Any firstborn child will testify that the days of reigning supreme are over once a new baby comes home. Establishing a new routine, navigating a different family dynamic, and getting a crash course in sharing mom and dad’s affections can be tough. But not to worry, there are ways to ease the transition into siblinghood, and help big bro or sis forge a lasting bond with the new kid on the block.
The Big News
The announcement sets the tone, so make it fun! When and how the exciting news is shared depends on a child’s age and temperament, but making them feel included is the key. Choose a time to talk when kids are rested and calm, and there is plenty of time for answering questions (and celebrating!) Younger children may not understand pregnancy, so using a children’s book about babies or siblings can be helpful. Another tip is to use a season or holiday as a reference point for when the baby will arrive.
Learning the Basics
Introducing a child to a friend or family member’s baby, especially one that has an older sibling, can help connect the dots and ease uncertainty. Role play is another useful (and fun) tool. Use a baby doll, or even a stuffed animal, to demonstrate how to hold and care for a baby. Kids learn through play, so this game will familiarize them with what to expect when baby arrives while keeping the mood light.
Bring out the baby book to help a child relate to a new sibling. Tell him or her that they too were once a baby, and reminisce about those early days together. Showering some extra attention while showing pictures and telling stories will create a connection to the new baby that proves maybe they aren’t that different after all.
Sending the Right Message
Reinforcing a child’s place in the family will go a long way to quell anxiety over a sibling. Experts suggest sending this message: “you are the only you there is and this new baby can never take your place.” In addition, talk about the new baby by calling him “your little brother” rather than “the new baby.” Using a child as the point of reference makes them feel secure in their role, while showing them they are still important and loved.
Moving on Up
Having another baby may mean moving the first child into a new room or bed. Try to make any big changes early enough in the pregnancy to avoid feelings of resentment. It’s also important to not transition a toddler out of a crib too early. If purchasing another crib does not agree with a family’s budget, there are other options for newborn sleeping arrangements. Borrowing a crib, or using a bassinet or bedside co-sleeper for the first few months may be the solution.
Try to complete toilet training before the baby arrives or wait a few months after the little one is home before starting the process. A toddler is likely to resist potty training with a newborn getting so much attention. Some young children who are completely diaper-free may even revert back to wetting themselves in protest of the new addition. Be patient and know that this too, shall pass.
Nice to Meet You
When introducing a child to a new sibling for the first time, have a relative hold the baby so parents are free to cuddle with big bro or sis. Here’s a cute idea to break the ice – give them a gift from the baby, like a t-shirt that says “Big Brother” or a picture frame to hold a photo of them together. If the big kid feels overwhelmed or anxious, it’s ok to just let them observe. Don’t try force immediate bonding, it will come in time.
A New Era
Take time to make each child the center of attention sometimes. One way is to include big brother or sister in pictures and videos so they don’t feel left out by the paparazzi. There are sure to be plenty of visitors once baby comes home, so while she is being rocked by Grandma, use the opportunity to spend individual time with the older sibling. Get more one-on-one time by bringing a child shopping (even just for diapers) while baby is with another caregiver. Make the trip more fun by singing in the car or stopping at the park along on the way.