The other day I spoke with a friend who had just become a mother for the second time . Everything was going perfectly with her baby, but she told me that she was very hurt by the comments she was receiving from the people around her regarding her eldest son . Unfortunately, many of the things that she confessed to me were familiar to me, and I bet they are to a large number of parents in the same situation.

I am convinced that in most of these occasions things are said without thinking about the consequences, or even with the intention of flattering the older brother. However, it is more than likely that the effect on the child will be very negative.

If you are going to visit a newborn and there is already another older child in the family, we recommend what things you should avoid doing or saying so that the child (and their parents) do not feel hurt.

1. Visiting the newborn and ignoring the older brother

When a baby comes into the world, it’s only natural that family and friends want to meet them and take photos with them. Everyone wants to put a face to the new baby, draw similarities from him and hold him in their arms for a little while. But what about the older brother? Well, on many occasions he is ignored and isolated, so that it is easy to find him in a corner of the room, silently witnessing a story that does not go with him.

For this reason, if you are going to visit a newborn, take into account the feelings of the older child : take an interest in him, ask him about his tastes and hobbies and also take photos next to him. In short, show him with deeds and words that he is still just as important to you.

2. Give the baby away and not do the same with the older brother

I consider even more terrible than the previous fact, giving something to a baby and not doing the same with the older brother . Unfortunately, I have had to live this unfortunate situation on several occasions, and in all of them my soul has shrunk.

So, please, if you are going to give a gift to a newborn, also think about their older brother or brothers, because there is nothing more cruel than leaving them empty-handed looking at a gift that is not intended for them . In any case, it is not necessary to buy anything expensive or sophisticated from them; a ball, a story or a notebook and coloring pencils are enough to make them smile and make them feel important.

3. Tell him that “he has to take good care of his little brother”

Before the arrival of a new baby, family and friends often strongly recommend the older brother to take care of the baby , perhaps in an attempt to give him an important role in the family.

But although it may seem to us that the child has grown up suddenly , we must not lose sight of the fact that he is still just a child , and we can not demand that overnight he change his behavior and begin to take responsibility for a baby.

In this sense, it should be the parents who involve him little by little and without forcing him in the care of the little brother , making him feel at ease and comfortable with the situation, in order to strengthen the brotherly bond .

4. Ask the parents if they are jealous of the baby in the presence of the child

It is also common for acquaintances and strangers to ask new parents if the older brother is jealous of the baby , doing so in the presence of the child himself. But as if this were not enough, the question is usually formulated in a dramatic tone (anticipating the worst) or using euphemisms, mistakenly thinking that although the child is listening, he does not understand what we are saying.

Jealousy at the arrival of a brother is not bad . It is a natural feeling that sooner or later ends up emerging , because the family structure as the child knew it until now changes with the birth of the baby, and it is normal for this to produce uncertainty and insecurity.

That is why it is important to treat this topic naturally and talk to the child about his feelings with absolute transparency , without hiding what he feels from people, but without giving it more importance than it has.

5. Tell the child that “you are going to take his little brother home”

Perhaps in order to gain the older child’s trust, make him feel special, or extol a defensive reaction on his part, many people make the mistake of teasing the older child into believing that “they’re taking their little brother home . “

What happens if the child gets scared and comes to the defense of his brother? Is he more deserving of praise than that little boy who is having a hard time and encourages the stranger to take the baby to his house?

Without a doubt , this joke is cruel and disconcerting for the little one, because children do not understand the farce, the double meanings or the ironies as we adults do. Jokes should be fun for everyone, and saying this to a child absolutely isn’t.

6. Excessive praise of the older brother

Before the arrival of the baby, there are people who react by praising the older brother excessively , who suddenly begins to hear endless epithets that he had probably never heard before, such as “the most responsible”, “the best”, “the most mature”, “the smartest”, “the one who eats the best”, “the bravest”…

And it is common to fall into the mistake of believing that to make the older child feel special, they should be praised and placed ahead of the baby , which can cause tensions and rivalries between siblings, as well as seriously undermine their self-esteem with the imposition of labels .

7. Criticize the baby

And along the same lines as the previous point are comments aimed at ridiculing or criticizing the baby , with the aim of making the older brother feel important, such as: “how heavy the baby is, he only knows how to cry!” “What a pig is the brother, who pees and poops on himself!”, “How boring babies are, who don’t know how to do anything!” 

But far from helping, this type of derogatory comment could affect the brotherly bond and the empathy that the eldest generates towards his brother, so that he ends up perceiving the baby as a threat, a person of no importance, or someone whose feelings and needs are not must be taken into account.

8. Downplay the child’s feelings, because he is the oldest

As we have commented above, “when a baby is born, the older brother grows up suddenly”. But the fact that we see him as bigger physically does not mean that on an emotional level we should treat him like an adult .

And it is that sometimes they make the mistake of ignoring the feelings of the older child or positioning themselves on the side of the baby, considering that it is the “weakest part”. This happens, for example, when we play down the crying of the eldest as a wake-up call, or when we force him to share his toys with his little brother.

Let us remember that no matter how big we see the older child, he is nothing more than a child who needs his space , his moments alone with dad and mom and his rhythms, just as he needed it before the arrival of the newborn.

9. Compare siblings

Comparisons between children (and between siblings, in particular) is something that we have deeply ingrained in our culture, and that we unconsciously begin to make even before the second child is born.