Introducing a new baby into the home comes with joy but it also comes with challenges. One challenge that can occur is ensuring a healthy sibling relationship. There are lots of things you can do to encourage a good sibling bond and reduce any resentment siblings might have towards the new baby. Here are five tips to help older siblings adjust:
1. Allow older siblings to help you prepare for their arrival. We all know kid “help” can create more work for us but it is a great way for them to feel involved. Take them to pick out a lovie for the baby or a special outfit, let them assist in putting together baby gear and furniture, or have them help organize the nursery. Build excitement for the arrival but acknowledge and help them work through any fears they might have.
2. Point out how they are so lucky to be a big kid. Talk about the fun things they get to do because of how big they are. If they get jealous of you nursing or baby getting a bottle remind them how lucky they are to use that princess or super hero cup. If they are sad baby is sleeping in your room and they are not try extra snuggles at bedtime while chatting excitedly about how awesome their big kid room is and all the fun things in it. When they brave the big slide, build a block tower or read a book exclaim how proud you are of your big kid and how they can teach the baby these things as she grows.
3. Allow them to help and praise them for it. Even the youngest toddler can participate in infant care. Phrasing can make a huge difference when asking for help and making a child feel good about it. “Johnny, you are such a big boy! Can you put Timmy’s diaper in the trash? Oh thank you! I needed your help, I couldn’t care for Timmy without you!” Teach gentleness but do not keep siblings away from baby, let them help care for baby. Supervised holding, hugs and kisses can foster a great sibling bond.
4. Regression can be normal, do not
make a big deal about it. Sometimes kids regress out of stress or a desire for more attention, this is completely normal. If you get upset or overreact it is likely to encourage the regression to last longer. Praise when they continue to act like a big kid and brush off some regression (like taking a pacifier to use) with a smile and, “Oh your my silly big boy, come give me a hug.”
5. Be patient. A new sibling can be a big adjustment. Just as mom and dad take time to adjust and find a new routine a child needs time. Stay positive, remain consistent with normal rules of your home and offer grace as needed. Be honest with your child in an age appropriate way about how some things have changed, why and how you will still have time for them and all the love you ever had.
The postpartum period is a time of adjustment for all. Patience, grace and love can help everyone find their new normal in a growing family.