“How do I prepare my child for a new sibling?”
Welcoming a new baby is both exciting and nerve-wracking. Where will we put the nursery? What will we do about childcare? And how on earth will we prepare our older kids for a new baby?! The thought of adjusting your child to a new sibling can be worrisome, as many kids struggle with the idea of their parents’ love and attention being shared with another person.
So how can parents prepare their kid for a new sibling?
1. Postpone major changes
Adjusting to a new sibling is a major change, so try not to make any other big changes around the time of the baby’s birth. If you need to move your kid to a different bedroom to make way for the nursery, do it well before the baby is born to give them time to adjust. If you planned on potty training soon, consider waiting until the baby is a few months old. Also, know that it’s common for older kids to regress when a new baby arrives by going back to wetting the bed or wanting a bottle. This is their way of expressing that they still need you.
2. Get them involved
Involve your child in preparing for the new baby’s arrival. This will make them feel included in your family’s change and help to build excitement for the new addition. Let them help you decorate the nursery and take them shopping for bottles and onesies. Ask them their opinions on baby names and bring them to appointments so they can hear the baby’s heartbeat. When your baby is born, give them jobs to do, such as feeding or singing lullabies. Just don’t overdo it – let them lead on how much responsibility they’d like to take.
3. Manage expectations
Read your child books about babies. Show them their newborn photos or baby book and tell them stories about their infant phase. Ask them about their dreams for things to do with their new sibling – teaching them how to play baseball, walking them in a stroller, reading to them, etc. Encourage their ideas but also let them know that the baby will not be an instant playmate. Share that in the beginning, babies mostly eat, sleep, and poop, but in due time they will be an eager playmate to share adventures with their big brother or sister.
4. Explain the delivery game plan
Explain to your child how they’ll be cared for while you are in the hospital. Let them know who will be picking them up, where they’ll be staying, and when they’ll be able visit you and the new baby. Get them excited about having a few sleepovers at their friend’s or grandparents’ house while mom and dad are away.
5. Amp up attention
It’s important to give your older child lots of attention as they adjust to the adorable new sheriff in town. Hang a photo of your older child by your hospital bed so they see that they’re always on your mind. Make sure to shower them with lots of praise and remind visitors to give them attention when they come to meet the new baby. Make time for one-on-one bonding with your older child, such as playing with them, going to a park, or watching a movie together.
6. Give a gift from the baby
One way to ensure the new baby is on your firstborn’s good side is to buy a gift for them that’s “from” the baby. Even if your kid is a little older and realizes a newborn can’t order toys on line, they’ll associate this new, awesome gift as a reminder that the baby is a not a threat to their needs.
7. Acknowledge their feelings
If your kid expresses fear, anger, sadness, or jealousy about gaining a sibling, listen and let them know you understand. Never criticize them for having negative feelings – instead, help them label their emotions and talk about healthy ways to deal with them. Let them know it’s ok to feel upset, but it’s never ok to hurt the baby. Give them a few ideas for how to vent their frustrations, such as roaring like a lion or drawing an angry picture.
8. Reassure your love
Your child may be scared that you’re trying to replace them by having a new baby. Let them know that the reason you’re having a baby is to give them a sibling that they will be friends with forever. Remind them that you have enough love for both of them to have an endless supply. Schedule alone time that is just for you to give your older child undivided attention. A great time for this is when baby is sleeping and can’t interrupt. Use this time to cuddle, play, or make your child’s favorite food together.
9. Know when to get help
Some children have an especially difficult time adjusting to the arrival of a new sibling. If your child is distressed or acting out, we can help.
Dr. Marta M. Shinn, Ph.D., is an expert in Child and Educational Psychology. If you are concerned that your child is struggling to adjust to a new sibling, Dr. Shinn can recommend support.
Dr. Elsa Torres, Psy.D. is a specialist in counseling. If you are concerned about how a new baby will impact your children, Dr. Torres can support you with effective tools to overcome challenges and strengthen your family bond.
Dr. Weir, Psy.D., is an expert in Infant and Toddler Psychology. If you’re worried that your toddler is distressed by the arrival of a new sibling, Dr. Weir can provide an evaluation.
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How to Cite This Blog Article:
Shinn. M.M. (2019). How Do I Prepare My Child for a New Sibling? Psychologically Speaking. [Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.variationspsychology.com/test-blog/how-do-i-prepare-my-child-for-a-new-sibling