any of us mourned the loss of time with our older child when the baby came. “Yes!” was the overwhelming response. I am reprinting parts of my friend Cathy’s, response to Bev (with her permission--thanks, Cathy) because I think that it is very insightful. Cathy has three children; Cori, 5; Phil 3; and Nina 1. Cathy writes:

I absolutely mourned the loss of the one on one time and later the one on two time. It is a transition time for everyone. I shed tears over it although I doubt I could have verbalized it well at the time. I think it doesn't hurt to say it too, or to verbalize it simply for you or for [your child]. I made sure I told Cori often how much I loved her. I also told her something like, "I know this is a big change for you. It is a big change for everyone, but it doesn't change how much I love you. I still love you just as much as always and more" or "I love Phil and am glad he is here, but I do miss our time together with just us." I did some informal journaling about the transition (very, very brief writings, usually from emails to friends or family). Talking on the phone with other moms of more than one child helped too.

What Abby wrote was true for us too. The more I could do with Cori, especially right before feeding the younger one, the better. I was never really great at anticipating that with Nina and juggling three kids, but Phil didn't nurse, he was bottle fed, so that meant that my husband could share that more with me. With Nina, I made sure to have a special toy (Leap Pad) that only came out at nursing times for Cori, so she had something to look forward to. This didn't work as well with Phil (we tried using trains and then a special CD with a song he really liked), but really helped a lot with Cori. A book a friend gave us for the sibling to complete about the baby also helped a lot, especially with Cori. It was great for her to have something focused on her and not the baby. We also gave Cori and Phil special roles/tasks to play or do when we had guests. This helped them feel just as important as the baby when everyone was oohing and ahhing over the baby instead of them. They both made sure that people washed their hands before touching the baby and that they showed them where the supplies were to do that.

As much as I was able, I also tried to stick with our usual routines of going out daily to the park, fixing the same food for meals and same bedtime routine. The evening, after Cori and Phil went to bed, was really the best bonding time for me with Nina. I definitely met Nina's needs during the day - diapering and feeding mostly - but I tried to give lots of attention to the other two. Also, when I could give Cori a way to help out with the baby (can you shake the bottle for me? or can you get a diaper for me?) that helped her feel needed and important. Phil also wanted to help out and that worked some.

It is a big change, though. With each new child, your time is just divided more and that is a big change and in many ways a loss. I do try to work hard at finding special ways to still have some one on one time with each child. I can do some during naps and quiet time with Cori because Nina and Phil both nap longer than her quiet time. Sometimes its reading a special book with her, looking at her photo album, doing an art project (such as paints which is often messier and harder with the younger ones) or having a tea party. Phil is often the first one up in the morning, so there is time there with him to snuggle or fix our breakfast together or set up a unique train track pattern. Plus, we also try to schedule special times with each one individually - going out for breakfast with one parent once a month or going to the park with just one parent or playing a special game with just one parent.

It has taken a while, but now Cori and Phil are best buddies and play so incredibly well together. They really enjoy playing with each other and genuinely miss the other one when not around. They can both be really creative together. I don't doubt that when Nina is a little older, she will join in too. There is nothing quite like seeing them giggle and laugh together over a silly way of doing something that they came up with or hearing one of them say, "Hey Cori, let's do..." or "Hey Phil, how about..." That is the silver lining/blessing in having more than one child and it is truly priceless and wonderful.


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