By Heidi Stevens, Tribune Newspapers
March 6, 2013
From our panel of staff contributors
My daughter is two years, nine months older than my son. At first she was appalled at the idea of a new sibling. Visiting the hospital, she would have nothing to do with me or my son. But after we came home and got into a routine, she warmed up to him. Getting her involved in some aspects of his care, like fetching a bottle or a diaper, seemed to help. Before too long she was hugging him and saying how much she loved her brother.
As the mom of one child, I have noticed that my daughter loves it when I let her be the teacher and I am the student. Allowing that role reversal probably helps in this sibling scenario too — where you let the 2-year-old be the infant sometimes, cradling and cooing to him as you do with the baby, even if it's in a joking type of way. That affectionate reassurance that he will always be your first baby might help.
When we brought home daughter No. 2, Kelly, daughter No. 1, Julie, was 22 months older. The first time Julie saw Kelly nurse, her eyes widened, and she started smacking her. "Baby, no! Baby, no!" I guess she thought Kelly was attacking my wife, Dona. Between laughs, we explained to her that it was OK.
"Why would he be adjusting well?" asks Adele Faber, co-author of "Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too" (W.W. Norton and Co.). "The moment that kid arrives, it means less: less lap, less time, less of all the stuff that makes the older child feel happy and safe and secure."
Resist the urge to insist that your older child love this new addition.
"Feelings can't be mandated or turned on or off like a faucet," says Faber. "If you try to suppress those hostile feelings, they'll either go under the surface and express themselves symptomatically — nail-biting, nightmares, bed-wetting — or acted out as punches or pinches."
Urge your older child to talk about his or her feelings. Faber recalls a conversation with one father who engaged his son in a dialogue similar to the following:
Son: Send the baby back.
Dad: You don't want him here?
Son: No. He cries too much.
Dad: Oh, his crying bothers you?
Son: Yeah. And he won't play with me.
Dad: So you wish he were old enough to play with you?
Son. Yeah. … But sometimes he holds my finger.
Dad: It seems like maybe you have two feelings. Sometimes you wish he'd just go away and never come back. And sometimes you kind of like having him around. I'm glad you told me!
"And the son would come ask his dad, 'Daddy, tell me about my two feelings,'" Faber says. "What a gift that dad gave his son. The understanding that you can have two completely contradictory feelings at the same time and each can be real and legitimate. That kind of acceptance of the hostility really does help."
And reinforce to your child that this new life will have ups and downs.
"Give him a little bit of reality," says Faber. "'Sometimes it will be so fun to have a new baby in the house and watch the baby grow and play. Sometimes I'll be busy feeding her and diapering her, and if you ever have those two feelings, you come and tell me because you will forever be my one and only dearest Sam (or whatever your child's name is).' "
Have a solution? Your pre-teen daughter's pals listen to seriously raunchy music. Are you a prude not to let her buy the same? Find "The Parent 'Hood" page on Facebook, where you can post your parenting questions and offer tips and solutions for others to try.
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