It's sweet and cyclical how once people become parents, it's often their own parents they want around to help out. Having an infant for the first time is pretty scary stuff, so you may be hoping for guidance from someone you trust. After your second or third child is born, however, having grandparents or other helpers around seems more like a necessity than a comfort, and the best grandmothers do things for new big siblings to make them feel extra special and loved. Because while it’s incredibly joyful, it can also be stressful and even a little sad to watch your “big" baby adjust to your newborn.
Aside from helping out with the laundry (which somehow manages to quadruple with the arrival of each new family member), and holding the baby while you squeeze a nap in (or, more realistically, a shower), the best grandmas know that the bigger kids need just as much, if not more, attention than the baby. More than just buying the eldest an I’m a big sister shirt (not to knock those, they’re adorable), exceptional grandmas help their grandchildren navigate this huge life transition. Read on for 8 helpful things the best grandmas do for new big siblings that make everyone's lives (parents, too!) just a little bit easier.
1. They help the older siblings get excited
Rather than solely focusing on how sweet it is to have a new baby, the best grandmas will point out all the reasons it's awesome to be a big brother or sister. There are plenty of excellent books about being an older sibling, but you can also ask the child to tell you what they're excited for. If grandparents are babysitting while the delivery happens, it can also be fun to take the kiddo to a party store where they can pick out balloons and other decorations to make it feel like they had a hand in the celebration when the baby comes home.
2. They let the big kid feel all their emotions
The arrival of a new sibling brings up some big feelings for a kid. It's exciting, scary, confusing, sad — maybe all four emotions at once. Instead of telling an older child how they should feel (but this is so exciting!, for example) excellent grandmas will be a safe space for kids to let our their emotions. They'll say things like, I see that you're really upset right now, this is a big change, and they'll give love and affection even when their grandchild isn't showing the best side of themselves.
3. They bring an (appropriate) gift
Grandparents are known for being generous... sometimes in a way that can overstep a parents' boundaries. The best grandparents will ask before buying anything especially big, noisy, or that requires a lot of supervision to use (for example, the arrival of a new baby probably isn't the best time to give an older sibling a bike). I love the idea of giving a play tent so kids have their own private space amidst the new baby chaos, but again, get the okay first.
4. They plan special activities
It's always a good idea to make an older sibling feel special by planning activities that the new baby is "too little to do." Maybe this means seeing a highly anticipated (age-appropriate) movie in the theatre, or going to paint your own pottery place where the kiddo can pick out a special figurine to decorate. Whatever it is, it should be a one-on-one activity where big brother or sister gets heaps of undivided attention.
5. They let the parents tell the child they're getting a sibling
It can be tempting to want to share the excitement of a new baby with its older sibling, but this may actually be overwhelming or confusing, especially if the child is very young. Toddlers don't have a solid grasp on time, and "telling them of this exciting event months early creates worry and anxiety," per Motherly. As with most things, grandparents should leave it up to the parents to figure out how and when to break the news, and they'll be extra careful not to let it slip in a moment of excitement.
6. They help the new big sibling stick to their routine
Parents and grandparents alike may want break the rules or bend the routine for the older child once the new baby arrives; Kids Health says, "it's normal to feel guilty about sending your older child away since now you're home with the new baby (and if you're home, you might feel that everyone should be). But keeping normal routines is helpful for siblings." A grandmother can help alleviate some of a parents' guilt by offering to drive the big kid to school, do bathtime, or get them ready for bed.
7. They babysit the baby
It may be easier for grandma to run out quickly to grab eggs and bread for the family, but sometimes it's a good idea for mom or dad to take the older child out while the baby stays back. "Take advantage of chances for one-on-one time with older kids... Knowing that there's special time just for them may help ease any resentment or anger about the new baby," per Kids Health. In those early days of infantdom, it may not be possible for the parents to leave the baby for much time at all, but even a quick trip to the grocery store can make a big kid feel special.
8. They don't take it personally
It's not uncommon for an older sibling to experience a period of regression after the birth of a new child. This may mean that they take steps backward on potty training, don't sleep as well, or are especially clingy to mom and dad. The best grandmas won't get up upset (though it may sting for a second) if their grandchild resists their help or is less affectionate than normal.