Baby on the Way: Helping Your Child Adjust to a New Sibling

Posted Jun 23, 2017

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Summary

  • Younger kids may not understand all the changes a new baby brings.
  • Older kids can benefit from feeling that their job as big brother or sister is important.
  • There are ways to help older children prepare for the baby’s arrival.

Growing your family can be both great and stressful. It can be a gift for your older child or children, even though the change can be hard. Yet, careful planning and communication will ease some of the stress. In fact, finding ways to help your older child cope is an important part of planning for the baby’s arrival.

How to prepare for the baby’s arrival

For some families, the transition will feel fairly smooth. But for others, the change can be quite hard. There can be many reasons for this, with your child’s personality carrying the greatest weight. The developmental stage of your child also matters. Kids who are 2 or younger may have a very hard time adjusting because they still need a lot of attention from parents. How your family handles stress can also determine how your older child reacts to the new addition.

There are many things you can do to help your older child or children prepare for the arrival of a new baby:

  • Make sure you are the one to share the news about the baby.
  • If you have to move your older child to a new bedroom, make the change before the baby comes. This way the older child won’t feel pushed aside by the baby.
  • Take advantage of hospital sibling classes or tours.
  • Look at baby pictures of your older child with her, so that she knows how exciting that time was, too.
  • Get a doll for your child to practice being a parent or sibling.
  • Keep your child informed of plans for the day of the birth.

Preparing siblings for a new baby

Children younger than 2: Young ones won’t completely understand. Look at picture books together and talk about adding a new baby to the family. 

Ages 2 to 4: Kids won’t want to share your attention. Talk about ways they can be helpful big siblings.

School-age children: Kids may feel jealous, so talk about how great it is to be older. Ask your older child to help you care for the baby.

It will also help to talk about what to expect once the baby comes home. The older child will need to know that the baby will cry a lot and won’t be ready to play just yet. Read books together to learn more. Explain that the baby will need lots of attention from Mom and Dad, which can be tiring.

After the baby is born

With the birth of the baby, the big sibling may feel a variety of emotions. He may be excited and jealous at the same time. If your first child is younger and unable to express feelings with words, there may be some regression. For example, she may ask for a bottle or have bathroom accidents after successful potty training. Older kids may misbehave or not listen well as a means of expressing emotions. Problems such as these are often fleeting.

For older siblings of all ages, it can help to focus on the special job of being a big brother or sister. Try to:

  • Have your older child pick out a gift for the baby, and choose a special gift “from the baby” for your older child.
  • Remind your older child how demanding babies can be, so he doesn’t think it is just this baby.
  • Ask your child to help care for the baby. For instance, ask your child to decorate the baby’s room, choose clothes for the baby, or bring you supplies during bath time.

It is also important to highlight the special place your older child holds in the family. Try to:

  • Maintain routines as much as possible for your older child.
  • Dedicate time for just you and your older child to bond, such as a nighttime ritual.
  • Point out those moments when the older sibling is helpful or kind to the baby as reinforcement.
  • Commend your older child when you see big kid behavior.

Keep in mind that the early newborn days are not ideal for other big changes for your child. For instance, starting a new school may be too much for your older child. It is also important to remind kids that, while it is fair to feel jealous or sad at times, it is not OK to act on negative feelings. Sometimes older children take their frustrations out on the baby. This means it is very important to talk about safe behavior. Make sure there is always an adult with the baby.

Despite the stress of newborn days, growing your family will bring much joy. Talk openly with older children to help them feel important at the same time. This can make for a smoother—and happier—transition for all.

Resources

American Academy of Family Physicians
www.aafp.org

Nemours Children’s Health System
http://kidshealth.org/

By Sarah Stone
Source: Friendship Circle, www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2013/02/27/how-to-prepare-your-special-needs-child-for-the-new-baby/; Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/new-sibling/art-20044270; C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, Michigan Medicine, www.mottchildren.org/posts/your-child/new-baby-sibling; Nemours Foundation, http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/second-child.html; Cornell Cooperative Extension, http://ccetompkins.org/family/parent-pages/family-changes/helping-your-young-child-adjust-to-a-new-baby

Summary

  • Younger kids may not understand all the changes a new baby brings.
  • Older kids can benefit from feeling that their job as big brother or sister is important.
  • There are ways to help older children prepare for the baby’s arrival.

