8 Easy Tips to Help Your Older Children Adjust to a New Sibling

A new baby is a huge change for parents – and for siblings, too.  In all the excitement of a new birth – and all the work that comes after it – older siblings can feel as though they’re being ignored.  And that can lead to behavioral issues, put a strain on the parent-child relationship, and cause sibling rivalry later on.

So while you’re excited to fawn over the little arrival, don’t forget your big kids in the shuffle. Instead, help them adjust to the tiny addition with these tips:

Break the News Early

Don’t wait until your water breaks to let your child know that he or she is getting a younger sibling! Fairly early on in the pregnancy, sit down with your children, tell them the news, and ask them if they have any questions – but don’t make a colossal deal about it. Don’t bring anxiety or stress into the conversation. When your children see genuine joy and excitement within you, they’ll more easily be able to share your emotions.

Obviously, your children’s understanding of the situation will vary a lot depending on their age.  At any rate, letting them know at any early point in the pregnancy gives them more time to adjust to the idea of a new family member – and can even add a feeling of excitement or anticipation as they wait for the baby to come.

Talk to them About Where Babies Come From

For school-aged children, a new pregnancy can be a great opportunity for a facts-of-life talk. It can also be a great way for them to learn about how a baby develops and grows before birth.  There are great books nowadays with pictures that look at a pregnancy week by week and have illustrations of what a baby looks like at every stage in its development.  You can also take them to an ultrasound, or at least show them ultrasound pictures of their little brother or sister (just not the 3D ones – because those are a bit creepy!). 

Sharing your pregnancy can give children a sense of wonder at what’s happening inside your body – and make it less likely for them to see this amazing creation as a rival.

Let Them Help Prepare for the Baby

Ok, you probably don’t want your new baby’s clothes and nursery furniture picked out by your four-year-old.  That’s totally understandable.  But do let them help prep for the baby in whatever way they can.  Let them pick out a few onesies or a receiving blanket or a special toy.  Create tasks for them to do while making up the nursery.  Letting your children help you prepare for the baby’s arrival will make them feel like they are an important part of the family and see the baby’s arrival in a positive light.

Make Them Feel Proud of their New Role 

Talk to your children often about how important their role will be as a big brother or big sister.  Older siblings can often feel a sense of responsibility and protectiveness for their younger brothers and sisters.  Help to foster this and let them know that you are counting on them to help welcome the new baby into your family.

Do More Together Before the Baby’s Arrives . . .

Before the baby’s arrival, make sure to spend extra time with your older children – even if you really have to go out of your way to do so.  Pick them up after school and take them out to their favorite restaurant.  Spend the day at the zoo or their favorite park.  Enjoy this time together – because the fact is, once the new baby arrives, family dynamics will not be the same again.

. . . And Make Time for Them Even After the Birth

If you thought finding extra time for your children was hard before the new birth – just wait until afterwards!  The sheer exhaustion that parents can feel while taking care of a new baby – can leave almost no time or energy for your older child.  So dig deep – and make arrangements for a friend or family member to be on baby duty while you spend one-on-one time with older siblings.  Making this time can be a huge challenge, but it is probably one of the most important things that parents can do.

Reassure Them Often that You Love Them

Even when your schedule is crazy busy taking care of a new baby, remember – it only takes a few seconds to say, “I love you.”  This small act can mean a lot to your children. It will help to reassure them that they are still loved and that they have not been displaced by the new arrival.

Do Things All Together as a Family

As early as you reasonably can, start doing activities that include the whole family – even the newest member.  Do you normally go for a walk in the park once a week? If the weather is okay, get out the stroller and take the baby with you when you go.  Or pack everyone up on a Sunday afternoon and go for a drive in the country together. Anything you can do that involves all members of the family can help children understand that even though the family composition has changed, the things you do together will not.

What ways have you found to help your older child adjust to a new baby? Share your tips with us in the comments below!

Tags : pregnancy   baby   newborns   siblings   

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