This past January, my family expanded again. My beautiful daughter Sophia was born. As with any change in a family, her arrival meant a shakeup in our family dynamics. My daughter Shari was no longer the only girl, and she also had to give up her “baby of the family” status. It has not always been an easy transition for her.
Thankfully, she was excited about the arrival of her sister even from the start. She loves her sister, there is no doubt, but there are definite moments of jealousy. When we are out and about, she is no longer the number one focus of strangers who love kids. She has had to give up a lot of the snuggle time that she and I have always enjoyed. Even her big brother, who has always (mostly!) doted on her, has shifted much of his attention onto his littlest sister.
For her part, Shari has handled most of this very well. She is only 5 years old, after all, and so there have been some incidents we have had to discuss. There were several things that we have done and continue to do that have helped her come to terms with the changes.
First, we told the kids about the coming baby many months in advance. While they drove us crazy sometimes asking when she was finally coming, it allowed for a slow build up, and it allowed Shari to get used to the idea over a long period of time.
I also brought her with me to several doctors’ appointments, allowing her to hear her sister’s heartbeat, and even see her on ultrasound. It made the whole idea of a new baby much more real for her and introduced her to the wonder of having a living being growing inside of her mommy. There were many times when she had questions, and we would answer them (on her level, of course!). Not only did it serve as a learning experience, but it helped her prepare even more.
Another big help was getting her a baby doll of her own. When she would see me nursing or cuddling her sister, especially in the beginning, she would imitate me with her baby doll. Not only did it keep her occupied while I was busy, but it reinforced the way that she should treat a baby.
I have made it a priority to create some time every day for just her and I, even if it is only 10 minutes. We snuggle and talk, or watch some television together, or play a game. Sometimes it is just her watching me make dinner while we chat, but she knows that it is her time and it keeps us connected. It lets her know that even though I am often busy with caring for her sister, she still has a place too, and has not lost my love and attention.
Throughout the entire process, probably the most important thing that we have done is simply to talk. We have talked about the changes. We have talked about how she should treat a baby. We have talked about what is expected of her. And we have talked about how everything makes her feel. We have talked about our love of her and her love for her sister.
There are moments that are more difficult for her than others. Just the other day I had both girls with me at the store. An older lady came up and started cooing at Sophia, while Shari sat and watched. She is used to being the one being made a fuss over, and I saw in her face her disappointment. After we said good-bye and went on our way, I made a point to stop, give her a big hug and tell her I love her. It put that beautiful smile right back on her face!
I love being the mom of these gorgeous girls! It isn’t always easy, and I imagine there will be some rough roads ahead for them, as there always are for sisters. My hope is that by working out any jealous feelings now, that when they are older they will be as close as I am with my lovely sisters.
Have you dealt with an issue of jealousy when a new baby has come along? What did you do?