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Preparing your child for a new sibling

Preparing your child for a new sibling
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Bringing home your first newborn baby involves a blend of personal recovery and a journey of discovery as you learn how to care for an infant. With your second child you may feel more confident and experienced, but just when you thought you had it all sussed out, there’s the issue of helping your first child adapt to life as a sibling. How will your older child respond to having a brother or sister? And how on earth are you going to meet the needs of both your children, at a time when you are feeling emotionally and physically exhausted?

Preparation is Vital

As with most things in life a little preparation goes a long way. Long before your new baby makes an appearance you can begin to prepare your older child for what lies ahead. Once your bump starts to grow, talk with your child about how the baby is growing inside you. There are some charming picture books that you can read together to introduce the idea too.

Your older child may also enjoy helping you to prepare the nursery. If the impending arrival of your new baby means a change of rooms or beds for your older child, try to make that happen a few months in advance so they have time to get used to the new arrangements and don’t feel pushed out. You should also if possible, avoid making any significant changes in your older child’s world around the time of the new baby’s arrival, such as starting nursery or potty training.

You know all too well what a disruptive force a tiny baby can be, but you older child has no idea of what to expect. It can help to explain that his or her new sibling will not be able to interact much at all in the early months and will do a lot of sleeping, crying, eating and nappy work. Some older children may expect a ready-made playmate to pop out on birth-day. You need to prepare them a little for the reality.

Introducing your Siblings

Preparing your child for a new siblingTry to introduce your older child to the new baby as soon as possible, bringing them to the hospital for a brief visit if you can before they come home. Arranging for your new baby to be held by someone else, or resting in a crib, will free you up to give plenty of love and cuddles to your older child. They will need and want this reassurance to help them realise that the new baby does not mean they are being replaced, or are no longer loved. It can help to give your older child a small gift from the new baby too.

How your older child reacts to the new baby will largely depend on their age and stage of development. Children under two will not really understand much other than the fact you are distracted by the new baby, they will need plenty of reassurance.

Older toddlers may act out as they struggle to learn to share your time, but can be actively encouraged to participate in the care of the new baby, by shopping for nappies, helping at bath time and caring for a toy doll or teddy alongside you as your tend to your newborn.

For older kids it is a little easier, but they may still be jealous. Make time to point out the benefits their age brings, such as a later bedtime, TV privileges, and the ability to play with toys that are out of bounds for your baby.

Making Special Time

One of the biggest fears of an older child when a new sibling arrives is that they will be forgotten. Take every moment you can to show your child that this is not the case. Feeding times can provide a great opportunity for reading a book together, watching a favourite film, or playing a quiet game. While your new baby sleeps, the household chores can wait in favour of spending some one-on-one time with your older child. You may feel exhausted, but investing this time and energy now will pay dividends as your children grow. Sibling rivalries will always exist to some extent, but by making sure you meet the needs of each of your children at an individual level, will help both children grow into happy, contented little people.

Dealing with Bad Behaviour

It is almost inevitable that your older child will act out at some point in order to get your attention. It’s important to see this for what it is (a cry for reassurance), don’t respond with anger and punishment. Firm boundaries still need to be established, for example, if your child takes out their frustration on the new baby by being a little rough, this should be coupled with a heavy dose of love and reassurance. It will pass if you consistently show your older child that they, too, are still valued, cherished and loved.

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About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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