Welcoming another child to the family is a special occasion, but older siblings may have mixed emotions. Depending on the age of your child, a few different approaches can help make the transition easier for everyone.
Children of all ages can find some understanding about the change via an age appropriate book. Books about a new baby can show the older sibling what to expect, normalize the process, and help make them excited about their new responsibility as the older sibling.
Special One-on-One Time
Big brother or sister needs one-on-one time with mom and/or dad now more than ever. Let them choose the activity in order to give them more control in a time where they might be feeling a little lost.
When speaking to older sibling, refer to the baby in a way that uses the older sibling as the point of reference. For example, use wording like, “your baby,” “our baby,” or “your brother”.
When older sibling first meets the new baby, give a gift to the older child “from” the baby. You can also have the older child give a gift to the new baby to add to the excitement and help them step into their role as older sibling.
Make Changes Early
If the older sibling will be moving out of your room or out of their crib to make space for the new baby, make the transition several months before baby’s arrival.
When explaining the change to the older sibling, be matter of fact. There’s no need to give extra details. If they want to know more, they will ask questions. Keep your answers short and sweet.
Show That Growing Up is Exciting
Make being a “big boy/girl” special. For example, “When you were a baby, we changed your diaper, too. But now you’re a big boy and you get to wear big boy Spiderman underwear!”
Reassure the older child in their role as the older sibling. Let them help out with responsibilities, like fetching a clean diaper for the baby.
Prepare for Guests
Inform your child that guests want to meet baby just like when he or she were a new baby. Ask guests to give the older sibling attention, as well, perhaps even before acknowledging the baby.
Your child could be feeling a range of emotions. Try not to assume how they feel, and be prepared to acknowledge and honor those feelings. They may not need or want to talk about it, but if they do then it’s important to let them know their feelings are valid. You can also help them communicate feelings through play.
This transitional time, while precious, can be confusing for everyone. The transition may be easier for some kids than for others. With time and practice, things will fall into place and your family will soon find its new rhythm.