Most likely, you’ve been working throughout your pregnancy to prepare your older child for the arrival of their new little sibling. You’ve talked about the baby’s development, about the responsibilities and privileges of older siblings, and about how life will change once the baby arrives. With any luck, your older child is excited about the prospect of having a tiny new playmate, but they may still experience some feelings of jealousy and insecurity. There are a lot of things parents can do to ease this transition and work toward the goal of a happy, peaceful family.
First Meeting Between Sibling(s) and the New Baby
When you introduce your older sibling to the new baby for the first time, make a big deal of how special it is to be a big brother or sister. With the older child present, tell the baby how wonderful and fun their older sibling is, and how great it will be to learn from them and play with them. If the older child thinks that the baby sees them as a hero figure, they will believe it themselves and work to live up to that image.
Bonding Siblings Through Close Interaction
Encourage (supervised) physical contact between the older sibling and the new baby. Teach your older child how to hold the baby, supporting their head, and allow them plenty of time to bond as siblings. Some researchers believe that newborns emit a pheromone from their head that makes you fall in love with them. It can work on siblings too!
Put No Pressure on the Older Sibling
Delay making big changes in the older sibling’s life. From potty training to giving away old toys, your older sibling may react especially negatively to other new things in the time shortly after the new baby arrives. Be patient and give your child some time to adjust to the new family member before asking them to be a big kid. In the meantime, make sure they get the comfort and reassurance they need, either from you or from their father.
Allowing Your Older Child to Grieve
If your older child was an only child before the new baby, expect them to experience some grieving. They’ve lost exclusive access to their parents, and it can seem traumatic at first. Reinforce that you love your older child just as much as before and that nothing can ever change that. Make sure they understand that you will always be there for them, but that you have the same commitment to the newborn. Try to empathise when your older child seems sad, and work on finding ways to make them feel better. It might be reading a special book together, playing a game, or going for a walk in the park. Either way, they’ll need your help and support to learn how to deal with these new feelings.
Exclusive Special Time with Each Child
Set aside one-on-one time to spend with each of your older siblings. Having continued, consistent time to bond with them, without being interrupted by the newborn, will help them realize that what they have lost (an exclusive relationship with you) is not as great as what they have gained (parents who make it a priority to spend quality time together).