Q How do you deal with a child who doesn’t want a baby brother or sister? Nate, our current and only child,
is four years old. When we told Nate that we’re having a baby, he said, “I hate the baby. I don’t want one.” We’ve told Nate what a good big brother he will be and how important that is. What else can we do?
A Nate is not alone in his reaction. An only child is used to having all the parents’ attention. It can be hard for a child to think of sharing all that love. Here are some suggestions for how you might help Nate adjust to having a new baby brother or sister.
- Ask family and friends to bring a small gift for Nate if they are bringing one for the baby. It could be an inexpensive book to read or an activity to do. It could be a small toy. They can wrap it as a present just like the baby’s gift is wrapped. This suggests there are benefits from having a new baby. It also helps cement Nate’s position as important in the family.
- Ask for the help of family and friends to explain to Nate what a good big brother he will be. This reinforces what you have already told him.
- Try not to deviate from Nate’s schedule before and after the baby arrives. This includes such things as meal times, bedtime stories and tuck in time. If Grandma is going to handle this after the baby comes, then also have her do some of these routines with Nate before the baby comes. You could post Nate’s schedule on a bulletin board, a poster on his door or on the refrigerator. If you must deviate, ask Nate for his help.
- Let Nate help with the baby in tasks that are appropriate for him such as getting and bringing things you need. Give Nate a lot of positive reinforcement for any help he gives you with the baby.
- Ask Nate’s advice. Do you think the baby would like to wear the yellow outfit or the blue one?
- Schedule special alone time for Nate with both parents.
- Read books to Nate about being a big brother. There are lots of books to choose from such as: “I am a Big Brother” or “I am a Big Sister” by Caroline Jayne Church. Other books include, “You’re the Biggest” by Lucy Tapper and “Big Brothers are the Best” by Fran Manushkin.
Children have various reactions to a new sibling. Some children cope by ignoring the baby. Some older brothers or sisters regress and do things like want a bottle. It usually works well to just wait for the behavior to change while giving your first-born some grace and some special attention.
Betty Richardson, PhD, RN, CS, LPC, LMFT, is an Austin-based psychotherapist.