Older children in the family may suffer from the arrival of the new baby who becomes the centre of attention and not only does he take up all mother’s time but father also shows a greater interest in him and may unintentionally neglect the other members of the family. The other children may develop feelings of resentment and jealousy particularly when relatives and neighbours call especially to see the new baby and to bring him presents.
It is small wonder that if these circumstances exist the older children rapidly become jealous of the new arrival. When such jealousy does occur it makes life much more difficult for the mother since the management of the jealous older children as well as of the new-born baby is not only a difficult but a most time consuming task. This jealousy can be avoided in the majority of instances if a little careful thought and planning is introduced fairly early in the pregnancy and it is well worth any time and effort that may be spent in trying to ensure that older children are not jealous of the new baby. The idea of a new baby , should be carefully introduced to the mind of the older child and the stage in pregnancy at which this is done will vary according to age. The older the child, the earlier it should begin, but the general idea is to stimulate the child into wanting a brother or sister. Once the desire has been created then he should be told in simple terms that the baby is growing in mummy’s tummy so that he will gradually accept the enlargement of mummy’s tummy as being his brother or sister. This is particularly important since the pregnancy may limit the mother’s activities with her child. Similarly, the child may accompany her to the antenatal clinic, in which case some explanation will be required for the attention of the doctors and nurses, or alternatively: the child must be looked after by someone else whilst the mother goes to the clinic. Some simple explanation should be easily and readily given, such as telling the child that the doctors and nurses are seeing that his brother or sister is growing satisfactorily and keeping quite well. He should be encouraged to help with all the preparations for the baby and a short time before the expected date of confinement should go with his mother to buy a present for the new baby.
Perhaps the most important moment in introducing a new baby into a home is the time when the older child first sees his mother after her delivery. Let us assume that you have had your baby in hospital and that your child is coming to visit you the day after your delivery. Most maternity hospitals nowadays allow children to visit their mother and the sooner your child can visit you the better. You will be sitting up in bed ready to receive your visitors and your baby will be in a cot either at the end of your bed or in the nursery. You should not have your new baby in your arms or on the bed or immediately beside you, and your baby’s cot should contain no presents or toys whatsoever. Your child will come in with his father and you should greet him as usual. His curiosity may get the better of him immediately and he will either demand to see or go and look at the new baby and give the baby his present. If he does not do this immediately, do not worry. You can gently tell him about the new baby’s arrival and very soon his curiosity will overcome his shyness and he will ask to see the baby. It is unlikely that he will be able to hold or cuddle the new baby while you are in hospital, but a little touch perhaps on the forehead will go a long way to establishing brotherly love.
On going home a return present from the baby to the older child will go down well. The older child must be encouraged to do as much as possible for the new baby and it must be impressed upon him that it is his baby as well as yours. The new baby should not interfere with the regular routine of the older children and of course love and affection must not only be divided equally but must be seen to be divided equally. It is surprising how much pleasure, joy and satisfaction will be derived from ‘now please take Auntie Jane upstairs and show her your new sister ’.
If the older child has been well prepared, his acceptance of the new baby will be much easier. It is inevitable that there be a twinge of jealousy occasionally and at such times you must give him special attention and reassurance of his importance. Every encouragement should be given to him in caring for the new baby, so that he rapidly loses any resentment that might initially have been present.