1. Encourage Privacy: Help your eldest’s initiatives to establish privacy. Privacy is the number one complaint of an eldest in a large family. It often helps to have 1-2 hours of ‘quiet time’ every day, if your household permits and especially when they are not in school. Quiet time is exactly what it sounds like – a block of time each child is expected to entertain themselves, alone. Not only will this give parents a welcomed break, but it will reinforce to your eldest your commitment to their individuality and privacy.
Furthermore, if your child is engaging in any ‘special projects’, such as the Death Star Lego, set aside an area where they can work, without distraction. Make it clear to the other children the space is only for the first, and should be respected. Your other children will naturally do their best to invade this space, but the act will communicate to your eldest how much you respect their space and want to encourage their independence.
2. Use Photos and Videos to Remind Your First They Were Babies Once Too: This next tip is only applicable when you have a newborn, or very young child. Firsts often look at all of the preparation and attention their parents give to their newborn sibling, as an insult added to the injury of even having to endure a brother or sister. Asking your first to be in charge of an integral part of diaper changing or the newborns nighttime ritual, will help them feel not only included, but capable to begin considering and caring for another’s needs. Company while nursing or picking a nighttime book, while seemingly simple, have a significant impact on your firsts sense of self.
3. Talk About the Problem: Your first born might not be able to identify why it is so uncomfortable to be around his baby brother or sister. The following intervention, when done early, can help your eldest identify where his emotions are coming from, and they are natural. 1) name the source of the problem and 2) provide empathetic statements in response to the problem.
Example:“It is hard to be the oldest child, and welcome a new brother (or sister). The baby needs so much attention, and this takes away time I am able to spend with you. If you feel like you need more attention, let me know! The baby’s needs are important, just like yours!”
A strong statement such as this one communicates to your eldest that you understand what they are going through: the difficulties of losing the line limelight, their sense of isolation and their simultaneous desire for autonomy.
4. Talk About Their Feelings: Talk about the change in your family and your child’s feelings directly. You can tell him the “Family Story.” For instance: “We used to have mommy, Daddy and you in our family. We had lots of fun together. You used to be the only child in our family and we were able to give you all the attention. Now we have your little sister too, and you have to share the attention with her. It’s natural for little children to feel angry and sad about this change. When you feel angry or sad, come and tell us. Say, ‘I feel angry’ or ‘I need attention, and we’ll help you.’” Then, reassure your older child by telling him, “We have enough love for both of our children.”