Kids accept change differently and as parents, it’s our job to help them through this journey of being happy and healthy. As we are sleep deprived and caring for the needs of our newborns, older siblings can react in different ways. A happy, fun-loving child can become withdrawn and angry. How do you reconnect and strengthen this parent-child relationship?
Here are tips from one mom who’s been in just this situation, to strengthen the relationship with your child after a new baby.
*I always encourage you to reach out to your network of family, friends, teacher, clergy, and pediatrician for support. We are all in this together! ~ Amanda
By Hira Sayem
My son and I had a healthy, loving relationship until he turned 4, and my daughter was born. Overnight, he became unrecognizable. Constantly angry, violent, and demanding, he fluctuated between screaming loudly and shrilly whenever things didn’t go his way, or sitting sullenly in a corner refusing to listen when called.
He hated his little sister with a vengeance and we soon became terrified of leaving her unattended, even for a second.
He started losing weight,
refused to speak to me when I tried connecting with him
stopped making eye contact with people
wasn’t playing outside.
I couldn’t understand where my bright, happy baby had gone and how I could get him back without compromising on the time my newborn needed. I knew my child just wanted my attention, I just couldn’t find a way to give the same amount that he was used to.
Maybe some parents are naturally great at balancing their children’s needs; I wish I knew any.
The last straw though, was at his first PTM. He was called hostile and aggressive; his classmates were scared of him, and his name was more often on the ‘Sad Cloud’ (a space relegated to the miscreants of the class) than on the ‘Happy Sun’.
I walked out of the class feeling guilty and angry. I knew I was doing something wrong and things had to change- or in better terms, go back to the way they were. It’s been 4 months since that horrible day and thanks to a few changes in my attitude and behavior, I can say that my relationship with my son has significantly improved. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of mothers out there going through the same situation, and I hope my experience will help them. At least you know
After reading a ton of articles online and practicing every tip they offered, I’ve noted down the few I noticed made a visible difference in my son’s attitude. Basically it all boils down to letting my son feel heard and appreciated.
Effective Strategies for Improving the Relationship with My Child After Baby
1) Look them in the eye
I found that with the newborn, and the house, and work I was looking at my son less and less. When he’d come to me for something I would be nursing, or washing dishes, or writing; so even though I would answer him lovingly, he would still feel ignored. Now I stop everything and look at him when he speaks to me. Sometimes when I notice he’s feeling frustrated, I drop myself down to his eye-level and let him know he has my complete attention.
This little gesture makes all the difference- by making eye contact with my son, I was showing him he was a priority.
2) Tame your own frustrations.
It’s so difficult to act like an adult when you have to deal with children all day. But it’s surprising how quickly children pick up signs of irritation, anger or frustration and react to it. I realized that whenever I was feeling particularly flustered, my son’s anxiety would go into overdrive; and soon what was just a fairly irritating drizzle would turn into a full-blown squall. Just keeping a firm but soft voice and a calm gaze (even if I want to bash my head against the wall) keeps things relatively smooth and easy.
I’ve found that my acting like an adult (or what we assume an adult to be), has made my kid act calmer and more responsible.
3) Find quality one-on-one time
Although it becomes difficult the more kids you have, make time for each one separately. Set aside an activity, or a place that holds special meaning for just you and your firstborn, or middle child, or youngest. As parents, we know that our children can’t manage without us, but our kids also want to feel we can’t manage without them. My son and I now water our plants every morning before school and I thank him for his help everyday.
This helps him feel important to the plants too, and not just me.
4) Tell your child you are angry at his actions- not him
Sometimes we go crazy- we’re exhausted, haven’t slept properly for days, probably hungry too (how does one eat when there’s so much work to be done?) and the last thing we need is a child spilling milk on the floor on purpose, or trying to bite his baby sibling. Sometimes we say things we know we’ll regret later, thinking that our child will forget. He won’t. He’ll forgive, but he might not forget it. by telling your child that his actions are what’s upsetting you, and not him, he’ll be able to separate the two. He won’t think, “I make mommy sad,”; he’ll realize that his hurting his baby brother does.
5) Show your child know how much you love him
This is so important. We tell our children that we love them before they go to sleep but we often don’t take the time to show it to them. Smiling while we talk to them, giving an extra hug, laughing at their jokes and holding their hand while walking them to school makes all the difference. We should tell them we love them as much as possible, but it works better if we back it up with actions.
Although it hasn’t been long, I know my son is feeling more confident and happy with himself, and it reflects in his attitude at home and in school. He still hasn’t forgiven me for giving him a sister but he realizes that he hasn’t been replaced and that we love him as much as we always did. It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve managed to regain our bond.
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Here at the Educators’ Spin On It we believe that parents are our children’s first and primary teacher. As teachers, we do not “know it all” and learn more about our own parenting styles from our friends, family, and online community. If you have a tip or would like to share a parenting with purpose story here on the blog, send us an e-mail or submit your idea here!
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- 10 Things I Love About Being a Mom
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Books about New Babies for Siblings
- Big Brother Daniel
- My New Baby
- Big Sisters Are the Best
- What Brothers Do Best
- The New Baby
- We Have a Baby
- I’m a Big Sister
- Baby on the Way (Sears Children’s Library)
- Pecan Pie Baby
- What to Expect When the New Baby Comes Home (What to Expect Kids)
- I Am a Big Sister
- A Guide to Being a Big Sister (Olivia TV Tie-in)
- Best-Ever Big Sister
- I’m Important Too!