A new addition to the family is often exciting for all family members but can also cause some adjustment issues for an older sibling. As you prepare for your infant to arrive, there are several things you can do to help make the adjustment process easier. The more quickly you start the process of introducing the thought of a new sibling, the better. Kids need to know what to expect and need time to adjust. Some children will react more strongly to a change than others, particularly if they have a very close relationship with a mother or are still breastfeeding.
What things can I do to start preparing them before baby gets here?
Talk to your child about the baby and how they are growing. If your child shows interest, encourage them to help think of names or pick out toys for the baby, or even let them help pick out the outfit baby will wear home. Give realistic expectations in age-appropriate context. Look at pictures of when they were a baby and how excited you were to meet them and hold them. Let them practice holding and playing with a baby doll. Talk about the expected baby as “your brother/sister” to create a sense of partnership and make a big sibling feel needed. Try to avoid having any major changes like potty training or shifting to a big kid bed in the month or two before baby arrives.
How do I help big sibling adjust once the baby is here?
Now that you cannot bring siblings to the hospital to meet infants, let them video-chat to see their new brother or sister. Have some special “big brother” or “big sister” gifts to give your older child as you come home and as other people bring gifts for the baby. Give the older child special jobs to help care for the baby but don’t overdo it. For example, let them help choose outfits, give baths, push the stroller, bring you a clean diaper, etc. Praise the older child for being a great big sibling. If the older sibling starts to act like a baby or try to sit in the baby seat or crawl into the crib, talk about how great it is to be a big kid because you can choose your clothing and your food, play with toys, etc. Never discount their feelings if they express a negative feeling. Acknowledge them and make special time for just the big sibling. Try to lessen the tension by not sweating the small stuff. They may not want to be involved all the time and that is okay. They will need their space also.
Most importantly, try to enjoy this transition. Understand that you, as parents, are going through a lot of change by adding a subsequent child to the family and your older child will also need patience while they make this transition. The more willing you are to be flexible, the better they will transition. Enjoy adding to your family. Siblings are a gift! ?
Book Suggestions by Age:
- We Have a Baby, by Cathryn Falwell
- The Baby is Here! by Angela Santomero
- Our New Baby by Wendy Cheyette Lewison
- Spot’s Baby Sister by Eric Hill
- Daniel Tiger TV show has a segment on new baby as well
- Nobody Asked ME If I Wanted a Baby Sister, by Martha Alexander
- Big Brother, Little brother, by Penny Dale
- The New Baby, by Mercer Mayer
- A Place for Ben, by Jeanne Titherington
- I’m a Big Brother and I’m a Big Sister, by Joanna Cole
- Mommy’s in the Hospital Having a Baby, by Maxine Rosenberg
- Darcy and Gran Don’t Like Babies, by Jane Cutler
- The New Baby at Your House, by Joanna Cole
- Hello Baby!, by Lizzy Rockwell
- Pinky and Rex and the New Baby, by James Howe
- Kidshealth.org – Preparing your child for a new sibling
- AAP.org – Sibling Rivalry
- University of Michigan Developmental and Behavior resources – Med.umich.edu