YOUR CHILD HAS been the sole focus of your parenting efforts for as long as they’ve been alive. They have come to expect your undivided attention as their right. They’re so used to being the center of attention that it’s literally impossible for them to see the world any other way. So, when a new baby arrives, here are some ways to talk to them about the changes they’re experiencing.
Sit them down. Explain to them that your loving the new baby doesn’t mean you love them any less. Tell them that the new baby can’t walk or talk yet, so they’ll need lots of Mommy’s and Daddy’s attention—but the fact that you need to spend so much time bathing and changing the new baby doesn’t mean the older child is any less important to you.
The older child might then argue that all children matter. Isn’t that basicly the whole point of being in this family in the first place? So why should some little baby who just got here like two days ago get so much attention?
Explain to them that since they’re a big boy or girl now, they can be more independent and can be a big help to Mommy and Daddy by taking some care of themselves. Remind them that the little baby can’t go potty or get Pop-Tarts out of the pantry on their own. They need a lot of attention to assure their health and safety.
The older child might then complain that it’s unfair that they have to share their room with the new baby. They were here first, and there just isn’t enough room for a bassinette and a crib and all that other junk people brought over at that stupid, boring party where there weren’t even cupcakes or a single present for big brother or sister.
Explain to them that there’s plenty of space for the baby. It’s only a teeny-tiny little thing that takes up that one little corner by the door, and maybe if they picked up their toys and put them back in the trunk, the room wouldn’t seem so crowded.
The older child will likely point out that if certain people just keep having babies willy-nilly, pretty soon there’ll be more babies around here than big boys and girls, and is that something anyone really wants? Is it? I mean, just imagine.
Remind the older sibling that they used to be a baby, too. Show them photos of themselves over the years. Remind them that little babies grow up to be big boys and girls, and maybe they should keep that fact in mind if they find themselves wanting to do mean things to their new brother or sister.
The older child might then remind you that, if all the big boys and girls wanted to, they could get their Star Wars the Force Awakens Extendable Light Sabers and hit the babies and make them cry.
Gently tell them you realize that’s true, and that’s why from now on certain toys will be kept up on that high shelf in the closet until someone shows they can handle them responsibly.
The older child might then insist they only have their own room—and all their toys and picture books—because of the important contributions they have made over the years. They worked hard to earn all that stuff. Remember the time they buttoned their shirt up wrong and jumbled the words to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” That video nearly went viral, didn’t it? And remember all the Facebook likes Mommy got with that photo of the snot bubble?
The baby, on the other hand, contributes exactly nothing. It’s pretty much a drain on the system. Why doesn’t the baby ever try to put on Mommy’s lipstick? Why doesn’t the baby ever clomp around the living room in Daddy’s oxfords?
Explain to them that maybe they’re misunderstanding exactly how all their toys and picture books got to be in there in the first place. Maybe they didn’t actually have a whole hell of a lot to do with their arrival in the bedroom after all. And, frankly, isn’t it about time they learned to button up a shirt the right way, anyway?
The older child might remind you that they can hold their breath until they die, and then you’ll be sorry.
Tell them to go ahead and try.
PAUL BUCHANAN is still learning to get along with his 50-something kid brother.