Fred Rogers talks about
A New Baby
"Some parents recognize their own ambivalence about having another child. They say that now and then, they feel they're betraying their firstborn or they wonder if they can handle raising another child. Just knowing those feelings are natural and normal can help us find healthy ways to manage them."
To a firstborn child, a family means three people -- "mommy, daddy, me." When a new baby comes and starts getting a great deal of attention, it may still seem to the older child that the family is a threesome, but now it's "mommy, daddy, and that new baby." The "old baby" feels pushed out of the family triangle.
It’s Hard to Share
Whether a baby is born into a family or adopted, there are many changes and many different feelings when the new child arrives. It's only natural that the children who are already there feel some resentment. They may even be angry with their parents and say things like, "Take the baby back!" or, "I hate you!" At any age, it's hard to share the people we love.
Parents sometimes tell me, "Oh, there's no jealousy. My child loves the baby." Well, love can be mixed with jealousy. Sometimes children are afraid that their parents might stop loving them if they show any "negative" feelings. What a relief it can be for a child to know that it's all right to be angry, sad, upset or grumpy – all the while hearing that it's not all right to hurt the baby or anyone else. Our children (of all ages) need to hear that we love them even when they’re experiencing difficult feelings.
Acting Like a Baby
Sometimes when there's a new baby in the family, the older child will seem to go backward in development -- starting again to thumb-suck, bed-wet, cry a lot or become extra-clinging. After all, those are the sorts of things babies do, and babies seem to get all the attention.
How much easier it would be if our children could say to us, "I'm really mad that you've brought home another baby. Wasn't I good enough for you? It feels like no one pays any attention to me any more!" But young children aren't able to use words to tell us how they’re feeling. They can only feel it and then try to find some way to let those feeling out. Their anger and frustration may come out in ways that may not seem to have anything directly to do with the new baby. However, it's helpful to remember that when there are noticeable behavior changes in older children, just after a baby's birth, we can be fairly sure that those changes have something to do with the new brother or sister's arrival.
Parents’ Ambivalent Feelings
Some parents recognize their own ambivalence about having another child. They say that now and then, they feel they're betraying their firstborn or they wonder if they can handle raising another child. Just knowing those feelings are natural and normal can help us find healthy ways to manage them.
Most families discover that it can take several months for an older child to get used to the new baby. Hugs and loving words can go a long way in helping your older child through the hard times. In the long run, with all the ups and downs of family life, brothers and sisters often develop an extra special relationship that enriches each of them throughout their lives.
Take Care of Yourself
There's so much to do in caring for all the usual needs of the family, and now there’s a new baby! When you're exhausted and you don't feel your normal self physically (or hormonally), it's hard to be kind and patient, and it can hurt your feelings when your older child gets angry at the new baby or at you. Your own rest is one of the most important things to help you cope, so when your older child is sleeping, do all you can to get some rest yourself. Hopefully, you’re able to ask for help from relatives and friends when you need it. It takes a lot of inner strength to say that you need help. People who love you are delighted when you can, and do.
Before the Baby Arrives:
This article is excerpted from “The Mister Rogers Parenting Book” the last book Fred Rogers worked on before his death in 2003. In this book he wanted to support parents in their most important work of parenting and to help them better understand their young children. As he wrote in the introduction to the book:
“.. if we can bring our children understanding, comfort, and hopefulness when they need this kind of support, then they are more likely to grow into adults who can find these resources within themselves later on.”