Helping Older Siblings Adjust to a New Baby

After nine long months of anticipation, it’s finally time to bring your little one home to join the rest of the family. In the flurry of events that surrounds even the most uncomplicated of births, it’s easy to forget that mom and dad aren’t the only ones making a transition. Big brothers and sisters are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new baby as well.

Your older children may be feeling a whole list of different emotions, and maybe wondering how this new little one will change the family dynamic.

No doubt, you’ve been preparing your older children for the arrival of a sibling. But there is a big difference between an abstract baby, and the moment baby actually comes home.

Your child’s response to the arrival of a new sibling will depend on the unique dynamics of your family. Birth order, blended families, and special needs all affect your child’s reaction to the new baby.

Planning ahead to help siblings adjust to the new baby will help your growing family transition smoothly, even with a few “growing pains” along the way.

7 Preparing Your Child for a New Baby

After finding out your family is on the grow, you may wonder when you should tell baby’s siblings that you are expecting. This is an extremely personal decision, but a rule of thumb is to tell your children when you tell friends and extended family.

You definitely don’t want your child to piece the information together on his or her own. You want to make sure that everyone is as involved as possible to help your family bond with baby from the very beginning.

Some families choose to get creative with how they tell siblings about a new little one. Pinterest has tons of fun ideas to make a pregnancy announcement memorable for everyone.

Look for a cute way to get the word out about your new addition on social media that involves baby’s siblings. Again, Pinterest has great ideas that are fun and will provide a keepsake for the entire family.

The more that you involve your child in the pregnancy, there is less chance he or she won’t feel left out of this new adventure.

6 Preparing Tinies for a New Sibling

Many children are big brothers and sisters before they reach the age of two. Pregnancy with a toddler on board means lots of changes for your little one. Because of limited comprehension and verbal skills, preparing a toddler for the birth of a sibling has its challenges.

Your toddler probably won’t be able to comprehend that there is a baby growing inside of you for quite awhile. Try having your toddler socialize with some newborns. Explain that there is a baby growing in your tummy. He or she isn’t likely to grasp the details , but you can begin to introduce the basic concept.

Toddlers often take notice when you begin to develop a baby bump. Talk to your toddler about the new baby. Read to them both, let your toddler sing to the new baby, and feel him or her kick. This will help your toddler to comprehend your pregnancy, as best as he or she is able.

Avoid Changes

In the weeks before you bring baby home, try not to make any drastic changes in your toddler’s life. Here are a few things that can wait until everyone has adjusted to life with baby:

  • moving from a crib to a bed
  • taking away pacifiers
  • taking away comfort items
  • toilet training
  • moving
  • changing child care providers

5 Adjusting to Baby’s Arrival

After you bring baby home, expect your toddler to regress a bit. Throwing tantrums, biting, and even hitting are your toddler’s way of communicating his or her frustration with the situation. Because toddlers lack communication and comprehension skills, acting out is the only way to express themselves. Be patient, this will pass as your toddler adjusts to his or her new role.

Try to stick with your toddler’s usual routine as much as possible. Routines bring security to little ones who may be upset at all of the sudden changes at home.

Make time for special one on one time with your toddler. It can be something as simple as a bath and story before bed, or a special activity when the baby naps. The arrival of a new sibling who takes up a lot of mom and dad’s time means that your toddler may be missing individual time with you.

Let your toddler help with baby’s care, even when it’s not helpful. Sometimes toddlers do things that seem like they are trying to harm baby. In reality, they are often trying to help or imitate what they see mom or dad doing with and for the baby. Toddlers lack the social skills to realize that kissing a sleeping baby isn’t a good thing. Be patient, as your toddler adjusts to life with baby, things will get easier.

Your extended family can help your toddler adjust to the birth of a new baby by spending time with your child. Extra snuggles, trips for ice cream, or a trip to the park can help your little one get in some extra one on one time. Family could also watch baby while you spend some time with your toddler one on one. 

4 Your Preschooler and the New Baby

Whether this is your preschoolers first sibling or not, preschoolers will need to adjust to life with a newborn in the family. Because preschoolers are more verbal than toddlers, and are able to fully comprehend the arrival of a new baby, adjusting to a new sibling is a much easier.

How your preschooler responds to a new baby entirely depends on his or her temperament. Some children are so laid back that nothing fazes them, others are supersensitive and everything affects them.

You may notice that your preschooler wants to sit in baby’s car seat, drink from a bottle , or act out physically with baby. While this behavior is completely normal, it needs to be addressed.

