I have a thirteen-year-old son who is feeling more than a little sullen and displaced by the baby on the way in August. Books? Articles? Hands-on advice that goes beyond "It will all be all right"?
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Teen Sibling for a Baby on the Way, Anyone?post #1 of 122/26/13 at 12:43pmThread Starterpost #2 of 123/2/13 at 4:22pm
I'm not sure I have any advice -- and I never found any books or articles that were very helpful -- but we were in the same boat, with a 12 year old girl. She wasn't so happy about having to share me after 12 years of being an only. I won't lie ... there were times it was rough. She resented the time I had to spend with the baby, the fact that baby's needs were more immediate and pressing, the crying, the baby toys around, and etc. etc. I did work as hard as possible not to disrupt her life too much, to make sure she was still able to do all her extracurricular activities, and to give her adequate one-on-one time. Wearing the baby/toddler was pretty essential, so the teen and I could still do shopping trips, lunches, and everything else she needed relatively unencumbered. I just kept things as much the same as I could, while toting a babe around on my chest. Of course, there were adjustments to be made, and they weren't always made graciously... but I also tried my best to listen compassionately when my teen complained that life was different with the baby or that I spent too much time nursing or whatever. Underlying my compassionate listening and agreement with her that life was different and sometimes sucky now, however, was the truth that life DOES change, that this is her family, and she was just going to have to come to terms with it. And eventually, she did. Baby is 3 now, teen is 15, and life has gone on. They cuddle, they love each other, they're friends.
A couple more small things I can think of that helped my teen feel like she was still important and valued, and that our lives weren't totally being taken over by a small slobbery thing:
- I don't make her babysit when she doesn't want to, and I generally (not always, but usually) pay her for her time when she does babysit, the same rate I would pay another teenage sitter.
- Her room and her things are off-limits to little sister unless teen has given little sister express permission. She doesn't have to share her old toys unless she wants to, either (she has a horse collection, some stuffed animals etc. that she doesn't want to become baby's by default... so we honor that).
It might not be an easy transition, but your older child might also surprise you by adjusting more quickly than you think after the baby comes. I think the anticipation of all of it was a lot worse for my daughter than the reality. There may have been some stress and worry mixed in there for me, too, which was alleviated by a healthy birth and baby.post #3 of 123/2/13 at 6:14pm
I have a friend who was in a similar situation. Her 14 yr old who had always been an only child was not thrilled about the transition.
She said that the best thing that helped was to specifically make an effort to not have everything about the baby. She made sure that it wasn't always baby discussion and that they had discussions about what her older child was interested in. Also, they arranged to have a family member babysit the little one once a month so that mom, dad, and older one could go out and do the things they had enjoyed before (usually a movie followed by dinner out, or some shopping and ice cream).post #4 of 123/3/13 at 7:50am
Sorry for posting late but I wanted to ask my dd what it was like getting a brother when she was 13 because the only think I remember was her being mad when people assumed that she was a teen mom. And while she didn't like babysitting an infant, she understood that I had to work for the well being of the family. But she also had 2 older siblings and her sibling rivilaly revolved around her older sisters not her much younger brother. The years between when Dylan turned 5 and 9 (when Angela moved out) were good ones for Angela. She was able to relate to him better than when he was an infant. Given her personality and that she was not an only child, it was all good. She also said that having us as the parents also made a difference. We were (and still are according to Dylan) respectful of them as people and considered them in the family decisions.
When Dylan was 10, our oldest daughter and her family moved in with us. That was a bigger adjustment for Dylan than him joining the family when the girls were 20, 17, and 13. He all at once gained 2 more parents and 2 "siblings" aged 3 and 1 followed by another one 9 months later. Then, his grandmother started going down hill and we added taking care of her into the situation. Having Joy and family actually helped provide Dylan additional stability during that time. Now, at age 15, he wears his title of Uncle proudly and is living up to his status of being a roll model to his nephews and nieces. While Joy moved out 2 years ago, they live 5 minutes from us and are still very much a part of Dylan's life.
It comes down to your son's personality, your and your dhs personalities and how you parent and your family dynamics. What works for my family won't necessarily work for yours. I have always discussed the whys of how things need to work for our family and why Dylan got/gets things that his sisters didn't (for one thing, it's more doable to buy for one than for three). Getting the children's input and listening to their point of view comes naturally for me. It's how my parents raised us. Along with listening to them, we always explain our decisions and reasonings so they were never left with the feeling that our decisions were arbitrary but based on sound (for our family) reasonings. And we were always flexible to use their ideas if they were better than ours and not to dismiss them simply because they were the children and we were the adults.
post #5 of 123/4/13 at 8:16amThread Starter
I am also making it a point to coach friends and family not to make all their discussions with my son about the upcoming baby, which seems to be their conversational instinct, unfortunately. I encourage them to instead continue to initiate conversations about his interests and activities as they had been doing before I was pregnant, and I have been specifically pointing out that it will make him feel less important in the family if they assume that jokingly mentioning his new babysitter status and similar is humorous to him.post #6 of 123/4/13 at 5:35pmQuote:Originally Posted by MeganHillary
I am also making it a point to coach friends and family not to make all their discussions with my son about the upcoming baby, which seems to be their conversational instinct, unfortunately. I encourage them to instead continue to initiate conversations about his interests and activities as they had been doing before I was pregnant, and I have been specifically pointing out that it will make him feel less important in the family if they assume that jokingly mentioning his new babysitter status and similar is humorous to him.
