Helping Owen Adjust to Being a Big Brother

                          By: Suzanne Toth

One day, my son Owen looked at me and said “Mom, you are going to have another baby”. With a surprised look on my face, I replied, “Maybe someday Owen”.  Two weeks later we found out that we were pregnant! After some time had passed and we felt it was time to tell Owen, we filled a huge box of pink and blue balloons, had him open it and announced to him that we were having a baby! Owen was delighted and for the remainder of my pregnancy gushed to anyone and everyone that he could that he was going to be a big brother. 

When the big day finally came that Ella, our daughter, would make her debut into the world, Owen snuggled up beside her on my hospital bed and kissed her and I wrote down what he said because I never wanted to forget, he said to her: “I’m going to love you, even if I live to be 100 years old”.  I was over the moon! This new little soul fit into our lives so perfectly. 

We arrived home and started to settle in with the new baby and just as quickly as our new family fell into place, it seemed to just as quickly fall apart. Ella had a “witching hour” where she would cry straight from 3:30pm-10pm every day. It was exhausting. Rick and I would take turns passing her back and forth, there was nothing that we could do to help her feel better, it was so sad. This was also taking so much time away from Owen and he would cover his ears and leave the room to play in the basement, he just couldn’t stand it. I would get Rick to take care of Ella upstairs while I played with Owen after dinner for awhile and often Owen would say mid-game that “I didn’t love him anymore” and that he wished he never had a sister. It would completely break my heart and often leave both of us in tears. 


Now here is the secret to the number one thing that helped all of this, it’s TIME. Time went by, and Ella started to mature.  Her crying didn’t stop, but she would cry less and less. She started to smile at Owen and she would light up if he was in the room, she started laughing, the big belly laugh that only her big brother could make her do. He loved her even more and he started to realize his very important role as a big brother. She slowly but surely won him over. 

Along with time, here is a list of things that helped our family through the adjustment period:


Consistency.  When I tell Owen that I’m going to do something, I do it.


Big Brother Tasks.  These are tasks that only Owen can help with.  This could be setting the table or helping me make dinner. I would also involve him in helping me get things for Ella like her toys, or wipes, or helping me push her in her stroller. 


Keeping the same schedule.  Our life might have changed but our schedule stayed the same. We wouldn’t miss Owen’s swimming lessons, even if that meant that Dad would take him one week, and Mom the next, we kept the same weekly routine.


Bedtime.  Ella is 9 months old now and we still have the same bedtime routine going. Sometime after dinner, I give them both baths/showers and then Owen will hang out with Dad while I get Ella ready and feed her before bed. Once I get her down, I spend some one on one time with Owen. This could be anything from playing video games to doing some reading for school, then I tuck him into bed. 


And lastly, if Owen asked me for a glass of milk, or anything that I knew I could do without Ella going into a tantrum, I would say to Ella, in front of Owen, “Ella you have to wait, I need to get Owen a glass of milk” or “You need to wait Ella, I need to….whatever it was.” She had no idea what I was saying… but it showed Owen that he was not the only one who had to be patient and that his needs were just as important as those of his baby sister’s.