Grandma Love

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13 Things The Best Grandmas Do For New Big Siblings

The best is that they know not to take anything personally.

Originally Published: 

Having an infant for the first time is pretty scary stuff, and it’s not uncommon for grandparents to come to stay for an extended period of time, offering advice (solicited or not) and helping out with everyday tasks like cooking and cleaning. 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. You may even be worried you won’t love your second child as much (you will) or that you’ll ruin your older kids’ life (you won’t). Suffice to say, the best helpers will ease the transition for everyone.

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 the best things the best grandmas do for new big siblings that make everyone's lives (parents, too!) just a little bit easier.


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.


They let the big kid feel all their emotions

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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.


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.


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.


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. As with most things, grandparents should leave it up to the parents to figure out how and when to break share this information, and they'll be extra careful not to let it slip in a moment of excitement.


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, but keeping child’s normal routines can help give them a sense of stability. 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.


They babysit the baby

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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 so that kids still get that special one-on-one time with their parents. In those early days, it may not be easy 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.


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 toilet 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.


They don’t make the toddler bond with the baby

It’s natural to want to see the older child bonding with the baby (plus pictures of big siblings holding their littles are so cute). If the older child isn’t showing much interest in their new sibling, the best grandparents won’t push it. It’s not uncommon for toddlers to completely ignore their sibling as if the baby were a piece of furniture in the house, and it’s better to praise the older sibling when they do interact with their sibling than to point out each time they do not.


They help the big kid feel included

Certain activities, notably breastfeeding and putting the baby to sleep, can make a big kid feel a little left out. Grandmas will allow the older child to feel sad, of course, but will also think of creative ideas for how to spend time with the big sibling when mom or dad can’t. For example, maybe during an afternoon feed, grandma takes the older child for a walk to the park, or maybe there’s a game or puzzle for “big kids” that the child gets to play as a special treat.


They praise independent behavior

It’s hard to predict exactly how a child will react to the birth of their new sibling, but you may see an older sibling showing more independence, as Jenny Limm, MFT, M.Ed told Romper in a previous article. This independent behavior is cute, but sometimes it will mean spilled milk, shoes on the wrong feet, and backwards shirts. Even with these mishaps, the best grandparents will praise kids for trying.


They allow kids to “help”

Yes, help from toddlers is often anything but helpful. Still, it’s a good sign that they are interested in seeking attention in a positive way (as opposed to meltdowns or risky behavior). If possible, grandparents can give the older sibling a relatively low-stakes task, like finding the baby’s lovie or burp cloth or packing their own snack for a walk. If there’s really nothing they can safely help with at the moment, “simply thank them for their thoughts/concern, and reassure them that they can go play and not have to worry about the baby,” Limm told Romper.


They play virtual games

For better or worse, grandparents can’t stay forever after the baby arrives, but the best grandmas will still find ways to engage older siblings, even when they’re not physically in the same room. Grandparents can set-up a standing FaceTime every other day or each week (with the understanding that sometimes it won’t happen, because life). There are fun FaceTime games grandparents can play with grandkids that can be as simple as Rock, Paper, Scissors, or I Spy. This gives parents a few minutes of knowing their older child is happy and occupied so they can tend to the baby (or themselves).