Dealing with the arrival of a new baby in the family is quite different when your kid is older – it’s usually easier!
Compared to the jealousy and rivalry that is typical of siblings with a small age gap, say two to three years, it’s usually much less or even non-existent in kids who have more than bigger age differences.
There are a few reasons why the appearance of a baby sibling creates fewer psychological ripples when the age gap is large.
First, your older child has an established routine with school, friends and leisure activities, which is unlikely to be altered by the new baby. Of course, there may be a few days of upheaval around the birth, but your big kid’s life goes on much the same.
Second, a large age gap means she doesn’t feel threatened by the presence of a younger brother or sister. The new baby isn’t going to take her big kid’s toys!
And chances are, your firstborn is quite happy that you spend lots of time caring for the little one (which gives her more privacy), as long as she can get your attention when she wants it.
There are also practical benefits of having such a large age gap. Your big kid is at school for most of the day and probably has after-school activities or tuition.
This allows you to have lots of one-on-one time with your new arrival.
Compare that with having an attention-seeking toddler beside you all day. To a certain extent, the large age gap will make it seem like you’re having your first baby all over again.
If you have kept any of your firstborn’s clothes and toys in good condition, you’ll be able to give them to your baby without any complaints from her big sister.
You’ll just need time to adjust
A potential disadvantage of a large age gap is that your baby-care skills might be a little rusty! It’s not that you don’t know how to look after a young infant, it’s just that you haven’t done it in some time.
In addition, you are used to managing an older child who is mostly independent. You will probably need time to adjust to the reappearance of a baby at home, though it will all come back to you quickly.
Try to get your older child involved with her younger sibling. For instance, she can play with the baby, or help you with dressing her. At her age, she is capable of making a positive contribution.
Getting her connected with these physical activities helps strengthen the connection between siblings.
Likewise, your big kid can show off baby to visitors, particularly in the early weeks when everyone comes round to see the new arrival.
Make sure, however, that you have time alone with your firstborn. She still needs your attention, despite her increasing independence.
Set aside at least five or 10 minutes every day just to be with her, when baby is asleep or is being cared for by daddy or the domestic helper. Your big kid will not resent the new baby if her emotional and psychological needs continue to be met by you in this way.
This article was first published in Young Parents.