You’re about to expand your family and welcome a new bundle of joy into your home. You’ve prepared through childbirth classes, and you’ve followed your doctor’s instructions to the letter. You and your partner are prepared for the big moment.
But what about your other children?
If your new baby will have siblings, then it’s equally important to prepare them for the new member of the family who will be arriving. We’ll take a look at some tips to help you and examine how a new sibling can impact your child.
How Does Having a Sibling Affect a Child?
Every child is unique. Some may be thrilled with anticipation while others may be a bit cautious over this new addition.
Studies and information from the University of Michigan indicate that your child’s personality has the biggest impact on how they will react to a new sibling.
Your child may also be influenced more strongly depending upon their age. For example, children who are two years old still need extensive time with their parents and may feel that the sibling is interfering with this attention.
You may also find that as your children grow, your older child may serve as a role model for your younger child, and toddlers will have a tendency to imitate the older sibling(s).
On a positive note, sibling interaction can serve as a “training ground” for real-world interactions, teaching your children important lessons in positive conflict resolution when you take a leading role in demonstrating proper behavior, according to studies published by the U.S. Library of Medicine of the National Institute of Health.
Tips for Preparing Your Child for a New Sibling
First, there is no one approach that will work with all children, because a large part of how he or she relates to a new sibling depends on the personality of the sibling. Therefore, you may find that some of these tips work better for you than others.
Methods should also be geared toward the developmental age of your child. When you engage in these age-appropriate steps, you’re helping ensure a transition that is as smooth as possible.
Tips for Introducing Toddlers to a Sibling
Children of this age will likely feel your excitement even though they may not understand all the details of the situation. Remember that your attitude will likely rub off on them, so it’s important to be positive.
You may wish to consider:
- Getting an age-appropriate picture book about the arrival of a new baby. Use this as a springboard for conversations about their new sibling.
- Planning something special for the child when the new baby arrives.
- Being sure they receive a lot of individual attention both before and after the baby’s arrival.
Telling Your Preschooler About a Sibling
At this age, your child may be sensitive to new surroundings and change, so it’s important to talk with them when they see new baby furniture or other transformations around the house. It may be best to wait until you start “showing” before telling the child about the upcoming arrival.
- Again, picture books can be a big help in explaining things to your child.
- It’s also important to let them know that the baby will cry a lot and will need lots of attention.
- Make sure they understand that they won’t immediately be able to “play” with the baby.
- Provide constant reassurance and love.
- Consider letting your child pick out an outfit for the baby or even get a small present for the baby that the child can give to them. Allow them the chance to be involved in the arrival so that the sibling will feel included.
- You may also want for the baby to give a gift to the sibling to help ease the transition.
After the baby’s arrival, your child may be jealous and even show signs of regression. That’s why it’s so important to spend time with the older child. In fact, when relatives or friends come to visit the new baby, ask them to spend time with the older child as well.
(Please note: During this time of COVID-19, we encourage you to take care before introducing anyone outside of your family unit to your baby. Carefully follow all health recommendations about family or indoor gatherings from the state and the Centers for Disease Control. If you have a question about your safety or the safety of your child during the pandemic, please reach out to us. )
Introducing School-Aged Children to the Baby
Children of this age are more independent than toddlers, but they may still be jealous of the amount of attention the new baby gets. That’s why we recommend:
- Being open and honest with them.
- Explaining what is going on in language they can understand. It may help to read an age-appropriate book in order to begin the conversation.
- Letting your child help prepare for the arrival. Maybe they can assist you in picking out clothes for the baby or even “buying” diapers.
- Clearly explaining rules for handling the baby. It’s important to emphasize being gentle and loving. If your child is older and you decide to allow your child to hold the baby, emphasize that it can only be done with supervision and you must give permission first.
While, at one time, it may have been a good idea to have the child visit you and the baby in the hospital room, the COVID-19 pandemic does not make this possible. Instead, consider a video chat with your child to show them the new baby.
Regardless of the age of your child, it’s important to still spend one-on-one time with them and participate in activities just for them. This lets your older child know that they are still special, and it reduces the chances that they will become jealous of the new addition.
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