Bringing a new baby into your family is a transition for everyone, but especially for the soon-to-be siblings. Even the most excited and proud big brothers and sisters may not realize just how significantly their life is about to be altered.
Here are a few ideas for easing the sibling transition.
1. Big Brother/Big Sister presents.
One amazing transitional tool, particularly for young children, are books. There are literally hundreds of books from board/cloth books with colorful illustrations for the youngest of siblings, all the way up to fictional chapter books to help your tween daughter better understand the attention a baby requires. A special gift can also be given to the older sibling ‘from’ the baby, either at the hospital, when your children first meet, or as you bring the baby home.
2. Involve your child in your pregnancy experience.
Framing the pregnancy, new baby and your daughter’s new role as a big sister in a positive light will set the foundation of her relationship with her sibling. Taking her to a prenatal appointment or sonogram, involving her in creating a registry or shopping for the baby, or having her help make decisions on the nursery decor or baby name, can make her feel included and valued.
3. Request that friends and family acknowledge your older child first.
A new baby can mean lots of visitors; be sure to encourage everyone to engage with your other children before rushing off to coo over the baby. If friends and family HAVE to bring gifts for the baby, be sure they either have something for the big kids as well, or wait for an appropriate time to give the presents. Frequently older siblings can feel invisible and overshadowed which can lead to new means of attracting attention.
4. Be prepared for changing behaviors.
The attention a new baby requires can be difficult, particularly for young children, to rationalize. A toddler may see that whenever the baby cries, Mommy hurries to pick them up, therefore, in the mind of the toddler, “when I cry, Mommy should pick me up”. Regressions in potty training, wanting to use a pacifier/bottle (even if they never used one previously) or exhibiting jealousy when the baby is breastfeeding, are also common. Older children may begin to exhibit indignation or resentment toward you or the baby and seek attention more than normal.
5. Include your child in caring for the baby.
Ask your daughter for ‘help’ changing the baby’s diaper, picking out an outfit and dressing the baby or washing baby bottles and pump parts. Having her sing a lullaby to the baby, read the baby a book or give the baby a kiss while you’re nursing. She may enjoy ‘playing mommy’ with her own baby doll, imitating your tasks and behaviors.
6. Make your older child a priority.
Whether he is 12 months old or 12 years old or he was used to being the youngest or only child, giving up that role as ‘baby of the family’ can be difficult. Be sure to make special one on one time for him and continue your traditions and routines that were established before the baby. If, while you’re involved in a task for him, the baby requires attention, tell the baby to “wait a second- I’m helping your big brother.” He will see that your attention is equal and know his needs continue to be a priority.