After a new sibling has arrived, an older child’s feelings will be both large with love and wonder, and tight with upset about his sibling’s intrusion into his relationship and time with you. One of the more fruitful ways to handle this is to find a way to play “I want you!” with your older child as often as possible.
Playing the “I want you” game
“I want you” games come in a hundred variations. You could begin by getting down on the floor and announcing, “I have a hundred kisses for you! Where shall I start?!” and crawling awkwardly toward your child. You can make great efforts to get him and cuddle him, and then he can wriggle away and dance just out of reach, laughing while you try to deliver your kisses.
Or play can be set up with both parents, one parent playfully pulling the child toward her and saying, “I want to play with Sam!” and the other pulling him back and saying, “No, you can’t have him! I haven’t had enough of him yet today!” If this playful tug-of-war brings laughter, keep playing! It fills up a child’s hunger for attention and importance.
Another “I want you” game is to announce, “Where’s Sam!? I have to find Sam! I’m lonesome for Sam!” and to search all around (even though Sam is in plain sight) until you discover him and scoop him up in your arms for lots of cuddles. Holding your older child like a baby, and appreciating his fingers, toes, perfect ears, and beautiful eyes is another kind of sweet play that reassures a child that his uniqueness hasn’t been forgotten.
The laughter your child does while you playfully show that you can’t live without him heals some of the hurt of seeing you attending the other child so often and so lovingly. And it gives you a delightful way to openly appreciate your older child.
Special Time will also help you center your attention on your older child at regular intervals during the week, helping both him and you to plump up your relationship and remember the love you have for each other.
Below, we’ve broken down some of the most common struggles parents encounter when raising siblings. In each section, you’ll learn some insight behind the behavior struggles and some ideas for how to intervene or prevent it.