When a new baby enters the family, siblings can feel left out and jealous. A gift from the baby is a great way to help them feel part of the special time. It also gives the baby a bit of additional appeal for being so nice and gifting them a super cool present, but does it work?
Chaos to Calm Consultancy child behaviour expert Chrissie Davies says a gift is a great idea but won't work in isolation.
"Choosing a gift from the baby to give to your older child is a lovely idea as long as parents are clear in their understanding that a gift will never replace the one thing that a child wants most – their parents," Ms Davies says.
"Young children don't really have the ability to understand the act of gift-giving yet, so items really don't really mean that much for them.
"A gift from the parents will mean more to the child as they already have an established connection based on trust. The siblings are yet to establish their bond."
Although, a gift from the baby is certainly a great first step in developing a bond between siblings during what is a transitional time for all.
"Children are creatures of connection, and it is very common for families to experience a transition period from the older child as they get used to their new brother or sister," Ms Davies says.
"They see their parents doting on the new child. Visitors come to hold and cuddle the new baby and the older child observes all of this. They don't understand conceptually that a tiny baby needs 24-hour care and it is only natural that feeling of jealousy, sadness and anger come to the surface.
"The truth is for a child who is so used to having their parents undivided attention, there can be a few months of challenging behaviour whilst that child works out the new arrangement."
The upheaval can manifest in different ways.
"For an older child this will probably come in the form of clinginess, tears and tantrums and challenging behaviour," Ms Davies says.
"Many children also regress and lose some of their gained independence as they want their parents to take care of them like the baby.
"They might need a little more help with getting dressed, need some extra-long cuddles, or want to be held like a baby too. Once the child starts to feel secure with the new family set-up things should settle and they will go back to their happy, independent selves."
And while a gift is a good distraction in the short term, also remember to give the gift of physical connection and family time.
"Give your child the gift of time – many young children just want their mum back," Ms Davies says.
"Many families often send the toddler out so that the mum can get a break (understandable in the very early days) but by tag teaming with dad and spending one-on-one quality time with the older child it will remind them that you are still there for them."
And when visitors come to see the new baby encourage them to first spend some time with their older sibling.
"When visitors arrive, they're so excited to meet your new child, but it's still incredibly important for the older child to feel valued and cared for too," she says.
"Encourage them to spend the first part of their visit playing with your other child before holding the baby."
Being made to special will help older siblings feel like they're still a valued member of the family. And the baby can play a role in that.
Here are some fun gift ideas the new baby can give their siblings:
- Surprising them with a cubby house will give them a hideaway of their own, especially when they need to get away from a crying newborn.
- Gifting a snuggly toy will give them something to hug at night and cuddle during the day when their mum is feeding the new baby.
- If you've been thinking of giving your child a device, then now might be the time. Or even some new books.
- If they've had their eye on a particular toy car, game, craft activity or Lego then it would be awesome if their new baby brother or sister was the legend who got it for them.
- Or maybe their new sibling could give them a boxset of their favourite tv shows and a something super sweet to eat while they watch.