Learn how to deal with your child before baby number 2 comes along.
Since the arrival of our second child, our daughter has been acting up. While we don’t want to always give in to her, we don’t want her to think we love her any less.
Having a new sibling in the family can be a very scary time for the first born. From her perspective, everything has changed. Your elder child is likely to be feeling confused, scared, and anxious because so much of what was once familiar is now different. A first step you can take to make things a little calmer at home is to appreciate how difficult it may be for your first child to adjust. Instead of viewing difficult behaviours as ‘problematic’, it is beneficial to understand that it is her way of trying to communicate with you. From this perspective, you can focus on how to help her rather worry about ‘giving in’. Here are ways you can help your elder child ease into being a part of a family of four.
Create structure or a new routine. When her world is rapidly changing around her, your daughter will appreciate having a new routine where there will be some new sense of stability by creating a new normal. Inform her of the routine and verbally remind her of them. For example, first we will have breakfast, then have a shower, then you will get time to play before Daddy takes you to day care.
When she ‘acts up’, try to identify the underlying message the behaviours are trying to communicate. Is she frustrated that she is now forced to be ‘a big girl’ while baby gets all the attention? Is she acting up to get your attention? Once you have read between the lines, try to teach her other ways of communicating those needs. For example, “Are you tired? If you are, you can say Mummy, I am feeling tired.”
Sportscast. This is a term used often by infant specialist, Magda Gerber, where parents are non-judgmental and simply state the events that have occurred just like a sportscaster does during a sporting event. It doesn’t blame the child but simply states what is happening. For example, a parent might say to the child “I notice that you are having a hard time coming to have a shower. You seem frustrated. I won’t let you jump around in the bathroom because it is wet and slippery but I can help you.” Approaching your daughter like this helps her in a number of ways. Firstly, it acknowledges how she is feeling which is really important to anyone. Secondly, it lets her know that you are here for her which is very reassuring. Thirdly, this calm approach will not make your child feel defensive which will likely make her more emotional and escalate the situation. Your calm demeanour will also be a very good role model for her to be calm too.
Be concrete and organised. Once things have calmed a little, create concrete steps to help positively end the situation. For example: “First, mummy will help you … then we will… last, you can help choose what you want to wear…”
Use terms like ‘cooperate’ and ‘help me’. This will give her a sense of being a positive force at home and feel like she is contributing. She will likely be more mindful about being cooperative.
Take notice. Instead of focusing on when she is having a tough time, try to pay attention to times when she is being very cooperative and be sure to let her know you noticed!
Question answered by:
Dr Penny Tok
Dr Penny Tok Psychology Practice