During pregnancy you were preparing your child for the arrival of a sibling. You showed him books, told about the time he was in your belly, you watched together the USG recordings. You thought the tot understood what was going to happen, and that by stroking and cuddling your belly he showed his feelings towards a baby brother or sister. Therefore, why does your older child begin to behave odd when you come home from a hospital with an infant? Have all your efforts been in vain? Certainly not! However, you have to give the child some time, as even you cannot foreseen all situations that may happen after the arrival of the second child. Your efforts during pregnancy helped to prepare the child for a new situation. Now you will face new challenges. Below you can read about possible reactions of your older child.
Until now all attention was focused on the only child. It does not mean that earlier you were spoiling the tot, but certainly you had more time for him, same as the rest of the family: daddy, grandparents, aunties. Most of the time the world revolved around him, each smile and cuddle did not have to be shared. Now, with arrival of the second child, you simply have to share your time. His jealousy may be manifested, e.g., during feeding of the infant. Then your older child immediately wants to be fed, even when he feels full. Another situation is changing the diaper. The older one immediately needs to use a toilet!
Do not be afraid of the jealousy in the older child, help him to express it. Give him a sense of security and love, soothe and make those emotions familiar. Show the child you understand he may feel this way.
The examples described above may cause tantrums resulting from increasing frustration. Depending on the age of your older child, he may show his anger in different ways. Remember, even when he is already in a kindergarten, he cannot show his feelings the same way as an adult. Even previously quiet child may stamp, scream, throw himself on the floor. When your child throws a tantrum, do not intervene, unless he may hurt himself. It may happen that in his anger he bites or hits the baby. In such case ensure safety of the baby, as he is helpless. Explain to the older child that he should not hit anybody. In any case give him time to calm down and only then talk about his behaviour. Show the child you understand his anger, but that there are other ways to express it. Think what could cause the anger.
The more often the older child hears from the family that he is big and should not behave like a baby, the more frustrated he becomes. Then your child may start to behave like an infant. When he sees you focus on the younger child, hetries to behave in the same way, i.e., he shows that he also needs your care. Such behaviour shows he feels abandoned and left alone. It does not mean that this is the case. You certainly try to spend some time with him but, as I already mentioned, now you have to share your attention between two children. What does the child do to attract your attention? He wants to suckle a teat (or even breast), hold his thumb in the mouth, be rocked, or use a diaper. Do not be angry with the child for this behaviour, do not scold him. Explain to him that he used to pee in a diaper some time ago, but now he learnt to use a potty. And because he knows how, he can now teach a younger brother/sister when he/she is ready. When the child demands to be breastfed, try to cuddle him more, as it is your presence he craves, not milk from the breast.
I asked other mothers how they handled arrival of the second child and created a list of useful tips. Each child responds to a different approach, and there is not one scheme, but I hope that you will be able to tailor one of those tips to the age and character of your child.
1. Try to maintain at least a few of previous domestic rituals. That will give the child a sense of security and arrival of a new member of the family will not mean that now everything must change. E.g. if you used to put him to sleep, try to continue with it. You can do it alternately with your partner, you certainly should not give up that part of the day.
2. Do not plan any big changes in the child's life, i.e., learning to use a potty, going to a kindergarten, for the time when the second child is born. So many things will change in his life anyway.
3. Do not compare the children. Do not make younger child a role model: "Look your brother has already eaten, and you spend so much time over your plate." The child may treat the baby as being guilty of causing your displeasure.
4. Buy the child a doll he can look after. When you attend to the younger child, the older can do the same things with the doll. You will spend more time together, and additionally you will show him how to look after a small child. That game will induce his protectiveness.
5. Maybe the child can help you in taking care of the baby. If so, let him assist in simple activities, so that he feels important. The child can, e.g. hand you things you need when bathing the baby or help with care of the baby. This way the "senior" can feel in charge.
6. Do not force him to look after the sibling. It should be a pleasure to the child, and not an onerous duty. If he associates looking after a brother/sister with something unpleasant, his whole anger will be focused on him/her.
7. Find some time for the older child. Ask your partner or grandparents for help with the infant and do something you both like. That time should not be compensation in form of sweets or expensive treats. Going for a walk will suffice, but it should be just the two of you (or three, with the dad).
8. Ask other members of the family to spend some time with the older child only, take him somewhere. Then e.g. grandma and granddad can focus solely on him.
9. During the family and friends visits avoid focusing solely on the baby. It should be remember that the older child also waits for those visits and want to show his new toys or share the news from the kindergarten with the family.
10. You still can use books, films, etc., telling what happens in the family when a brother/sister arrives. Show the child he was the same when he was born. Make him aware that the baby must grow a bit before it will be possible to play with him. Present the current situation, tell the child what the baby does (sleeps a lot, eats, has to be changed and when it cries - hushed). Maybe one of your child's friends also has a brother or a sister. Talk about that.