Welcoming a new sibling into the family is an exciting but challenging time for older children you might hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet, but your kid(s) might listen to the clatter of cloven hooves. Their world is about to undergo a drastic change, and they may experience a whirlwind of emotions, including excitement, jealousy, and insecurity.
These feelings usually go away after a time, but there are steps you can take to speed up and ease this process. As parents, it’s very important to support your older child during this transition to ensure a smooth adjustment and foster a loving sibling relationship.
Preparation and Education For Older
When you’re expecting a new baby there are so many preparations to think about, but if you already have a child this preparation should not be overlooked. It is a crucial factor in getting a big brother or sister ready for invasion. Kids love to be involved in stuff, so think about taking them shopping to pick out baby clothes or toys, and discussing how they can help with the baby’s care. From personal experience, the phrase “you can show your brother how to play with those toys” was quite effective.
Reading books together about becoming a big brother or sister can also be a valuable tool for explaining what to expect. Make sure to show your child love, and assure them that it will never change, even with the new addition to the family. And don’t lay the prep on too heavy — it might be a bit too abstract and confusing until the new baby arrives.
Special Time Together With Older Sibling
As the demands of a new baby can be all-consuming, it’s essential to set aside special one-on-one time with your older child. Dedicate moments each day to do something they enjoy, whether it’s playing a game, reading a book, or going for a walk and remember that one-on-one means just that, so resist the urge to let the baby tag along in the stroller, enlist a partner, friend, or relative to look after the little one for a couple of hours.
This undivided attention helps your child feel valued and secure, reinforcing the idea that they are still an essential part of the family. It’s also really important to listen to your child even if they’re rambling on cheerfully about something. Listening and engaging them is a bonding experience. It helps them feel connected.
Involve Them in Baby Care
We mentioned that kids love to be actively involved in stuff that’s going on, so many suggest giving your older child some age-appropriate baby care tasks. Even during pregnancy you can take them to ultrasound appointments, and explain to them what’s going on, how the process works and how it helps to check that the baby is healthy.
Depending on their age and abilities, they can assist with nappy changes, choosing baby clothes, or singing a lullaby to soothe the baby. Emphasise how their help is invaluable and that they are contributing to the baby’s well-being, and also draw their attention to the positive responses from the baby. Once the little one starts smiling and gurgling this process is usually easier, and laughing is even better. Involvement and engagement can make them feel more responsible and connected to their new sibling.
Acknowledge Their Feelings
Encourage your older child to express their feelings about the new sibling. It’s entirely normal for them to experience a range of emotions, including excitement, jealousy, and insecurity. Again, whatever they say, listen. They may be too young to articulate their feelings, but attentive listening not only gives you clues as to their mindset, it also validates their emotions.
Let them know that it’s okay to have these feelings and that you are there to support them through this transition. Remember to keep your language simple so that they can understand what you’re saying.
The arrival of a new baby can disrupt your family’s daily routines. While some changes are inevitable, strive to maintain as much normalcy as possible for your older child. Consistency in meal times, bedtime routines, and other activities can provide a sense of stability during this period of change, although routines can be modified slightly, in a positive way — for example, introduce a bedtime story or similar. This stability can help your older child feel secure and in control.
Remember that every child is unique, and their adjustment period may vary. Be patient and flexible as your family grows together, and continue to provide a loving and nurturing environment for both your older child and their new sibling. With time and support, you can help your children build a strong and lasting sibling bond that will enrich their lives for years to come.