Siblings and New Baby: Fostering Good Sibling Relationships with a Baby
Bringing home a baby can be a shock to your entire family and older siblings may not welcome this new addition. When attention is diverted away from older children, they may blame the new baby for taking mommy and daddy away. Even the most patient, nurturing and sharing children may revert to misbehavior with a new baby in the mix. But siblings are forever and teaching your older kids that you’re all growing together is an essential part of developing a sibling bond.
Fostering good sibling relationships is important and should begin even before the baby is born. During pregnancy involve your older children and talk at length about what to expect with a new baby in the house. Let older children help you prepare the nursery, listen to the baby’s heartbeat and feel the baby kicking inside you. Explain how the baby is growing inside you and how it will be born in appropriate terms for your child’s age. There are many books that can help with these explanations and encourage excitement and anticipation for the new, proud big brother or sister. Also, talk about when your older kids were babies and show them pictures of themselves.
Once the new baby arrives, allow older siblings to visit the hospital as soon as it is safe for everyone. Being part of this major family experience from the beginning will help establish as sense of pride and ownership in the new baby. Many older siblings want to help care for the baby. While it may take more time and make a bit of a mess, do allow older children to participate in diaper changes, tummy time, rocking the baby and other nurturing and infant care activities. These moments are when bonding can truly begin. Give your older children responsibilities that make them feel useful and involved. When it is not possible to allow siblings to help, such as during breastfeeding, make sure you have fun activities for them to do so they don’t dread the lack of attention.
Additionally, try to maintain as normal of a routine for your older kids as possible. For the first few days this may be difficult but once you settle in at home with your baby, send your older kids back to school or daycare if that is what they typically do. Maintain regular meal times and bedtimes and be consistent with schedules and routines. This will help siblings feel secure and comforted that their lives haven’t been destroyed by their new baby, and mommy and daddy still very much care about their happiness and wellbeing.
Try to set aside one-on-one time with older siblings with each parent to ensure they feel your love and attention. Accept help from friends and family to spend time with siblings as well and make sure they talk about other things than just the baby.
Some older siblings are uninterested in the new baby in their home. That’s OK too and nothing you should worry about. They will get used to the new addition in time and show more interest when the baby is more responsive.
It’s also completely normal for older children to act out when they are struggling to express their feelings during this adjustment period. Tantrums, accidents and baby talk are all ways older siblings may show they are feeling sad or neglected. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and address them directly. Never be dismissive. Don’t let up on the rules of your home but do understand why misbehavior may occur. Use this opportunity to talk to your older kids and spend more time with them if that is what they are craving.
As your baby becomes more alert, older children will have more opportunities to interact. Reading to a new baby brother or sister, making silly faces to make the baby smile or cuddling with her before bedtime are great bonding activities when your kids are old enough. Fostering sibling relationships with baby will be a process and not one without challenges. But the joys of your family’s relationships will far outweigh these struggles and will last for a lifetime.
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