Growing your family can be both great and stressful. It can be a gift for your older child or children, even though the change can be hard. Yet, careful planning and communication will ease some of the stress. In fact, finding ways to help your older child cope is an important part of planning for the baby’s arrival.

How to prepare for the baby’s arrival

For some families, the transition will feel fairly smooth. But for others, the change can be quite hard. There can be many reasons for this, with your child’s personality carrying the greatest weight. The developmental stage of your child also matters. Kids who are 2 or younger may have a very hard time adjusting because they still need a lot of attention from parents. How your family handles stress can also determine how your older child reacts to the new addition.

There are many things you can do to help your older child or children prepare for the arrival of a new baby:

  • Make sure you are the one to share the news about the baby.
  • If you have to move your older child to a new bedroom, make the change before the baby comes. This way the older child won’t feel pushed aside by the baby.
  • Take advantage of hospital sibling classes or tours.
  • Look at baby pictures of your older child with her, so that she knows how exciting that time was, too.
  • Get a doll for your child to practice being a parent or sibling.
  • Keep your child informed of plans for the day of the birth.

Preparing siblings for a new baby

Children younger than 2: Young ones won’t completely understand. Look at picture books together and talk about adding a new baby to the family. 

Ages 2 to 4: Kids won’t want to share your attention. Talk about ways they can be helpful big siblings.

School-age children: Kids may feel jealous, so talk about how great it is to be older. Ask your older child to help you care for the baby.

It will also help to talk about what to expect once the baby comes home. The older child will need to know that the baby will cry a lot and won’t be ready to play just yet. Read books together to learn more. Explain that the baby will need lots of attention from Mom and Dad, which can be tiring.

After the baby is born

With the birth of the baby, the big sibling may feel a variety of emotions. He may be excited and jealous at the same time. If your first child is younger and unable to express feelings with words, there may be some regression. For example, she may ask for a bottle or have bathroom accidents after successful potty training. Older kids may misbehave or not listen well as a means of expressing emotions. Problems such as these are often fleeting.

For older siblings of all ages, it can help to focus on the special job of being a big brother or sister. Try to:

  • Have your older child pick out a gift for the baby, and choose a special gift “from the baby” for your older child.
  • Remind your older child how demanding babies can be, so he doesn’t think it is just this baby.
  • Ask your child to help care for the baby. For instance, ask your child to decorate the baby’s room, choose clothes for the baby, or bring you supplies during bath time.

It is also important to highlight the special place your older child holds in the family. Try to:

  • Maintain routines as much as possible for your older child.
  • Dedicate time for just you and your older child to bond, such as a nighttime ritual.
  • Point out those moments when the older sibling is helpful or kind to the baby as reinforcement.
  • Commend your older child when you see big kid behavior.

Keep in mind that the early newborn days are not ideal for other big changes for your child. For instance, starting a new school may be too much for your older child. It is also important to remind kids that, while it is fair to feel jealous or sad at times, it is not OK to act on negative feelings. Sometimes older children take their frustrations out on the baby. This means it is very important to talk about safe behavior. Make sure there is always an adult with the baby.

Despite the stress of newborn days, growing your family will bring much joy. Talk openly with older children to help them feel important at the same time. This can make for a smoother—and happier—transition for all.

Resources

American Academy of Family Physicians
www.aafp.org

Nemours Children’s Health System
http://kidshealth.org/

By Sarah Stone
Source: Friendship Circle, www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2013/02/27/how-to-prepare-your-special-needs-child-for-the-new-baby/; Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/new-sibling/art-20044270; C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, Michigan Medicine, www.mottchildren.org/posts/your-child/new-baby-sibling; Nemours Foundation, http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/second-child.html; Cornell Cooperative Extension, http://ccetompkins.org/family/parent-pages/family-changes/helping-your-young-child-adjust-to-a-new-baby

Summary

  • Younger kids may not understand all the changes a new baby brings.
  • Older kids can benefit from feeling that their job as big brother or sister is important.
  • There are ways to help older children prepare for the baby’s arrival.

