Although I have plenty of opinions on child rearing, they are mostly in the research and development phase. But there is one area that has already borne fruit, and that is love for the new baby. All my kids have an adjustment period when a new sibling arrives, but so far, they’ve taken it all out on me, and we’ve never had a baby-related incident more disturbing than Nathan covering his ears when Annie learned to bellow, and telling me, “I don’t like that baby noise. Make it stop.”

Maybe my kids are just naturally loving towards infants, or maybe our tactics have taught them how to love, but this is how we’ve done it. First, we let them touch. Babies are surprisingly tough, and toddlers are surprisingly gentle on infants. It might make your hair curl when the kids want to love on your precious new one – it looks like a slow train wreck, but hold your breath, bite your tongue, dig your fingernails into your palms and let them touch. They’ll probably need to take off her clothes and inspect every inch of her. She’s their baby too. Let them see her. Aside from gently removing curious fingers from eye and mouth regions, I let them touch, kiss and cuddle at will, giving suggestions for favorite tickle and caressing spots – “she loves it when you gently rub the back of her head. See how she smiles when you touch her belly?” The baby has a very proficient early warning system that will let you and her siblings know when she’s had enough.

We tell them Baby loves them, because Baby does. Any time the baby looks in a sibling’s direction, seems interested in the noise behind her, or happens to make a face or fart in a sibling’s vicinity, we make a big deal. “She loves you! See that face she’s making? That’s because she knows you’re her brother and she already loves you so much. Do it again, she likes it when you do that!”

Teach them to read her signals. You do it all the time. Let the kids in on the secret. When Baby grimaces and turns away, we point it out. We help the kids make the connection between their shouting or too much poking and the baby’s mood. “See her face? Hear that sound she’s making? She’s telling you she doesn’t want you to do that anymore.” We point it out every time, and keep doing it until the baby is old enough to defend herself – which is around age four. Everybody needs a reminder that the small and the weak are people who have feelings and needs just like our own.

And lastly, we watch and enjoy. There is no beauty in Creation like the love of siblings. Soak it in.

Advertisements