Saturday, May 16, 2009

a new baby, a new role.

may 16 2009

Welcoming a baby in life might be one of the highlights in the lives of the parents, siblings are not always pleased to see the little creature enter their hearts and house.

It's not because they suddenly have become little monsters on a quest to make life as difficult as possible for others, but because they have lost their secure place as only child.
It's kind of losing your identity and suddenly feel degraded from king to guard.

My first son was a very kind boy.
Because he was so quiet we took him with us for check-ups, and he heard the heartbeat of the baby at the same time as us.
He helped creating a babyroom, months after he moved to his new room, so he didn't feel he had to make place for the baby.

I had piles of little wiping cloths, and it seemed to be a good idea he would be in charge of the ones with the blue border.
So he was allowed to put them on the shelf.

One evening we had fun with a large bear.
I put a diaper on the bear, and then taught his father (the kids father) to diaper the bear.
Then I told my son to get a wiping cloth.
With his little legs he ran as fast as he could, and came back with the cloth and a proud face.
First I taught him how to wipe a hand at the top. Just a swift brush.
I saw the young ego grow, but I also saw how well he listened when I told him a baby has a very soft skin.
So then I told him the baby would drink breastmilk and that sometimes a drop would slide away and it was his royal honor to wipe that drop away.

He asked to practice a few days after.

It was clear he had found a new role in the family.

When the baby came we didn't want anyone to be in the room.
The bay was in the crip.
Ofcourse someone else had told him his brother was born, but I was the one to tell him he now was my oldest son and we both had to share our responsibility for the little one.
Already months ago I'd told him that babies can't play, can't speak and can't built with blocks.
And I told him that again. That babies use crying and little sounds to talk with us, and that we have to stay calm when they cry, because they need to learn that people listen. That they first have to grow the muscles to speak and play.
Then I gave him a present, a little book and asked him if he wanted to see the baby.

So the baby came and together we were amazed and happy.

I was very lucky all my sons did well with this approach.
They understood babies were not to be played with.

Some children have a hard time accepting a baby.

One of the main reasons is that they see their parents completely caught up in the care for the baby and the festive attention of others.
I'm always amazed that visitors don't divide their attention between the new and the old one.
Or that people think that taking the older child for a day out will help. (Message: you're not welcome at home, you're too much at the moment.)

Just offer to make dinner for a couple of days and put it behind the door, so the mother isn't so busy and the new family has time to adjust to the new situation in the intimacy of their own family.

Before feeding the baby, sit down and play a bit with your other child.
Take your time to make a drink for your both and eat a cookie.
Make the moment festive and pleasant.

Then go both to see the baby and, especially when you have an autistic child, tell what you experience when you see the baby.
It has been such a pleasure to share my thoughts about the tiny toes and little fingers, but it has also been a learning opportunity for the oldest to learn to read a face. Is the baby happy, tired or even still asleep?

I've also used changing diapers to tell the baby the smell is not so nice, or he should make it less wet.
That way the oldest would realize that I don't regard the baby as a perfect being he can't compete with.

Giving the oldest little tasks, like holding a towel, putting back the shampoo, and complimenting him straight into heaven, not only kept him by my side, so he couldn't rebuilt the house without me seeing it, it also made clear how important he was and is.

Don't think it was all a pink cloud.
I've never been drifting high.

I know that some children pinch the new bay, slap it, create havock and become jealous devils.

Realize that all behaviour is learned, and that maybe on the way to the birth of the new baby things have gone wrong.
The oldest has felt you change during pregnancy, perceived you to become another person with a big belly and slow gait.
Maybe his autism made him feel more and more alienated from you because you became someone else in his eyes, and now you've lost the belly you're still smelling different.

He needs to be loved even more, and he needs his behaviour corrected as soon as possible.
A positive approach always works best.
So when he's silent, or pleasant, or funny, or doing well in any other way, let him know you like him and his behaviour.

When he does something that's not right, don't start yelling, but keep calm so he will hear the message well.
Tell him "no".
And try to distract the attention. Most of the time it works.
Keep favorite toys, CD's, videos and whatever available.

Three times "no" means with a little child before the age of 4 that it's being removed from the scene and has to sit down on the floor in the kitchen.
Count until ten and let the child go.
When it's older you can lengthen the time.
Well, you know how The Nanny deals with those situations.
On TV it works, but in your home it will work too.
Be consequent and be consistent.

When you have an autistic child which shows very difficult behaviour, consider getting help in the home.
There are family services which offer behavioural training.
The earlier you start, the better it is.

Enjoy your baby.


  1. As good as ever, Laane.

    I've asked our lecturer of development psychology to ask you as a guest lecturer. Is that OK?

  2. You do fantastic post. I learn so much every time I stop by. My grand daughter stopped talking when the new baby arrived. So for awhile I just came over and played with her. We went places just the two of us and immediately she started talking again. Children are amazing.


Thank you for your comment.