Growing your family can be both great and stressful. It can be a gift for your older child or children, even though the change can be hard. Yet, careful planning and communication will ease some of the stress. In fact, finding ways to help your older child cope is an important part of planning for the baby’s arrival.

How to prepare for the baby’s arrival

For some families, the transition will feel fairly smooth. But for others, the change can be quite hard. There can be many reasons for this, with your child’s personality carrying the greatest weight. The developmental stage of your child also matters. Kids who are 2 or younger may have a very hard time adjusting because they still need a lot of attention from parents. How your family handles stress can also determine how your older child reacts to the new addition.

There are many things you can do to help your older child or children prepare for the arrival of a new baby:

  • Make sure you are the one to share the news about the baby.
  • If you have to move your older child to a new bedroom, make the change before the baby comes. This way the older child won’t feel pushed aside by the baby.
  • Take advantage of hospital sibling classes or tours.
  • Look at baby pictures of your older child with her, so that she knows how exciting that time was, too.
  • Get a doll for your child to practice being a parent or sibling.
  • Keep your child informed of plans for the day of the birth.

Preparing siblings for a new baby

Children younger than 2: Young ones won’t completely understand. Look at picture books together and talk about adding a new baby to the family. 

Ages 2 to 4: Kids won’t want to share your attention. Talk about ways they can be helpful big siblings.

School-age children: Kids may feel jealous, so talk about how great it is to be older. Ask your older child to help you care for the baby.

It will also help to talk about what to expect once the baby comes home. The older child will need to know that the baby will cry a lot and won’t be ready to play just yet. Read books together to learn more. Explain that the baby will need lots of attention from Mom and Dad, which can be tiring.

After the baby is born

With the birth of the baby, the big sibling may feel a variety of emotions. He may be excited and jealous at the same time. If your first child is younger and unable to express feelings with words, there may be some regression. For example, she may ask for a bottle or have bathroom accidents after successful potty training. Older kids may misbehave or not listen well as a means of expressing emotions. Problems such as these are often fleeting.

For older siblings of all ages, it can help to focus on the special job of being a big brother or sister. Try to:

  • Have your older child pick out a gift for the baby, and choose a special gift “from the baby” for your older child.
  • Remind your older child how demanding babies can be, so he doesn’t think it is just this baby.
  • Ask your child to help care for the baby. For instance, ask your child to decorate the baby’s room, choose clothes for the baby, or bring you supplies during bath time.

It is also important to highlight the special place your older child holds in the family. Try to:

  • Maintain routines as much as possible for your older child.
  • Dedicate time for just you and your older child to bond, such as a nighttime ritual.
  • Point out those moments when the older sibling is helpful or kind to the baby as reinforcement.
  • Commend your older child when you see big kid behavior.

Keep in mind that the early newborn days are not ideal for other big changes for your child. For instance, starting a new school may be too much for your older child. It is also important to remind kids that, while it is fair to feel jealous or sad at times, it is not OK to act on negative feelings. Sometimes older children take their frustrations out on the baby. This means it is very important to talk about safe behavior. Make sure there is always an adult with the baby.

Despite the stress of newborn days, growing your family will bring much joy. Talk openly with older children to help them feel important at the same time. This can make for a smoother—and happier—transition for all.

Resources

American Academy of Family Physicians
www.aafp.org

Nemours Children’s Health System
http://kidshealth.org/

By Sarah Stone
Source: Friendship Circle, www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2013/02/27/how-to-prepare-your-special-needs-child-for-the-new-baby/; Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/new-sibling/art-20044270; C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, Michigan Medicine, www.mottchildren.org/posts/your-child/new-baby-sibling; Nemours Foundation, http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/second-child.html; Cornell Cooperative Extension, http://ccetompkins.org/family/parent-pages/family-changes/helping-your-young-child-adjust-to-a-new-baby

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