How to prepare children for the arrival of a sibling Many of us have younger brothers and sisters but few of us can remember that day when a new baby came into the house and it seemed that mummy no longer loved us. That feeling of darkness still descends on many children daily, with more than 100 babies born each day in Hong Kong. Their arrival can be a traumatic experience for their elder yet still young siblings. It is particularly serious in cases where a child has been the only one and suddenly finds his or her parents are too busy with the newborn to spend time with him or her. What will manifest are desperate acts of attention seeking, and the child will suddenly become clingy and extra dependent. 'The elder child will display regressive behaviour and start acting younger than they actually are,' says Yvonne Becher, a child psychologist and mother of two. 'They think that if mother is giving so much time to the baby, there must be something good about being a baby.' Some children, on the other hand, might go to the other extreme when faced with a similar situation. '[The child] might give the mother the cold shoulder or push her away,' Ms Becher says. There are other worries too, such as a malicious attack on the baby. 'The child might think, if I poke [the baby] in the face, my mother is going to have to pay attention to me,' Ms Becher says. She speaks from experience. When her little boy was born, her daughter was 18 months. 'I think the hardest part for her was when I disappeared to the hospital for three days,' she recalls. 'She regressed, and didn't want to go to sleep, because she didn't trust that I wouldn't leave her again.' Luckily, there were never any serious transgressions, very likely due to Ms Becher's knowledge on how to handle the situation. 'It's jealousy, and it's normal,' she says. 'A lot can be done to minimise the problem, although you may not totally prevent it.' The first that an expectant mother can do is start preparing the elder child early. 'Do the talking beforehand, actually explaining to the child about it.' Ms Becher also suggests that the first child be moved into a separate room before the due day, so that whatever negative feelings that might arise do not imprint on the newborn. '[Have the first child] blame mum, not the little baby.' But even with all the preparation, chaos can still reign once the big day arrives. Rochelle Williams, a local leader of La Leche League Hong Kong, a non-profit group that advocates the virtue of breastfeeding, likens it to polygamy. 'Imagine a woman sees her husband come home with another woman and say, 'Let me introduce you to my second wife, and you have to share me with this new woman',' Ms Williams says. 'What can happen is, the child already in the house can feel threatened or left out.' Having a second child is not infidelity, of course, but in the eyes of someone at a tender age, seeing mum bring home a baby can feel like betrayal. But a bit of tact can turn things around. 'When the baby arrives, give a gift to the [first] child, and say ... 'Look what the baby has brought you',' Ms Williams says. It is no easy task, since being a mother can be exhausting. But creating a better relationship in the future can make it all worthwhile. Sibling rivalry, once formed, is hard to undo, and children learn social skills at these crucial ages. 'In rivalry situations there is a losing end ... if the child never learns to wait in turn, [he or she] might never learn that in life,' Ms Becher says.