Firstborns get the best – and the worst – of their parents. For a lot of parents, the firstborn is the child who experiences their first mistakes and their first success as moms and dads. And let ’s be honest, you WILL make mistakes. But it’s okay, it’s part of your learning process.
But the trade-off for being your parenting training wheels is that your firstborn also gets more of you. With no sibling competition, your eldest child also receives your complete attention and focus during the first years of their lives. This is why it’s not uncommon for the elder child to express jealousy, anger, or fear when they first meet their younger sibling. The little brother or sister is the one who, in their eyes, is stealing the parental love away.
It’s never entirely true, of course – but this is how your firstborn will perceive it. In fact, the change from being an only child to becoming a big brother or sister is a massive one. Understanding how that change affects your relationship with your firstborn, and helping your “only” transition to big-siblingdom with grace and love, will go a long way toward promoting family harmony.
This is a collaboration post. However, please know I stand behind everything written here, and only include links to products/services/resources I’m willing to recommend personally.
Helping Your Only Child Transition To Being A Big Sibling
Get them psyched up for the change
You won’t be able to hide your pending arrival from your firstborn forever, so take the time to acknowledge the changes coming and frame them in a positive light. This was easy for me because I was always very close to my younger brother Evan, thanks to the conscious efforts my mama made to ensure this bond. So from the start, I told Kimmie how lucky she was that Baby Sibling was coming, because she and Baby Sibling were going to be best friends for life.
I also had great luck with a piece of advice I picked up along the way somewhere: cement those future bonds with small gifts. For Kimmie’s second birthday, when I was in the final trimester of my pregnancy with Essie, “Baby Sibling” gave Kimmie a toy train. Kimmie LOVED that train, and kept playing with it long after she’d outgrown it, because it was the first gift Essie had ever given her.
Likewise, I picked out a small stuffed animal for Kimmie to give Baby Sibling in the hospital. But I also found one for Baby to give to Kimmie. To this day, Kimmie sleeps with that stuffed animal because it was the present Essie gave her when Essie entered the world.
Reconnect while working out
You’ve been through the drill before, so you know the first months after giving birth are challenging. There’s the hormone surges, the massive sleep deprivation, and trying to heal your body. Even though this isn’t the first time you’re experiencing these changes, you’ll still need to allow your body time and space to recover.
Use this to your advantage: Have your firstborn join in your back-in-shape program. You can explain to your firstborn that you need to get back into shape after Baby’s arrival so you can be an active, healthy mama who’s there for them and their sibling. And you’ll be surprised by the support you receive. Your firstborn will be happy for the opportunity to build something new with you – and they might even join you during your workouts.
In fact, I encourage this. One of my earliest memories is going out with my mama to a Mommy-and-Me pool class after my baby brother was born. I felt so special having this “us” time together. After Essie was born, I had Kimmie “helping” me with my gardening and riding in the bike trailer behind me as part of my back-into-shape agenda. You can even begin this special time before your second arrives; Kimmie and I Mommy-and-Me water time while I was still pregnant with Essie.
Help them adjust – and let them help you!
You can’t expect your child to adjust by themselves to the presence of a younger sibling. It’s hard to share parental love and attention at any age, and that’s precisely why you need to make it clear to your firstborn that mommy and daddy still love them. Give your child the chance to express their fears and worries at any time.
You can encourage them to use a simple sentence ‘I need attention’, for instance, to let you know that they’re struggling with the situation. Ultimately, you can also invite your child to help you with the baby, which is a good way of making them feel included and valuable to the family.
And it really doesn’t take much encouragement to get them to help out. Start prepping them for this “big-kid” role before Baby arrives, by telling them how important their help will be once Baby comes. Kimmie was an expert at helping Mama position her nursing pillow, ferrying bottles to Daddy, and sorting clean diapers from the very beginning.
Anticipate what could happen with their extra “alone” time
When you have a newborn baby to look after, it’s not unexpected that your first born might have more alone time on hands. Even with the best of will, you can’t give the same attention to your eldest, especially when you need to adjust to feeding, napping, and changing times for a baby.
But it’s important to remember that your firstborn is still a child and could injure themselves at home while you’re not looking. (Or else completely trash the place.) Now more than ever, you needl to know how to child-proof your home. When firstborns are hungry for attention, they can act recklessly in an attempt to “help” you (e.g., by trying to heat up food on the stove) or to distract you from the baby.
Watch out for overperforming
Other times, firstborn children might choose a different approach to compete for your attention. Instead, they might develop a performance-focused attitude, believing that they have to excel to deserve your attention. This can set up all sorts of unhealthy dynamics that you want to avoid.
As a parent, it’s important for you to remind your firstborn that you love her just as much as before, and the new baby doesn’t change that. However, you can also encourage their efforts to become more independent, work harder, and be better behaved.
Firstborn children are more likely to achieve leadership roles in their professional lives and to show a great sense of care and responsibility. These traits often emerge as a result of becoming a big brother or sister. While you shouldn’t discourage them, it’s important to make sure your child understands that you don’t prefer the baby over them; there is no room for preferences.
Firstborns don’t always react positively to having a younger brother or sister. They may fear that your love will be divided. However, the right approach can help you not only become closer to your firstborn through this process, but also help them forge a lifelong friendship with their new baby sibling.
If you enjoyed this post on helping your firstborn manage younger siblings, why not share it with others by pinning this image?