Family life

Your baby, his brothers and his sisters

When a baby arrives, everyone is overjoyed but he still represents a big change for parents and their other children.

Everyone must get back in his place to leave room for the newcomer. Some brothers and sisters seem happy, others are aggressive and some regress. All this movement reflects emotions experienced by each one of them. With the fatigue of birth, how can we deal with this adaptation?

Give information from the 4th month

As soon as your belly is getting round and the pregnancy is confirmed, children can be told about it and it is also a good moment to explain how babies are made if the question arises. Very good books have been written on the subject to help parents adopt a simple attitude to answer all of the questions. The mother’s round belly is also a part of her body where brothers and sisters have been at some point and it will give them more information about their origins.

At birth

The whole organization around the baby’s arrival should be prepared so that everyone can take part in it, even if this new baby requires all the attention. Grandparents, friends and nannies can also be put to contribution to surround the other children who will feel neglected. Visiting the nursery is also an important event where the baby could give little gifts to mark his arrival in this world. The attitude of the parents should also be understanding of some children who will take more time before they become comfortable with this new creature who only cries and needs mommy. After birth, patience is key.

Back home

If at the maternity ward, mother and child are supported, going back home will be another story. Then again, you should be prepared and ask for help to your mother, stepmom, sister or neighbour who could come home for a few hours every day to give you some time to spend with your other children for whom life must go on. What is important is for them to spend time alone with their mom but also with other adults for a few weeks after birth.

And after?

When a child regresses, he is trying to get your attention by being small again and he can even wet his bed, ask for bottles, to be held more than usual, etc. The best thing to do is to give him what he wants and not to ask him to grow up too quickly. I we accept these moments of regression; he will lose interest in it and go back to his regular activities. However, bedwetting should be viewed without guilt and he should be told that it does not matter. By cons, if it lasts, talk to your paediatrician.

The child can also express his hostility by hitting the mother or the baby, in which case you can tell him to hit a doll instead. He can verbalize his discontent with the arrival of an intruder but he has no right to physically assault him but you still love him and you should say it. A few months after birth, you could hear “You only care about the baby” or “I hate him”. Verbalizing is healthy because it reflects the jealousy of your child.

When you have more than one more child at home, try to spend time with each one of them individually. To do so, you will need help and to give appointments during the week. In the long run, everyone will find his place and learn to share.

Comparison is poison

When the brotherhood builds up, comparisons may appear and can really hurt your family ties. The most interesting way to deal with all of your children is to promote differences and insist on each child’s qualities. On will be better at sports and will have physical abilities, the other will be better with games and patience. Observing will place them in a comfortable position. Each child might even share his abilities with the others and set an example to follow. The parental point of view is crucial to make them understand that their differences are a treasure for the family instead of a battlefield.

Inspirational readings

On mother’s lap, by Ann Herbert Scott – Glo Coalson (illustrator). Published by Sandpiper.

This book tells the story of a little boy who, while curled on his Mother's lap, wants to bring all sorts of other objects up with him but when his little brother wakes up, he does not want to include him. His mother explains that there's "always room on Mother's lap" and all three can rock gently. It is a beautiful and tender story to learn that you can share your mom.

Martine Jouffroy Valton
Psychotherapist

Martine studied clinical psychotherapy in 1995, earning a diploma from the Gestalt Intervention Centre of Montreal, followed by five years of practicing therapy in the city. She has accompanied people on the road to death, and has helped families affected by genetic illnesses or AIDS. Today, she works as a coach for a communications and marketing company, helping to recruit international experts for the European Commission in Brussels. She also has a private practice and greatly enjoys one-on-one time with her patients. For more info, email her at [email protected] or give her a call at +32-485-614-234.

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