The Transition From Only Child to Older Sibling

From Only to Oldest

When my husband and I found out I was pregnant with our second, we were over the moon! We had wanted a second baby for a while and finally decided that the timing was right to add another bundle of joy into our family.  Our older daughter, Willow, was just about to turn three when we found out I was pregnant. While she did not seem to fully grasp the concept, she seemed to understand that we would be bringing home a new baby and that she would be a big sister. Her excitement was limited at first, in part because of her age and probably in part because I was not showing yet and we did not know a gender yet.

Flash forward a few months and it was finally time to find out if we would be adding a baby brother or baby sister to our house! My mother was the only person who knew the gender at the time of our reveal. My husband and I were taken into our yard, blindfolded, and given squeeze jars of paint which contained either pink or blue paint which we were to attack each other with. The paint was cold and neither one of us could see anything, we could only hear the cheers of our friends and family as they watched us throw paint at each other, even Willow got in the mix and started to quirt us with paint. After what felt like forever, out blindfolds were removed and we realized we were all covered in BLUE paint! It was a boy!

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It’s a BOY

Willow’s excitement began to grow as she knew now that she would have a brother. The larger my belly got the more her excitement grew. I had to explain to her that I did not eat her brother though, that was an awkward conversation with a three year old. She talked about her little brother constantly, to anyone who would listen! Her daycare told me she told them all about him on a daily basis. Because of her excitement I started to think that the transition would be easy. With as excited as she was, I thought there was NO WAY she would have any difficulty adjusting to her baby brother coming home and that life would be simple and smooth (Oh boy was I WRONG)

After returning home from the hospital without new son, everything seemed to fall into place easily at first. (Click here to read my VBAC Story). The first week or so was a blur, the lack of sleep from a newborn and still trying to give my daughter equal attention, it was draining to say the least. I knew Willow was not getting the attention she needed or deserved, and she started acting out because of it. Of course I began to scour Pinterest for any advice on the transition from one to two that I could, but nothing seemed to really work for us.  Willow’s behavior got so bad that she was actually asked not to return to her daycare! That was my breaking point. I felt like a failure as a mother because I could not get my child’s attitude in check, I was failing a juggling a new baby and older child, I was stressed to the max and did not see how I was going to handle this one.

Everything I read online, I tried, and none of it seemed to really work. I was giving her extra time and special attention. I was trying my best to include her in the care of her brother (diapering, bathing, and dressing him), which she enjoyed. I would have my husband watch the baby while I tried to spend some one on one time with her doing crafts or playing in her room. We explained how Luca is just a baby and needs extra attention from mommy right now but that he won’t be a baby forever.  While all of the aforementioned tactics seemed to work for periods of time, she would still revert back to crying, throwing, whining, etc. when she did not get her way.

It finally clicked with me one day, no matter how hard my husband and I try; her life will never be the same as it was before. She would never be the center of attention again, never be the only child again, this was her new normal and she was adjusting. Part of the “issue” has honestly been her age. At three (almost four now), her tiny little self has all of these big emotions and isn’t truly sure how to express them yet. This s true of ANY 3 year old, not only one who has recently added a new dibbling to the mix. They test their boundaries and push your buttons, but it is part of their learning process. As my son has gotten a little older, we have been able to devote even more time to doing special things with just Willow, and things seem to be evening out in our house (FINALLY).

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Very happy girl because she and mommy got to make tie-dye shirts!

The best advice I can give to any parent who is adding a new baby to the family, is simply to be patient! The older child (or children) are going to have an adjustment period, which may be rocky, and that is perfectly normal. I do recommend letting someone else hold the baby while you spend at least a little time one-on-one with your older child. While Willow STILL has her little attitude problem, I have to realize she is almost four and her whole world changed about three and a half months ago so it is going to take time for her to fully adjust to this new family normal. Children crave your time and company, and they have a very hard time dealing with big emotions at a young age, so it is up to us as parents to ensure our children are given the proper emotional tools. Sometimes a child just needs to cry and then be spoken to about why they were, see if we can help them navigate these new feelings they are surely experiencing. Going from one child to two has been an emotional roller coaster, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!

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She really does love him

 

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Make the transition from only child to oldest child as simple as possible.

48 comments

  1. Brittany says:

    Great topic! I am blessed that my daughter took so well to becoming a big sister. It was precious! I just wrote a post on my successful vbac as well…so empowering!

  2. savagesevenblog says:

    When we added baby number 3 our 2nd child had the hardest time adjusting. And when we added the 4th my daughter still was the one who had the issues. We tried different things and the whole big sister thing was in one ear and out the other. We had to realize we needed to do something special individually with each of them that let’s them spend 1 on 1 time with us. I like the tie dye shirts! It would be cool to make matching ones

  3. fullestmom says:

    If I had to pick one word for advice, it would be grace. Ties very closely with your suggestion of patience. Our sibling dynamic has change from one to two, then two to three. Each child handles it differently. Thank you for sharing your story and I’m interested to see how big sister progresses as the baby grows.

