Written By: Chrystal Lee
Besides managing perfectionism, parents of firstborns also have the challenge of preparing their precious first child for the arrival of the second. If the second child does not arrive before the firstborn turns 3, 60% of the firstborn's lifestyle would already have been established, and most of it would have already taught him that he is in the center of his parents' universe. Needless to say, the intrusion of the second child is going to create a lot of tension and discontentment.
In my post on the firstborn's perfectionism, I mentioned that firstborns grow up with mom and dad as their role models. They are eager to please to seek approval, and sometimes as parents, we tend to do things with goodwill that the firstborn may see as "I'm not good enough." So when baby number 2 comes along, your firstborn is going to start thinking, "Was I not good enough?" This may be amplified when mom and dad start spending more time with the newborn than with their firstborn.
There is natural rivalry between the firstborn and secondborn, and although it may not very obvious sometimes it definitely exists. It can be as subtle as your firstborn poking her head in front of the camera while you're trying to take a picture of your new addition to the family. This is a natural act of selfishness, though its really just the child trying to get her fair share of parental attention and investment.
Of course I'm not saying that firstborns and secondborns will always be rivals. Siblings don't necessary develop feelings of hatred towards each other and with the right parental guidance, they can share very close relationships.
Before I was pregnant with my secondborn twins, I was able to devote all the time I had to my firstborn daughter. Once I even thought to myself, I can manage this, maybe we could have another child as a companion and playmate for her. So before she turned 1, I got pregnant not with one, but TWO! (That was a big surprise, but another story for another day!)
I tried my best to prepare her for the arrival of her siblings by books, and daily reminders, but I knew that I would never prepare her well enough for what was the REALITY of it, so I guess I only weakened the "blow." I think I also made it worse too by sending her to daycare a month after the twins' arrived. It was a bad parenting decision, but it was the best way for me to manage things at home temporarily.
That was also when I realized that it was tough to keep the spotlight over the firstborn. I didn't want her to feel neglected all of a sudden and develop hatred towards her younger siblings (they were supposed to be her playmates!), but with two newborns would wanted to nurse all day with me, it was really hard work. Things got slightly better when they didn't need me all the time, but trying to balance things out around the house, and deciding who gets "special time" with mom was always a tough decision to make.
I don't wish anyone to go through what I had gone through, so here's some tips on how you can mange the firstborn dethronement:
Special "Firstborns-Only" Toys
Before the arrival of #2, have your firstborn put away some of his/her favorite toys in a safe place, so that little brother or sister cannot get to them. My daughter has a couple of comfort plush monkeys, and sometimes when she leaves them lying around, her brother and sister gets to them. She's pretty gentle around them and doesn't snatch them back. But instead she cries for my help to rescue her favorite toys, which is also a way of getting my attention.
Toys to Share
With toys that are only meant for your firstborn, you should also encourage sharing by asking your firstborn to choose toys that he/she is willing to share with his/her sibling. Watch out for toys with small parts, and make sure you keep them away from the younger one!
Constantly remind your firstborn that when their little brother or sister arrives, there will be plenty of love to go around. Mommy an Daddy are still going to love big brother or big sister.
It will eventually dawn upon your firstborn, that the baby who sleeps all day and does nothing but cry is going to a permanent member of the family. If your firstborn is old enough, get him/her to help you with the baby. My firstborn daughter was 17 months old when the twins came home with us, and I got her involved by asking for her help to fetch me the diaper, creams and to choose their clothes. Remember not to "improve" on the task even if it wasn't done too well. Praise your firstborn for helping out. This not only develops positive feelings towards the second-born, but getting your firstborn to help you out and praising him/her will also remind him/her that you still pay attention to him/her.
When it's bedtime, do allow some leeway for your firstborn to stay up a little later to spend time with mom and dad while the baby's asleep. If possible, you can also have someone help babysit for a couple of hours while you and your spouse bring the firstborn out to spend quality time together.
Do be careful about giving special privileges. Recognize when is the appropriate time, and do not let your firstborn manipulate you into giving it to him/her! A temper tantrum or outburst of tears are still no-no, so do take appropriate discipline action when you need to. Try not to reprimand your firstborn in front of the younger sibling(s), isolate him in a room if needed and talk about it. Do follow up with a hug and a kiss, assuring him/her that you love him/her all the same, and remind him/her that its okay to make mistakes as nobody is perfect.
Remember that power and authority are important issues to your firstborn child and with the arrival of the second, it becomes more so. They may grow up exaggerating the important of rules and laws, emphasizing on going by the book, and are not very receptive to deviations or changes. It's not a dead end though, as there are ways to manage your firstborn well, and raise him to be a happier, confident child!
I hope these tips will help you to lay a solid foundation in raising a cooperative firstborn who will eventually survive through the dethronement experience.