Involve Your Preschooler

Giving your preschooler opportunities to help with a newborn sibling allows them to form a bond with baby. Here are some things that can help your preschooler adjust to baby:

  • Before baby arrives, have your child spend some time with a newborn baby, if possible. Explain how small his or her new brother or sister will be, and show them how to be gentle with baby.
  • Read stories or watch videos about children who are expecting a new baby. Seeing his or her behavior played out can help your child recognize that his or her feelings are completely normal.
  • Involve your preschooler in preparing for baby. Ask his or her opinion about nursery decor, or clothing choices. Let them help set up the nursery, and arrange baby’s clothes and toys.
  • Assign simple tasks to involve your preschooler in baby’s care. Choosing baby’s outfit, bringing a clean diaper, or helping with baby’s bath will help your preschooler bond with baby.

3 School Aged Children and New Siblings

Older children are able to comprehend the fact that there is a new baby on the way. Chances are, they are already older siblings, and somewhat prepared for what happens when a new baby arrives.

If your older child is an only child, the transition from being the star of the show to sharing the spotlight may be a difficult one. The good thing is, that your child has the skills to communicate his or her concerns effectively.

It is important for you to listen to your child when he or she expresses any feelings that may be an issue. Assure him or her that you love them and that it’s completely normal to have a mix of feelings when dealing with change.

Include your child when it’s time to decorate baby’s nursery, and buy clothes and items for baby. Let him or her pick out a few things.

Children equate time with love. When a new baby arrives it’s hard to find time for one on one time with older children, who are more self sufficient than their younger siblings. Make a conscious effort to look for opportunities to spend time alone with your older child, even if it’s just a quick trip to the store.

Look for ways your child can take an active part in baby’s care. Let them help with baby’s bath, or read books to baby or play with baby while you make a meal. Be sure to show your appreciation for your child’s help, this will help him or her have a sense of self worth and bond with baby.

2 Blended Families

Let’s face it, being a part of a blended family isn’t always easy. Having a new baby that isn’t “yours” or “mine”, but “ours” can help bring a family together, provided that everyone feels secure before baby arrives.

Parents in blended families sometimes have a hard time deciding whether or not to conceive because they don’t know how both sets of children will react. In general, if the blended family is a stable and safe place for everyone, a baby will be well received.

But if there are underlying feelings of resentment and insecurity, a baby can drive everyone further apart. Before you decide to conceive, make sure that your family has most of the wrinkles ironed out.

Stepparents have to be careful not to make the differences between biological children and stepchildren an issue. It’s natural to feel a special bond with your biological children, but don’t let it destroy your bond with your stepchildren. It takes work to make sure that everyone in a blended family feels included.

“Part time” children who spend the majority of their time with the other biological parent can feel especially pushed out when a new baby arrives. Make sure that they get one on one time, as well as time with baby. It is extremely important to build a sense of security in part time children to avoid issues.

1 Special Circumstances

When a parent has to spend large amounts of time away from older children because baby is in the NICU for a prolonged stay, things get stressful for everyone. Older siblings may not be able to understand why their parents are spending so much time away from home , or why baby didn’t come home right away. The inevitable change in routine only adds to an older child’s insecurity.

Sometimes a NICU stay requires spending hours away from your older children, especially if you are breastfeeding. You may feel guilty for missing precious moments with your older child in order to care for a baby in the NICU.

Have your older children visit as much as possible. Technology gives families the opportunity to communicate via text, Skype, social media, and chat. Assure your children that you will be home soon and that you love them. Send pictures and videos to family members in between visits. Encourage your older children to make pictures to decorate baby’s room. Involve them as much as possible in the process.

If baby will be coming home with support equipment, explain their purpose to your older children before baby comes home. Knowing what purpose everything serves will help older children to be less afraid.

Prepare your children for any special needs that baby may have when he or she comes home. Don’t overload your child with information, but thoroughly explain things in an age appropriate way.

A baby that is a preemie, chronically ill, or has special needs requires extra time and attention. This can cause older children to feel neglected. Expect a time of adjustment for everyone as you adapt to a new normal. Be patient with your older child and yourself as you work through this process.

In a matter of a few weeks, your older children will have adapted to life with a baby on board. Parents play a big role in facilitating a positive experience for the entire family. Your main priority should be that everyone is safe and feels loved and secure, the rest will fall into place.

More in WOW!