Getting a baby brother or sister is a milestone in any child’s life. To minimize the family stress associated with a new addition to the family, you’ll want to help your children adjust with these practical strategies while you’re expecting and after your baby is born.
Steps to Take While You’re Expecting
1. Get an early start on any major changes to daily routines.
Give your child time to adapt to any big transitions long before the new baby comes home. This may include moving to a new bedroom, toilet training, or starting preschool.
2. Talk with your children.
Let your kids know what to expect. Give them a chance to ask questions and express their concerns. New parents are bound to be tired and less attentive. Explain that this is just temporary and assure them of your love. Take a positive tone, but be respectful of any anxieties your child feels.
3. Read books together.
There are many children’s books and videos that discuss getting a new brother or sister. They can help your child understand the process and make it easier for them to talk about their feelings.
4. Practice with a doll.
Give your son or daughter a doll they can use to learn how to hold a baby. Praise them as they get the hang of supporting the head and using a gentle touch.
5. Share family memories.
Break out the old baby books and tell your son or daughter how excited you were about their birth. Look through their baby pictures and pick some out to display around the house.
6. Invite your child to participate in your pregnancy.
Bring them to your prenatal visits and see if your hospital will give them a tour. Some families even bring their kids into the delivery room. If you plan to do this, ensure they’re well briefed and have an adult assigned to watch over them.
7. Make your baby’s homecoming a team effort.
Give your kids a role to play. They may want to select the outfit the baby will wear home or help send out birth announcements. Make the day special with a cake and some small gifts for every family member.
Steps to Take After Your Baby is Born
1. Spend regular one-on-one time with your child.
However busy your schedule gets, set aside time to give each child your full attention. Plan special outings or let them choose a book or game to enjoy together.
2. Encourage visitors to notice all your kids.
It’s easy for your son or daughter to feel left out when everyone is fussing over the baby. Make a deliberate effort to steer positive attention their way. Bring them into group discussions and brag a little about their accomplishments.
3. Work as a team in caring for the new baby.
Find age-appropriate tasks your kids can excel at. Even toddlers can help by smiling and talking with their new sibling. Older kids may want to pitch in with bathing and feeding. Let your family find its own comfort level.
4. Respect your child’s privacy.
Siblings are great for teaching how to share, but your child probably still wants some items and places to call their own. Honor their preferences for toys they’re happy to share and possessions that they want to use exclusively.
5. Praise your child for their contribution to your growing family.
Most of all, let your son or daughter know how much you appreciate them. Applaud their progress in becoming more independent and giving of themselves to help the family run smoothly.
It’s challenging to deal with a new sibling. Give your children lots of attention and guidance to help keep harmony in the family. The relationship between brothers and sisters is a precious gift, so get them off to a great start.