That's a good point. We have had to have several discussions with grandparents about not making everything about the little one. It was a hard thing for family members to remember -- babies are so cute and new, and young teens are just entering that age where it can be more difficult to relate to them/find topics that interest both parties. We did have to work on that and really make a point of making sure the talk (and actions) weren't baby, baby, baby all the time. It's great you're already addressing it.post #7 of 123/4/13 at 9:08pm
Interesting discussion. We have one on the way, ds 19 yo; ds 14 yo; & dd 12 yo.
Really, the one who struggles the most so far is ds1 who has grown & flown already-- lives in another state! I guess he feels we are moving on with our life w/o him a bit? Ds2 is basically nonchalant & is only concerned w -not- sharing his birthday (edd is the day after his 15th bday!) Dd is as excited as she can be & only vaccilates on whether it would be best to have a brother or a sister. All the same, personallity does come in to play-- of all my dc, ds1 has had the biggest life-long struggle with allowing the parents to make the parenting decisions... adding a child is a parenting decision, so I'm not exactly shocked that ds1 thinks I need his permission to give birth, despite the fact that he's not even under my roof anymore, hah.
Your son is younger than mine (but I did deal with the "it's a parenting decision" thing w him at 13, too). You know your ds best-- would it help to kindly and gently explain that the decision to have another baby is in part because of the joy he's brought into your life & you are spreading the joy; that it is no longer up for "vote" by anyone since the baby does now exist & it's a done deal; & that in the first place, while you always do try to honor his feelings, it is/ was a parenting decision, not made by children? Any or all of that? 13 is tricky-- some will respond to logic & some won't-- if not maybe focus on the emotional-spreading the joy thing?? (Feel free to eat the meat & spit out the bones; I feel like I'm overstepping almost by suggesting actual discussions, but you requested hands-on, so... if it's too much, just ignore me!)
The great thing about the age span we are dealing with is that this is -not- a 3yo or 5yo or even an 8yo... this is an age when we can expect some maturity & perspective from our tween & teen dc. If they haven't already begun to realize (I know, I know, difficult epiphany for middle schoolers, & especially so for onlies) that it is not all about them all the time (it IS sometimes, just not always)... a change in family dynamics is a real opportunity for growth. We couldn't fairly expect a similar degee of maturity from very young, or even elementary age children, so this age span is a blessing (even if in disguise right now).
We have always made a point of one on one or two on one (one or both parents w just one child) time for each child, new baby or no. This is important. We also have modeled, taught, and expected a growing level of maturity in general as our children grow up-- we can't expect it to happen all at once at some magic age, like 18 or 22 yo; I think it helps even out the very emotional tweens & the super-independent-while-still-dependent teens. ymmv
IME, a lot of practical app is aimed at young children; the best hands on advice I've seen is from step-family resources (which makes sense bc it is still a change in family members, often w older & teen dc). Ron Deal has the super-awesomest material I have ever seen anywhere. H any of TH.post #8 of 123/5/13 at 10:17am
My older son was 15 years old when his little brother was born. It took a while for the transition- I remember one night, when the baby was about three weeks old and crying during the night, my older son walked into the bedroom and yelled at me, "Would you shut that thing up, some people are trying to sleep here!" lol But once the baby got bigger and started having a personality, they developed a bond. It also helped that I made a point of not making him babysit his little brother or take on any extra chores or "hardships" that could be avoided, because of the baby.post #9 of 123/6/13 at 4:27pm
IDK, am I being... idk how to even describe it... am I being unrealistic, here?
This is what I mean. When things change, things change. I can't guarantee to my DC that nothing will ever change their sleep arrangements or their chore responsibilities (new baby or no). If I started working outside the home & DH could no longe work from home, we may have to move (new sleep arrangements), they may have to take on more chores (we'd both be gone less). A new baby is a family change & my DC -may- have new/ different/ fewer/ more chores. ~shrug~ When they were infants, everyone in the household did whatever was needed to make the household run. Now they are old enough to contribute & are expected to do what it takes (insofar as they are able) to help the household run smoothly. I won't promise no new chores or exactly the same amount of individual time bc that doesn't seem realistic. I mean DS1 was 5yo when DS2 was born; before this he'd never been asked to fetch me a diaper-- it's a new "chore" that appeared from time to time after the baby, yk? He didn't resent it. My DC who are still home are (of their own accord, with no prompting from me) working out new chore arrangements between them for baby's early weeks, bc as my DD said, "You are doing -nothing-... you will just be home from the hospital after pushing a BABY out!" LOL. I've told her if she really intends to take on a lot more chores, I intend to pay her as I would any experienced mother's helper. This makes her proud of having something worthwhile to offer the family. DS2 is still figuring out where he stands, but certainly expects to help out our family when needed.
Can other mamas chime in who have had a nb & teen/tween? Is it unrealistic to expect older dc to pitch in more after baby if needed?post #10 of 123/7/13 at 6:56am
From the other side of the fence. My younger brothers came along when I was 15-17 and it was particularly difficult for me because my time was expected to be subordinated to help the family witht hings like babysitting, entertaining, feeding and helping in general. I had a life outside my family. Mainly school. It was hard having my free time grow smaller.post #11 of 123/7/13 at 6:38pm
TY for that-- I'm still not sure how this will look for us, tho... my DC are homeschooled & have more free time than anyone they know (of course pursuing their interests often becomes homeschool unit studies/ credit, so there is crossover) & the outside activities we have are mostly family activities (or at least the whole family is present for them, like soccer, etc.), so I don't see them being squeezed out of the schedule. My DC at home are younger than you were, too. Still it helps to hear how you felt bc, behavior aside, it is good to anticipate feelings that may emerge.
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