    • thecoffeemom0617 says:

      I love that you suggest grace, that is definitely something that is very important when transitioning. Young kids have a hard time figuring out their emotuons, and as parents sometimes it is hard not to get frustrated ourselves but we should handle it with patience and grace 🙂

  4. Rachel Timmerman says:

    This really hit home for me. My kids are 4 years apart and while they have an amazing relationship, I always feel like I’m not doing enough to make each feel loved as an individual.

  5. Natasha says:

    We have four kids, but it has still been difficult for each one, every time a new sibling has been added to the family. this post really hit home, I am hoping when we have another, I can do better in starting a transition ahead of time.

    • thecoffeemom0617 says:

      I feel like I *might* be more prepared if/when we decide to have a third. I really don’t think that we prepared our daughter well for the change. She seemed so excited and happy, but after he was home the green eyed monster reared its head for sure. I have learned she loves to help with her brother…bathe him, change him, dress him.. So that’s been helping a bunch.

  6. thetaylor411 says:

    I love your advice and I agree completely. We were having trouble with our oldest son adjusting to the new baby. Patience is key, he came around on his own and started interacting more. It was all on his time and his way,

  7. Savannah (@HowHesRaised) says:

    Awesome post, and super informative!! I think having patience truly is so important, and it’s something that I’m beginning to learn and discover. We just recently found out that baby #2 is on their way and, while it was completely unplanned, we are excited! My firstborn isn’t quite two, so he has no idea what’s going on, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified to see how he will react and adjust. Thanks so much for sharing your experience! <3

  8. Lauren says:

    Congratulations on the new addition! Loved this post. We only have one little peanut right now, but if we decide to add more I could definitely see the transition being tough.

  9. robin masshole mommy says:

    I went through this, too, and you will figure it all out. My second son kind of ends up getting dragged along, but he’s fine with it 🙂

  10. Amanda Love says:

    Now this is very well said. It’s never easy to introduce a new baby to the family when you’re only baby is a little too young to understand. There’s definitely going to be an adjustment period, you just have to make sure that you’re doing your best to give them both the attention and love they deserve.

  11. bigfitfam says:

    Adding a new baby is always hard, even with easiest going of kids, we have done this 4 times now and will hopefully be doing it again this year….it’s always hard, but always worth it

  12. wildandfreeoutdoors says:

    Such a well written post and your kiddos are just darling! You’re right, patience is key with this situation and with 3 year olds in general!

  13. Marcie says:

    Congrats! We just went through this and it’s fun to update older kiddos about the pregnancy. My kids are almost 3 years apart and my oldest is constantly asking if our baby is old enough to play with him!

  14. Sheila says:

    I hadn’t thought about how their life would never be the same again. My son is almost 2 and we would love to have another. But the adjustment is something that I am afraid of.

  15. Amber says:

    We had a hard time too… my kids are 7 years apart and oldest “hated” my daughter. I think he has adjusted but you are right, it takes time. Be patient.

  16. Lydia says:

    This is a sweet story. I nanny a little girl who was an only and was so not into the idea of her momma having a second baby. But once that baby started to grow she quickly grew in love!

  17. Catherine Murton says:

    Aww I have a older girl and a little boy too! I love the “you can’t eat him” convo. Yes, patience is a virtue when adjusting to being a sibling. But, I agree, it’s important to still give them undivided one on one time too! Great post mama!

  18. Belle says:

    Such a great post! I can totally relate to this. We had my son when my daughter was just 1 year and 2 months old. There was definitely an adjustment period. She didn’t want me holding him for the longest time. It wasn’t until she turned 2 that she learned to accept him. There are still days though when he’d tell him she’s my only baby.

    Belle | One Awesome Momma

  19. cvnxena says:

    This is actually really helpful, we are waiting for our second to arrive and have been wondering what to do to make the transition easier, it is definitely one of our concerns but hopefully it won’t be too bad!

  20. reesann723 says:

    This is such a great topic. I have to be honest when I had my 2nd, I didn’t even think this would be an issue until it was!

  21. Jeanine says:

    This is great! When my oldest went from only to oldest I was really happy it was a really smooth transition. But when we welcomed #4, #3 had a few issues.

  22. Liz says:

    My daughter was three too when we welcomed our son. We had bought her a special big sister gift that we gave to her on the day of his birth and she got lots of extra special time with her grandparents doing fun things. Now they love playing together. She is 6 and he’s 3

  23. melissa says:

    The journey continues and the challenges of raising your two kids will change and grow as they do. I enjoyed your diary and wish you good luck as Willow gets used to her baby brother.

  24. Cathy Mini says:

    I always wonder how parents deal with this and how they approach their littles about becoming a sibling–I was an only child and I don’t have any children of my own, so this was a really interesting read for me!

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